Google

Google Slapped With $2.7 Billion By EU For Skewing Searches (bloomberg.com) 58

Google suffered a major regulatory blow on Tuesday after European antitrust officials fined the search giant 2.4 billion euros, or $2.7 billion, for unfairly favoring some of its own search services over those of rivals. The European Commission concluded that the search giant abused its near-monopoly in online search to "give illegal advantage" to its own Shopping service. Margrethe Vestager, the EU's competition commissioner, said Google "denied other companies the chance to compete" and left consumers without "genuine choice." The hefty fine marks the latest chapter in a lengthy standoff between Europe and Google, which also faces two separate charges under the region's competition rules related to Android, its popular mobile software, and to some of its advertising products. From a report: Google has 90 days to "stop its illegal conduct" and give equal treatment to rival price-comparison services, according to a binding order from the European Commission on Tuesday. It's up to Google to choose how it does this and it must tell the EU within 60 days of its plans. Failure to comply brings a risk of fines of up to 5 percent of its daily revenue. [...] "I expect the Commission now to swiftly conclude the other two ongoing investigations against Google," Markus Ferber, a member of the European Parliament from Germany. "Unfortunately, the Google case also illustrates that competition cases tend to drag on for far too long before they are eventually resolved. In a fast-moving digital economy this means often enough that market abuse actually pays off and the abuser succeeds in eliminating the competition." Google has been pushing its own comparison shopping service since 2008, systematically giving it prominent placement when people search for an item, the EU said. Rival comparison sites usually only appear on page four of search results, effectively denying them a massive audience as the first page attracts 95 percent of all clicks. In a blog post, Google said the EU has "underestimated" the value Google's services brings to the table. "We believe the European Commission's online shopping decision underestimates the value of those kinds of fast and easy connections. While some comparison shopping sites naturally want Google to show them more prominently, our data show that people usually prefer links that take them directly to the products they want, not to websites where they have to repeat their searches. We think our current shopping results are useful and are a much-improved version of the text-only ads we showed a decade ago. Showing ads that include pictures, ratings, and prices benefits us, our advertisers, and most of all, our users. And we show them only when your feedback tells us they are relevant. Thousands of European merchants use these ads to compete with larger companies like Amazon and eBay. [...] Given the evidence, we respectfully disagree with the conclusions announced today. We will review the Commission's decision in detail as we consider an appeal, and we look forward to continuing to make our case," wrote Kent Walker, SVP and General Counsel at Google.
The Internet

Social Media Giants Step Up Joint Fight Against Extremist Content (reuters.com) 115

Social media giants Facebook, Google's YouTube, Twitter and Microsoft said on Monday they were forming a global working group to combine their efforts to remove terrorist content from their platforms. From a report: Responding to pressure from governments in Europe and the United States after a spate of militant attacks, the companies said they would share technical solutions for removing terrorist content, commission research to inform their counter-speech efforts and work more with counter-terrorism experts. The Global Internet Forum to Counter Terrorism "will formalize and structure existing and future areas of collaboration between our companies and foster cooperation with smaller tech companies, civil society groups and academics, governments and supra-national bodies such as the EU and the UN," the companies said in a statement.
Google

Google Home Is 6 Times More Likely To Answer Your Question Than Amazon Alexa (adweek.com) 40

According to software developed by New York-based 360i, Google Home is six times more likely to answer your question than Amazon Alexa -- its biggest competitor. Adweek reports: It's relatively surprising, considering that RBC Capital Markets projects Alexa will drive $10 billion of revenue to Amazon by 2020 -- not to mention the artificial intelligence-based system currently owns 70 percent of the voice market. 360i's proprietary software asked both devices 3,000 questions to come to the figure. While Amazon Alexa has shown considerable strength in retail search during the agency's research, Google won the day thanks to its unmatched search abilities.
Communications

Google Replaces Gchat With Hangouts Today (axios.com) 152

An anonymous reader shares a report: The day dreaded by stubborn office workers around the country has finally arrived. At some point today, Google will replace its Google Talk feature in Gmail -- known colloquially to most of the world as Gchat -- with Google Hangouts. The reasoning: Google's announcement of the switch back in March touts Hangouts' better features and integration with other Google products over the barebones Gchat, which launched way back in 2005.
Facebook

