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The security issues with the Apple/Google virus tracking project – Politico

Posted: April 13, 2020 at 11:44 am

With help from Eric Geller, Martin Matishak, Melissa Heikkil, Cristiano Lima and Daniel Lippman

Editors Note: Morning Cybersecurity is a free version of POLITICO Pro Cybersecuritys morning newsletter, which is delivered to our subscribers each morning at 6 a.m. The POLITICO Pro platform combines the news you need with tools you can use to take action on the days biggest stories. Act on the news with POLITICO Pro.


A coronavirus contact-tracing initiative from Apple and Google has some privacy and security landmines to navigate.

An advocacy group urged the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to move ahead with cybersecurity standards despite calls to move back the timing.

A top U.N. official called for a digital cease-fire as the world contends with coronavirus, especially because of the need to safeguard health care organizations and employees.

HAPPY MONDAY and welcome to Morning Cybersecurity! So relatable. If a hacker gets a hold of a Zoom, what can they tell? Send your thoughts, feedback and especially tips to [emailprotected]. Be sure to follow @POLITICOPro and @MorningCybersec. Full team info below.

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TRACKING DOWNSIDES A joint Apple-Google project to track coronavirus exposure risks announced last week has sparked privacy and security fears even as some lawmakers are willing to give the tech giants some leeway. Tech companies new feature to contact trace coronavirus cases has positive potential, but we must ensure privacy concerns are considered, tweeted House Energy and Commerce Chairman Frank Pallone (D-N.J.). Ill be following this closely to ensure consumer privacy is protected. Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.), who chairs E&Cs consumer protection subcommittee, echoed the sentiment.

Some security experts said that although the plan features safeguards, they arent adequate given the nature of the information at play. Phone data has NEVER been proven secure and the chance of release is above 0%, observed Sergio Caltagirone, vice president of threat intelligence for Dragos. In fact, this is so juicy I'd argue there will be lots of baddie[s] who are interested in finding ways to leak this. Matt Tait, a cyber fellow at the University of Texas at Austin, spelled out a slew of other potential problems.

Jennifer Granick, surveillance and cybersecurity council for the ACLU, credited the two companies for steps to mitigate risk but said there was room for improvement. These systems also cant be effective if people dont trust them, she said. People will only trust these systems if they protect privacy, remain voluntary, and store data on an individual's device, not a centralized repository.

Former Vice President Joe Biden, the presumptive Democratic nominee, broadly touched on the issue in his newly released proposal to safely reopen America. In a New York Times op-ed outlining his plan, Biden calls for a contact tracing strategy that protects privacy. And Apple and Google reportedly will work with the U.K., too.

NOT SO SLOW The coronavirus pandemic isnt a reason to significantly delay supply chain cybersecurity standards for electric grid utilities, the grid resilience advocacy group Protect Our Power told FERC late last week. The North American Electric Reliability Corp. wants FERC to delay the deadline for complying with the cyber rule and other new regulations, saying compliance could disrupt operations at a critical time. But in comments filed Thursday with FERC, Protect Our Power said NERCs requested three-month delay may not be justified or necessarily be in the public interest. Instead, it asked FERC to only grant a 30-day extension. This approach would acknowledge the time lost by utilities due to the coronavirus pandemic, the group said, but otherwise require the industry to continue to treat the supply chain security issue with the importance and seriousness it deserves.

In requesting a 90-day delay, NERC argued that the extra time would allow entities to recover from coronavirus-related strains, but Protect Our Power said such a long recovery window likely wasnt necessary. Given that FERC issued the supply chain standard 15 months ago, the group said, many or most utilities may already be prepared to comply with it by the current July 1 deadline. A shorter delay, it said, would also prevent us from having one crisis, the pandemic, unnecessarily cause us to lose focus and a sense of urgency about another crisis, supply chain risk.

CYBER CEASE-FIRE The United Nations undersecretary-general on Friday published an op-ed calling for a worldwide digital cease-fire during the coronavirus pandemic. When launched successfully, digital attacks are catastrophic and can lead to loss of life, wrote Fabrizio Hochschild. In particular, health care workers and hospitals battling Covid-19 shouldnt have to question whether their data and medical equipment is secure or worry about it being shut down. We must commit to an immediate digital cease-fire, and governments, civil society groups, and the private sector must set the tone. Without this step, our global response to the pandemic will be weakened, according to Hochschild.