'Why I Decided To Disable AMP On My Site' (alexkras.com) 134

Web developer Alex Kras on Monday listed a number of reasons why he dislikes Google's AMP project, and why he pulled support for it on his website. From his post: Back in the day we used to have WAP pages -- specific web pages that were presented only to mobile devices. Opting into AMP, for publishers, is kind of like going back to those days. Instead of using responsive design (making sure that one version of the site works well on all devices) publishers are forced to maintain two versions of each page -- their regular version for larger devices and mobile phones that don't use Google and the AMP version. The benefit of AMP is that it imposes tough restrictions on content, making it load fast. The issue with this approach is that AMP becomes a subset of the original content. For example, user comments are often removed. I also find the way images load in AMP to be buggy. AMP tries to load an image only when it becomes visible to the user, rendering a white square instead of the image. In my experience I've seen it fail fairly regularly, leaving the article with an empty white square instead of the image. [...] It's up to publishers to decide if they want to add AMP support on their site. Users, however, don't have an option to turn AMP off. It would be nice if Google provided a user level setting to turn results rendered as AMP off. Unfortunately, even if they were to add this option, it wouldn't help much when Twitter of Facebook would decide to server AMP. Further reading: Kill Google AMP before it KILLS the web - The Register, The Problem With Google AMP, 2 Billion Pages On Web Now Use Google's AMP, Pages Now Load Twice As Fast. John Gruber on open web: Fuck Facebook.
Microsoft

Google Chrome Bests Microsoft Edge, Mozilla Firefox, Opera In Independent Battery Life Tests (betanews.com) 111

An anonymous reader shares a report: YouTuber Linus Tech Tips has pitted Microsoft Edge against Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox and Opera and discovered that it does not deliver as strong a performance as Microsoft claims. Linus Tech Tips took four Dell Inspiron laptops, with the same specs, and found that Microsoft Edge trails Chrome and Opera in battery life tests. It would seem that it still beats Firefox, after all. However, the results are much, much closer than what Microsoft's own tests indicate. On average, the difference between Chrome, which offers the best battery life, and Microsoft Edge is under 40 minutes. Opera comes closer to Microsoft Edge than Chrome in this test. Even Creators Update, which based on Microsoft's test should help Microsoft Edge obliterate the competition, didn't help make it faster than Chrome. Linus says he used the same methodology that Microsoft used in its set of battery tests earlier this year, in which it declared Edge as the winner.
Security

Account Registrations Enable 'Password Reset Man In The Middle' Attacks (helpnetsecurity.com) 77

"Attackers that have set up a malicious site can use users' account registration process to successfully perform a password reset process on a number of popular websites and messaging mobile applications, researchers have demonstrated." Orome1 quotes Help Net Security: The Password Reset Man in the Middle attack exploits the similarity of the registration and password reset processes. To launch such an attack, the attacker only needs to control a website. To entice victims to make an account on the malicious website, the attacker can offer free access to a wanted resource. Once the user initiates the account registration process by entering their email address, the attacker can use that information to initiate a password reset process on another website that uses that piece of information as the username (e.g. Google, YouTube, Amazon, Twitter, LinkedIn, PayPal, and so on). Every request for input from that site is forwarded to the potential victim, and then his or her answers forwarded back to that particular site.
Interestingly, it can also beat two-factor authentication -- since the targeted user will still input the phone code into the man-in-the-middle site.
Hardware

Survey Says: Raspberry Pi Still Rules, But X86 SBCs Have Made Gains (linuxgizmos.com) 82

DeviceGuru writes: Results from LinuxGizmos.com's annual hacker-friendly single board computer survey are in, and not surprisingly, the Raspberry Pi 3 is the most desired maker SBC by a 4-to-1 margin. In other trends: x86 SBCs and Linux/Arduino hybrids have trended upwards. The site's popular hacker SBC survey polled 1,705 survey respondents and asked for their first, second, and third favorite SBCs from a curated list of 98 community oriented, Linux- and Android-capable boards. Spreadsheets comparing all 98 SBCs' specs and listing their survey vote tallies are available in freely downloadable Google Docs.
Other interesting findings:
  • "A Raspberry Pi SBC has won in all four of our annual surveys, but never by such a high margin."
  • The second-highest ranked board -- behind the Raspberry Pi 3 -- was the Raspberry Pi Zero W.
  • "The Raspberry Pi's success came despite the fact that it offers some of the weakest open source hardware support in terms of open specifications. This, however, matches up with our survey responses about buying criteria, which ranks open source software support and community over open hardware support."
  • "Despite the accelerating Raspberry Pi juggernaut, there's still plenty of experimentation going on with new board models, and to a lesser extent, new board projects."