ALL I WANNA DO IS ZOOM-A-ZOOM-ZOOM-ZOOM The top Republican on the House Oversight panel on Friday called for majority Democrats to abandon usage of the Zoom video conferencing service, citing security issues. Given the concerns surrounding Zooms security, it is clear Zoom is not an appropriate platform for Committee business, which may be particularly sensitive during the COVID-19 pandemic, wrote Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio). Please immediately suspend any current or future use of Zoom systems for official committee activities and take immediate steps to evaluate the Committees internal cybersecurity preparedness to prevent hackers from accessing sensitive committee information through the Zoom platform.

Jordan cited the Senate sergeant at arms warning last week for offices to stop using it, broader hacking and malware concerns, and Zoom work done by employees in China as causes to suspend use. Jordan said House Oversight Democrats had been Zoom-bombed, something Democrats denied.

Rep. Jordans office was consulted directly and repeatedly about using Zoom and never raised any concerns, so its unfortunate that he is now putting out inaccurate information in this public letter, said Chairwoman Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.). Had his office consulted with us first, we could have clarified their misunderstandings and provided more information about the steps the Committee has already taken to address any potential issues. She said the committee would continue to use a number of different technologies to fulfill its responsibilities. The House was already reevaluating whether the chamber should switch to a government-specific form of Zoom.

EDGAR RIGHT The SEC announced last week that it has settled charges with two traders accused of profiting by exploiting sensitive corporate earnings information hacked from its EDGAR system. David Kwon of California settled for $165,474 that represented the profits from his alleged illegal trades, and $16,254 in interest; Igor Sabodakha of Ukraine settled for $148,804 in profits, prejudgment interest of $20,945 and a civil penalty of $148,804, plus the SEC said it would dismiss charges against his wife, Victoria Vorochek, whose accounts he allegedly used to conduct trades.

The EDGAR hack generated considerable interest from Congress when the SEC disclosed it in 2017, with some lawmakers pointing to their prior concerns about SEC vulnerabilities. The SEC charges against seven individuals and two entities filed in 2019 were accompanied by criminal charges against two other men.

CRITICAL SAFETY AND PRIVACY FLAWS IN CONNECTED CARS Drivers beware: Your rides are vulnerable to digital saboteurs. Some of Europes most popular connected car models have crucial security flaws that allow intruders to access personal data such as passwords and location history as well as components that control key functions such as collision-warning systems and tire air pressure, according to an investigation by British consumer group Which?.

By lifting the Volkswagen badge on the front of the car, researchers say they were able to access the vehicles front radar module, which controls its collision-warning system, according to our friends at POLITICO Europes Cyber Insights. Using a cheap laptop and a 25 gadget bought from online marketplace Amazon, the researchers also hacked into the Ford Focus system monitoring air pressure in tires. The investigators also got access to personal data such as Wi-Fi passwords, phone contacts and location history.

TWEET OF THE WEEKEND And then Zoom keeps doing stuff like this.

Kevin Zerrusen is now a managing director at EY where he works on cybersecurity and advisory services. He most recently was senior adviser to the chairman for cybersecurity policy at the SEC and is also a Goldman Sachs alum and served in the CIA for 30 years.

POLITICO: Small business loan effort might be less generous than advertised.

The Wall Street Journal: After Congress allowed surveillance tools to lapse, DOJ hasnt been able to obtain wiretaps or request business records between five and 10 times.

The Wall Street Journal: The FBI made errors in two FISA application filings last year.

Forbes: Cryptocurrency scammer revenue is down during the pandemic.

CyberScoop: Cyber criminal forums are also offering discounts during the pandemic.

Register: Cyber criminals leaked sensitive documents from contractors for Boeing, SpaceX, Tesla and other major companies in retaliation for an unpaid ransomware demand.

The Wall Street Journal: Travelex paid a $2.3 million ransom to hackers.

Bleeping Computer: San Francisco International Airport had a data breach.

gCaptain: Mediterranean Shipping Company may have suffered a cyberattack.

ZDNet: Online betting company SBTech will have to place $30 million in escrow as insurance for covering the fallout from a suspected ransomware infection.

Inside Cybersecurity: Two industry groups want more details from the Pentagon on its cybersecurity standards for contractors.