Stats

Phoronix Announces '2017 Linux Laptop Survey' (google.com) 65

Phoronix is hosting a 2017 Linux Laptop Survey. From their site: While Linux laptop compatibility is much better than where it was years ago, it's still not too uncommon to run into display/hybrid issues, shorter battery life under Linux than Windows or macOS, touchpad problems, and other occasional compatibility/performance shortcomings. So we've established this Linux Laptop Survey in conjunction with Linux stakeholders to hopefully gather more feedback that will be useful to many different parties...
The survey will be online until July 6th, after which the results will be publicly available, and will determine the most popular brands, distros, screen sizes, and GPUs, as well as common pain points and popular price points. And one particularly interestng question asks respondents what they'd like to see in a "dream Linux laptop."
Businesses

6 Female Founders Accuse VC Justin Caldbeck of Making Unwanted Advances (techcrunch.com) 406

An anonymous reader quotes a report from TechCrunch: Yesterday The Information reported on allegations made by half a dozen women working in the tech industry who say they have faced unwanted and inappropriate advances from Silicon Valley venture capitalist, Justin Caldbeck, co-founder and managing partner of Binary Capital. The women include Niniane Wang, co-creator of Google Desktop and a prior CTO of Minted; and Susan Ho and Leiti Hsu, co-founders of Journy, a travel planning and booking service. The Information also talked to three other women who said Caldbeck made inappropriate advances to them. It says these women did not want their names disclosed for fear of retaliation from the VC -- and because of wider concerns they might suffer a backlash from men in the industry who don't see inappropriate advances as a problem. Among the allegations made to The Information are that Caldbeck sent explicit text messages to women; that Caldbeck sent messages in the middle of the night suggesting meeting up; that Caldbeck suggested going to a hotel bedroom during a meeting; that Caldbeck made a proposition about having an open relationship; and that Caldbeck grabbed a woman's thigh under the table of a bar during a meeting. Several of the women reported finding Caldbeck's advances so awkward they gave up on continued dealings with him. In Caldbeck's initial statement, he "strongly" denied the allegations and claimed: "I have always enjoyed respectful relationships with female founders, business partners, and investors." However, in response to The Information's story, his tone changed significantly: "Obviously, I am deeply disturbed by these allegations. While significant context is missing from the incidents reported by The Information, I deeply regret ever causing anyone to feel uncomfortable. The fact is that I have been privileged to have worked with female entrepreneurs throughout my career and I sincerely apologize to anyone who I made uncomfortable by my actions. There's no denying this is an issue in the venture community, and I hate that my behavior has contributed to it." Caldbeck has since released a full statement to Axios, where he says he "will be taking an indefinite leave of absence from Binary Capital..."
Youtube

YouTube Claims 1.5 Billion Monthly Users (cnbc.com) 55

An anonymous reader shares a report: Google's YouTube unit says it now reaches 1.5 billion viewers every month -- and its users watch more than an hour of mobile videos per day -- as it expands its video programming to sell more digital ads. YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki also wrote that YouTube Red, the company's foray into original videos, has launched 37 series that have generated "nearly a quarter billion views." YouTube Red has 12 new projects in the works, she said.
Google

Google Will Stop Reading Your Emails For Gmail Ads (bloomberg.com) 67

Google will soon stop scanning emails received by some Gmail users, a practice that has allowed it to show them targeted advertising but which stirred privacy worries. From a report: The decision didn't come from Google's ad team, but from its cloud unit, which is angling to sign up more corporate customers. Alphabet's Google Cloud sells a package of office software, called G Suite, that competes with market leader Microsoft. Paying Gmail users never received the email-scanning ads like the free version of the program, but some business customers were confused by the distinction and its privacy implications, said Diane Greene, Google's senior vice president of cloud. "What we're going to do is make it unambiguous," she said. Ads will continue to appear inside the free version of Gmail, as promoted messages. But instead of scanning a user's email, the ads will now be targeted with other personal information Google already pulls from sources such as search and YouTube.
Google

Google Will Now Hide Personal Medical Records From Search Results (betanews.com) 34