Forbes: Big data firm Palantir got some coronavirus emergency relief funds.

The New York Times: Burning Cell Towers, Out of Baseless Fear They Spread the Virus.

Thats all for today.

Stay in touch with the whole team: Eric Geller ([emailprotected], @ericgeller); Bob King ([emailprotected], @bkingdc); Martin Matishak ([emailprotected], @martinmatishak); and Tim Starks ([emailprotected], @timstarks).

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Google Told Its Workers That They Cant Use Zoom On Their Laptops Anymore – BuzzFeed News

Posted: at 11:44 am

The journalists at BuzzFeed News are proud to bring you trustworthy and relevant reporting about the coronavirus. To help keep this news free, become a member and sign up for our newsletter, Outbreak Today.

Google has banned the popular videoconferencing software Zoom from its employees devices, BuzzFeed News has learned. Zoom, a competitor to Googles own Meet app, has seen an explosion of people using it to work and socialize from home and has become a cultural touchstone during the coronavirus pandemic.

Last week, Google sent an email to employees whose work laptops had the Zoom app installed that cited its security vulnerabilities and warned that the videoconferencing software on employee laptops would stop working starting this week.

We have long had a policy of not allowing employees to use unapproved apps for work that are outside of our corporate network, Jose Castaneda, a Google spokesperson, told BuzzFeed News. Recently, our security team informed employees using Zoom Desktop Client that it will no longer run on corporate computers as it does not meet our security standards for apps used by our employees. Employees who have been using Zoom to stay in touch with family and friends can continue to do so through a web browser or via mobile.

Headquartered in San Jose, California, Zoom went public in 2019, making its CEO Eric Yuan a billionaire. The companys videoconferencing service was aimed at enterprises to run webinars and meetings but is now being used by locked-down people around the world for gym sessions, education classes, cocktail parties, and more. In March, 200 million people used Zoom daily compared to just 10 million in December.

But Zooms growth has been marred by concerns around the services security and privacy. Last month, an investigation by Motherboard showed that Zooms app for iPhone and iPads sent data about users devices to Facebook, including people who did not have Facebook accounts.

Zoom stopped sending the data to Facebook just a day later, but more problems surfaced soon after. A former NSA hacker discovered a Zoom security issue that could allow bad actors to control users microphones and webcams and gain control of Apple iMacs. The Intercept showed that Zoom calls werent actually encrypted the way that the company claimed. Last week, the company said that some video calls were mistakenly routed through servers in China when they shouldnt have been. The offices of 27 attorneys general have also raised questions about the company.

Google isnt the first company to ban employees from using Zoom. Earlier this month, Elon Musks rocket company SpaceX also banned employees, citing significant privacy and security concerns, according to Reuters. And on Monday, New York Citys Department of Education urged schools to abandon Zoom and switch to a service from Microsoft.

[We] recognize that we have fallen short of the communitys and our own privacy and security expectations, Yuan wrote on a blog post earlier this month. For that, I am deeply sorry.

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Alphabet in the age of COVID-19: Google braved one recession, and now its more diversified – MarketWatch

Posted: at 11:44 am

This article is part of a series tracking the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on major businesses, and will be updated. It was originally published on April 8.

Alphabet Inc.s Google lords over the online-advertising market, which is both a blessing and a curse in the age of coronavirus.

The core business of Alphabet GOOGL, -1.20% GOOG, -1.19% commands roughly 30% of the $110 billion digital-advertising market world-wide, and is expected to maintain that lead in 2021 and beyond, according to eMarketer. YouTube is a big reason why, as it is expected to haul in $9.33 billion in 2020 and $11.4 billion in 2021, according to eMarketer. In February, Alphabet disclosed it brought in $15.1 billion in ads through YouTube in 2019, and $8.9 billion via Google Cloud.

If there is one company that will initially be hit hardest by ad cutbacks, its Google. Up to 40% of its revenue comes from categories hard hit by COVID-19: in-person retail, restaurants, travel, automotive and small businesses. But it is also likely to be the first to rebound because of its market leadership.

Business in the age of COVID-19: Read profiles of how other large companies will be affected by the coronavirus

Google has been here before, when it wasnt named Alphabet. During the recession sparked by the subprime-loan crisis a decade ago, sales remained at single-digit growth for five quarters in a row. Googles revenue estimates declined at least 15% in 2009 and 2010, with a marginally greater earnings hit, according to analysis by MKM Partners.

Then again, Google had the field all to itself more than a decade ago, before Facebook Inc. FB, -2.55%, Snap Inc. SNAP, -1.71%, and Twitter Inc. TWTR, -3.74% emerged as online ad rivals.

Back then, I was told at the time the recovery is quicker than you think it is when you get there, and the strongest companies recover quicker than the weaker ones, former Google Chief Executive Eric Schmidt said in a Zoom ZM, +6.63% conference with business executives, investors and media on April 7.

Analysts seem to agree, painting a picture of short-term pain but a quick recovery for Google.

We are modeling a [year-over-year] decline in Google revenues in Q2 followed by a continued acceleration in revenues [in the second half], MKM Partners analyst Rohit Kulkarni said in an April 3 note. However, we do not expect Google to return to double-digit revenue growth until Q1 21.

To put this delicately, use the opportunity of the crisis to reconfigure and ensure the decisions you make now make you stronger when this lifts a year or maybe less, Schmidt said.

In 2008, for example, Google repriced stock options to employees to stabilize its workforce and retain talent.

It was the right decision at the time, Schmidt said.

Since the last recession, Google has also acted to diversify its business beyond search ads, with YouTube and Cloud accounting for more than 40% of incremental growth, MKM Partners reported.

Alphabet reports fiscal first-quarter results April 22.

Revenue: Average analyst expectations for the first quarter were $43.17 billion at the end of 2019, but have declined to $42.08 billion as of April 6. Estimates for Google websites, which account for most of Alphabets revenue, have declined from $30.32 billion to $29.73 billion in that time period, according to FactSet. For the full year, analysts expect revenue of $181.9 billion.

Earnings: Average analyst expectations from FactSet were $12.31 per share at the end of 2019. As of April 6, they were $11.24 per share. For the full year, analysts expect earnings of $48.90 as share.

Stock movement: During the first three months of 2020, Class A shares declined 13%. Google crested at $1,519.44 on Feb. 18, and closed at $1,183.19 on April 6.

Not much. Notoriously tight-lipped Alphabet executives havent said anything of note either in SEC filings, news releases or blog posts about the economic impact of coronavirus. What they have shared is mostly about a surge in traffic coursing over its network, prompting it to boost capacity to handle demands on its network and data centers.

April 3: Our priority now is how to meet the surge in demand, John Jester, vice president of customer experience at Google Cloud, told MarketWatch in a phone interview.

In a blog post on March 31, Google Cloud CEO Thomas Kurian said traffic on its premium videoconferencing property Meet has grown 60% day-over-day and is topping 2 billion minutes a day 25 times the traffic of a typical day.

Feb. 4: Until the last two quarters, Google was conspicuously silent about breaking out revenue figures by product division. During its fiscal fourth-quarter, it said YouTube was at $15 billion in annual ad revenue, and Cloud is on a $10 billion revenue run rate.

See also: YouTube, Google Cloud revenues finally revealed

Online advertising is half of global advertising, and Google has roughly 40% market share of online advertising. The math points toward an inevitable short-term disadvantage to Google, but a speedy recovery because of its clout, according to MKM Partners. We expect Google advertising revenues to decelerate from high teens (18% to 20%) during 2019 to 4% in 1Q:20, -1% in 2Q:20, and approx. +4% in 4Q20. We are raising our Google Cloud revenue assumptions as we expect continued acceleration in cloud, driven by sales force expansion and healthier end markets. MKM Partners analyst Rohit Kulkarni, maintained his buy rating while trimming Alphabets price target to $1,400 from $1,600 on April 3.

We expect Google to have a greater near-term disadvantage but also have a faster recovery as pandemic effects reduce... We believe Alphabet will be more resilient vs. Facebook in weathering the advertising decline due to its lower exposure to the [small business] advertiser base. As a result of these top-line changes, our 2020 GAAP EPS estimate is now $40.56 (vs. prior estimate of $53.47) and our 2021 GAAP EPS is now $54.30 (vs. prior estimate of $66. Citi analyst Jason Bazinet, maintained a buy rating while trimming Alphabets price target to $1,400 from $1,700 on April 1.

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Google Launches a Series of Blog Posts Highlighting the Value of SEO – Search Engine Journal

Posted: at 11:43 am

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Google has published the first in what will be a series of blog posts dedicated to SEO case studies.

The aim of this series is to share success stories that demonstrate the value of SEO.

Google says the intended audience for these case studies are people who may need some extra convincing that SEO is a good investment.

We want people to hear about these success stories, so were starting a new blog post series that features case studies.

They may, for example, help with convincing a boss boss that investing in SEO or implementing structured data can be good for the business.

Googles inaugural blog post in this series focuses on the basics of investing in SEO and how it has been utilized to help a company.

The first case study in this series was shared by none other than Googles Gary Illyes.

Illyes spoke to an SEO manager named Moon Tae Sung following a presentation at a Google Webmaster Conference in Seoul.

Tae Sung manages SEO for Saramin, which is one of the largest job platforms in Korea.

Saramin offers services such as:

People go to Saramins site to look for jobs, submit applications, and access information related to job searches.

Saramins SEO efforts date back to 2015 using nothing but Google Search Console.

An entire year was dedicated to finding and fixing crawling errors identified by Search Console.

This alone lead to a 15% increase in organic search traffic.

Satisfied with their early success, Saramin decided to invest more into SEO.

The next step in the process was studying the Google Search developers guide and help center articles.

Illyes acknowledges that SEO is a process that may take time to bear fruit.

To that end, Saramin focused on implementing gradual changes such as:

This process of making these changes also involved the use of additional Google tools.

Saramin relied on the Structured Data Testing Tool, Mobile Friendly Test, AMP Test, and PageSpeed Insights.

Eventually, the errors in Search Consoles Index Coverage report turned from red to green.

Even more than, Saramin saw an accelerated increase in organic traffic.

The incremental changes reached a tipping point and the traffic continued to rise at a more remarkable speed.

In the peak hiring season of September 2019, traffic doubled compared to the previous year.

Along with the increase in organic traffic, the quality of traffic also went up.

Saramin achieved a 93% increase in the number of new sign ups and a 9% increase in conversions.

The work doesnt end there, however, as Saramins SEO manager says this is only the beginning of our story.

If you have an interesting case study you want to share, and potentially get featured in an upcoming blog post, Google is accepting submissions.

You can contribute a case study by signing up for a Google Webmaster Conference near you and submitting a talk proposal.

Source: Google Webmaster Central Blog

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Google starts testing redesigned Assistant settings on Android – 9to5Google

Posted: at 11:43 am

Since February, weve been tracking a redesign of Google Assistant settings on Android that greatly simplifies how to manage the sprawling, cross-device service. Its now in testing for some users on the latest Google app beta.

The new Assistant settings can be accessed on Android via the Google app or Home client. Once launched, users are presented with an interface thats similar to Settings on Android 10.

There is a full-width bar to Search settings up top that interestingly queries all device/system preferences. Your profile avatar, name, and email address appear below with shortcuts to Manage your Google Account and Your data in the Assistant.

Options related to Assistant were previously grouped under four tabs. There is now one master list, but Google does highlight five frequent preferences above the dropdown: Routines, Music, Basic info, Languages, and Voice Match. There are also two large cards for You and Devices.


The Devices experience has been completely revamped with each featuring generic imagery of a Smart Display or speaker. Some items that appear in the list are currently unidentified, suggesting this is not fully baked. There is also no Phone device that unifies all related commands. That said, all those controls are still available in individual menus, but this could be added back later.

Meanwhile, theres a View More button below that expands to show all other Assistant settings in alphabetical order. There are some new ones, with General housing controls that were previously under Phone, like Use screen context and Donate screen captures. The same situation applies to Personal results.

The revamped Assistant settings for Android are appearing with the latest Google app beta (version 11.4) on some of our devices. However, its not yet widely rolled out, even to those on the beta program.

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Google Cloud makes it cheaper to run smaller workloads on Bigtable – TechCrunch

Posted: at 11:43 am

Cloud Bigtable has long been Google Clouds fully managed NoSQL database for massive, petabyte-sized analytical and operational workloads. At $0.65 per hour and node, it was never a cheap service to run, especially because Google Cloud enforced a minimum of three nodes per cluster for production workloads. Today, however, it is changing that, and you can now run Bigtable production workloads on just a single node.

We want Bigtable to be an excellent home for all of your key-value and wide-column use-cases, both large and small, Google Cloud Bigtable product manager Sandy Ghai said in todays announcement. Thats true whether youre a developer just getting started, or an established enterprise looking for a landing place for your self-managed HBase or Cassandra clusters.

With this, Google Cloud is now also enabling the ability to use replication for higher availability for these small clusters, as well as the ability to easily switch a one-node development instance to a one-node production instance as needed. In addition, the services SLA now also covers all Bigtable instances, no matter their size.

Its interesting to see Google Cloud make this push for bringing smaller workloads onto Bigtable, especially given the organizations current focus on large enterprise customers and their specific needs. But the company that only needs a single node today could easily be the one that needs massive clusters in the future and Bigtables minimums have always represented somewhat of a barrier to entry for smaller companies and once a company places its bets on a given database service, its not likely to switch anytime time.


Google Cloud makes it cheaper to run smaller workloads on Bigtable - TechCrunch

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How youll use Apple and Googles coronavirus tracking tool – The Verge

Posted: April 11, 2020 at 3:56 am

Earlier today, Apple and Google announced a Bluetooth-based COVID-19 contact tracing platform that could alert people if theyve been exposed to the novel coronavirus. Contact tracing is a huge component in ending mass pandemic stay-at-home orders, and while phone tracking cant replace traditional methods like interviews, it can supplement them.

Google and Apple are using Bluetooth LE signals for contact tracing. When two people are near each other, their phones can exchange an anonymous identification key, recording that theyve had close contact. If one person is later diagnosed with COVID-19, they can share that information through an app. The system will notify other users theyve been close to, so those people can self-quarantine if necessary. Ideally, this means you wont have to reveal your name, location, or other personal data.

Beyond those basics, though, there are a lot of questions about how people will actually use the system. Heres what we know so far.

Apple and Google are launching the program in two phases, starting with an application programming interface (API) in mid-May. This API will make sure iOS and Android apps can trace users regardless of which operating system theyre using. But it will be restricted to official apps released by public health authorities on the iOS App Store and Google Play Store.

During this first phase, youll need one of these apps to participate in the program. We dont know whos working with Apple and Google right now, or what the apps will look like. It seems likely theyll be interoperable in some way in other words, a phone with App A could swap a key with App B, as long as theyre both using the API. We could hypothetically see a national government or lots of small local agencies launch their own apps, or governments could approve something built by an outside party like a university. Google and Apple havent publicly nailed down many specifics, so well be watching for those in the coming weeks.

No matter what the apps look like, youll have to proactively add them to your phone, which will almost certainly reduce how many people use them. But in the months after they launch, Google and Apple will be working on a more permanent solution.

Following the API, Google and Apple want to add contact tracing as a core iOS and Android feature. The method is a little vague for now, but the goal is that youd opt in through something like your phone settings. This would turn on the digital key-swapping without requiring a third-party app. Then, if youre exposed, your phone would signal this somehow and urge you to download an app for more information.

This raises a few questions. We dont know much about that handoff process, for instance: do you get a vague pop-up notification, or something with more detail? Were also not sure how Androids fragmented ecosystem might complicate the release. Google could plausibly push a fast update through the Play Store instead of waiting for carriers to roll it out, but it would still be dealing with huge variations in hardware capability. We also dont know if individual government apps might ask for more invasive permissions like location tracking even if Google and Apples core system doesnt use it.

If youve got a phone without Bluetooth LE, of course, none of these apps will work. But iOS has included support since the 2011 iPhone 4S, and the Android platform added support in 2012. So unless youve got a very old phone, youre probably all right.

If you test positive for COVID-19, the system is supposed to upload your last 14 days of anonymous keys to a server. Other peoples phones will automatically download the key lists, and if they have a matching key in their history, theyll get an exposure notification.

The app will need to make sure people are really infected, though otherwise, a troll could cause chaos by falsely claiming to have COVID-19. We dont know exactly how this will work. COVID-19 tests are currently administered by professionals and logged with health authorities, so perhaps Apple and Google could piggyback on that process to validate the tests. But its a huge issue, and theyll need a satisfactory answer.

Either way, sharing your keys is supposed to be voluntary. That seems to mean actually approving an upload, not just granting blanket consent when you install the app but the exact process is another thing were waiting to see.

If people share their data as described above, your phone will check the list once a day and look for key matches, then notify you if it finds one. Googles sample alert is pretty simple: it just reads, You have recently been exposed to someone who has tested positive for COVID-19, and offers a link with more information. That information will be provided by whichever health authority is offering the app, and we dont know what it might include although at the very least, it will probably explain COVID-19 symptoms and self-quarantine guidelines.

Exposure isnt a simple binary process: the more time youve spent with an infected person, the greater the risk. The documentation includes references to duration measured in 5-minute intervals. It could theoretically send that information to users directly, or it might offer a general risk assessment without an exact number, which would provide a greater level of anonymity.

As weve said before, none of this replaces traditional contact tracing interviews. Done right, though, it could add a platform-level system thats easy to use and doesnt overly compromise privacy. Were just still waiting on a lot of details about how that will work.

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Google will show virtual care options more prominently in search results – The Verge

Posted: at 3:56 am

Google is making changes to search results to make it easier for people to find virtual health care options, the company said in a blog post published today. The changes, which will be rolling out over the coming week, appear to make it easier to find telehealth services, which have seen a surge in demand due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Health care providers that offer virtual care options will be able to add a link to their virtual care website on their business profile, and that link will appear in both search results and on Google Maps. If a health care provider has a page dedicated to COVID-19-related information, Google says it will automatically surface a link to that page as well. You can see what those additions might look like in the below image:

Google will also begin surfacing widely-available virtual care platforms in a standalone card in search results when you search for terms related to immediate care. That card will link out to the virtual care platform and show information such as the out-of-pocket price for an appointment if you dont have insurance. This is launching as a pilot in the US, and people could begin to see links to virtual care offered by Amwell Medical Group, Doctor On Demand, and Anthem in search results starting today, Google tells The Verge. Heres a GIF showing what those results are expected to look like:

However, at this time, Google wont surface these new features if youre searching for COVID-19 conditions or symptoms you need to be making more explicit searches for care to see them, the company tells The Verge.

In March, Google launched enhanced information cards in search results for terms related to the novel coronavirus and a dedicated website with resources about COVID-19. The company is also offering free access to advanced features of Google Meet, its videoconferencing service, to help families, students, and workers who are at home communicate during the pandemic.

Google and Apple have also announced they will be working together to build a system for tracking the spread of COVID-19 into iOS and Android.

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Google is rebranding Hangouts Chat as just Google Chat – The Verge

Posted: at 3:56 am

Google has officially removed the Hangouts brand from its enterprise G Suite offering with the rebranding of Hangouts Chat as Google Chat, the company confirmed to The Verge on Thursday. The rebranding follows a similar name change, confirmed yesterday, from the companion videoconferencing app Hangouts Meet to Google Meet.

This latest modification was first hinted at by an updated G Suite support document listing the Google Chat name alongside Google Meet. Of course, this version of Chat is not to be confused with the other version of Chat, the name Google inexplicably gave its relatively new RCS-based Android messaging protocol.

As for the Hangouts brand, it will continue to live on as the name of the consumer chat app that Google spun out of its shutdown social network Google+ back in 2013 as a spiritual successor to Gchat. There will be no changes to the consumer (classic) version of Hangouts, a Google spokesperson tells The Verge.

Its been a long and winding road for Hangouts over the last nearly seven years or so. The product never achieved the same level of cultural cachet as Gchat. Googles often messy and misguided messaging strategy also meant Hangouts was always competing with nearly a half-dozen other chat and video messaging apps Google insisted on pushing out over the years.

For now, Hangouts for G Suite this is the workplace version of just the chat app will continue to exist after Google postponed its discontinuation back in August of last year. In its place is now Google Chat, once Hangouts Chat, which is more of a Slack competitor for more robust workplace productivity and messaging than it is a straightforward, one-to-one messaging app like the Gchat of old. And for everyone else, your web Gmail account and iOS or Android device can still access the original, consumer version of Hangouts for the foreseeable future.

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Google is rebranding Hangouts Chat as just Google Chat - The Verge

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Billions Of Google Chrome Users Now Have Another Surprising Option – Forbes

Posted: at 3:56 am

Google Chrome has dominated the internet browser market for the last decade with a staggering near-60% market share and users stretching into the billions.

Rivals to Google Chrome, including Apple's Safari, Microsoft's Edge (formerly known as Internet Explorer), and Mozilla's Firefox have largely failed to convince users to switchbut browser choices are becoming more complex.

Users' desire for greater security, better privacy, and an ill-defined need to "take back control" from the likes of Google and Microsoft has opened the door for alternativesincluding blockchain-based privacy browser Brave, whose chief executive thinks Google "is going to be taken apart over coming years."

Google Chrome has been the largest web browser for a decade but its days of browser dominance could ... [+] be numbered.

"People have had a long time to acclimate to Chrome but users don't like a lot of things about it," said Brave's CEO and former head of Mozilla, Brendan Eich.

"They don't like how it tracks you, they don't like the anti-trust issues Google has become entangled in."

In contrast, Brave claims to aggressively block advertisers and trackers everywhere it can.

The Brave Shields feature, on by default, blocks third-party ads, trackers, autoplaying videos, and device fingerprinting.

As a result, Brave claims its browser loads websites between three and six times faster than then likes of Google's Chrome, Apple's Safari, Microsoft's Edge, and Mozilla's Firefox. It also reckons it drains less battery life and uses less memory.

"Were not in the personal data business," Brave's website boasts.

Meanwhile, competition enforcers in the U.S. and Europe are investigating how the world's biggest tech companies, most of them from the U.S., use and monetise data, with European Union antitrust regulators opening an investigation into Googles collection of data late last year.

"Google is going to be taken apart over coming yearsmostly due to regulators' dislike of its surveillance methods," Eich, who created Javascript back in 1995, said.

Google has been hit with fines totalling around $10 billion by the E.U.'s competition commissioner Margrethe Vestager over the last two years and ordered to change its business practices.

In mid-March, Brave filed a formal complaint against Google with the Irish General Data Protection Regulation enforcer, where Google's European headquarters are, arguing the search giant has behaved irresponsibly with how it has been collecting and sharing the personal data of its users.

"Preliminary analysis conducted by Brave indicates that Google has several hundred processing purposes that are conflated in a vast, internal data free-for-all," Johnny Ryan, Brave's chief policy officer, wrote in a letter to the U.K.'s antitrust regulator ahead of the complaint in Ireland. "Google's internal data free-for-all should therefore be remedied by data protection enforcement."

Ryan went as far as saying that Googles dubious operational policies are in violation of the GDPR rulebook.

Brave's attack on Google is designed to drive awareness of its privacy and data use practicesespecially among younger users who Eich sees as most sensitive to how they are tracked online.

"Older people have this memory of Google that it's better than it now is," Eich said, adding that Brave has seen outsized interest from Generation Z, those born between 1995 and 2015, who have an "OK boomer mentality."

"Some of these people are skeptical of Google," said Eich. "We're in a post-truth world and people are mutually suspicious."

Brave CEO Brendan Eich, who previously served as the Mozilla Corporation's chief technical officer ... [+] and, briefly, as its chief executive officer, has said he expects Google to be taken apart in coming years--with people increasingly interested in privacy-focused alternatives.

Brave's targeting of younger demographics doesn't stop at data privacy concerns. The browser is closely linked to cryptocurrenciessomething that young people have been found to be far more interested in.

Brave, which launched in 2017 following a massive $35 million initial coin offering fundraiser, allows users to earn its native cryptocurrency BATwhich stands for basic attention tokenby participating in specific activities.

Last month, Brave expanded its cryptocurrency features by adding integration with the world's largest cryptocurrency exchange Binance, allowing users to buy and send bitcoin and cryptocurrencies directly on Brave's new tab page.

Elsewhere, major U.S. bitcoin and cryptocurrency exchange Gemini has said it will add support for Brave browsers BAT token later this month.

At the beginning of this month, Braves head of marketing revealed the browser added one million new users in March, apparently picking up a boost from millions of people around the world in lockdown and spending more time online due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Brave now boasts 13.5 million monthly active users and daily active users of 4.3 million as of last month.

However, Google Chrome is used by billions around the world everyday. Brave has a long road ahead of it and it's likely to be an uphill struggle to convince many of these Chrome users they should make the switch.

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Billions Of Google Chrome Users Now Have Another Surprising Option - Forbes

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