Mark Wilson, writing for BetaNews: Google has updated its search policies without any sort of fanfare. The search engine now "may remove" -- in addition to existing categories of information -- "confidential, personal medical records of private people" from search results. That such information was not already obscured from search results may well come as something of a surprise to many people. The change has been confirmed by Google, although the company has not issued any form of announcement about it.
Google

Alphabet Says Uber Knew About Stolen Self-Driving Car Files (cnet.com) 25

In a Wednesday filing with a California court, Alphabet said a former self-driving executive Anthony Levandowski hatched a plan with Uber to steal more than 14,000 proprietary documents, including designs for the sensors that help the car see its surroundings. CNET reports: Alphabet says Uber's former CEO, Travis Kalanick, knew about the files but told Levandowski to destroy them. Uber has argued that it did not encourage or condone Levandowski taking any files from Waymo or bringing them to Uber, and has noted that his employment agreement affirmed he wouldn't do that. The litigation between Alphabet and Uber has been reported as a primary reason Kalanick was forced to resign as Uber's CEO Tuesday.
Firefox

Chrome and Firefox Headless Modes May Spur New Adware & Clickfraud Tactics (bleepingcomputer.com) 80

From a report: During the past month, both Google and Mozilla developers have added support in their respective browsers for "headless mode," a mechanism that allows browsers to run silently in the OS background and with no visible GUI. [...] While this feature sounds very useful for developers and very uninteresting for day-to-day users, it is excellent news for malware authors, and especially for the ones dabbling with adware. In the future, adware or clickfraud bots could boot-up Chrome or Firefox in headless mode (no visible GUI), load pages, and click on ads without the user's knowledge. The adware won't need to include or download any extra tools and could use locally installed software to perform most of its malicious actions. In the past, there have been quite a few adware families that used headless browsers to perform clickfraud. Martijn Grooten, an editor at Virus Bulletin, also pointed Bleeping Computer to a report where miscreants had abused PhantomJS, a headless browser, to post forum spam. The addition of headless mode in Chrome and Firefox will most likely provide adware devs with a new method of performing surreptitious ad clicks.
Businesses

Uber CEO Travis Kalanick Has Resigned Due To Investor Pressure (recode.net) 59

Travis Kalanick has resigned as chief executive of Uber after pressure from investors, ending eight years of leading the ride-hailing company that has expanded round the globe but became mired in controversies. From a report: Kalanick had become a giant liability to the car-hailing company for a growing number of reasons, from sketchy business practices to troubling lawsuits to a basic management situation that was akin to really toxic goat rodeo. Thus, he had to go, even though some sources said he had the voting power to stay. But big investors also have leverage and a big enough group of them joined to use it. Those investors include Benchmark, Fidelity and Menlo Ventures, all of whom sent Kalanick a joint letter called "Moving Uber Forward" on Tuesday afternoon. Interestingly, Google Ventures was not among the group, even though its parent company Alphabet is now in a major lawsuit with Uber over the alleged theft of self-driving car technology from its Waymo unit.
Businesses

The Best And Worst ISPs According To Consumer Reports (dslreports.com) 90

In the August 2017 issue of Consumer Reports magazine, the nonprofit organization ranked internet service providers based off customer satisfaction. According to the report, many consumers still don't like their broadband and television provider, and don't believe they receive a decent value for the high price they pay for service. DSLReports summarizes the findings: The report [...] names Chattanooga municipal broadband provider EPB as the most-liked ISP in the nation. EPB was followed by Google Fiber, Armstrong Cable, Consolidated Cable and RCN as the top-ranked ISPs in the nation. Google Fiber "was the clear winner for internet service," notes the report, "with the only high score for value." Google Fiber also received high marks for customer support and service. But large, incumbent ISPs continue to be aggressively disliked due to high prices and poor customer service, according to the report. Despite endless annual promises that customer service is the company's priority, Comcast ranked number 27 out of the 32 providers measured. The company's survey results were weighed down by low consumer marks for value, channel selection, technical support, customer service and free video on demand offerings. The least-liked ISPs in the nation, according to the report, are: Charter (Spectrum), Cable ONE, Atlantic broadband, Frontier Communications, and Mediacom. Not coincidentally, the two largest ISPs in that list just got done with massive mergers or acquisitions that resulted in higher prices and worse service than consumers saw previously. MyRatePlan has a breakdown of ISP providers and plans by ZIP code.
Android

Mozilla Launches Privacy-Minded 'Firefox Focus' Browser For Android (venturebeat.com) 58

An anonymous reader quotes a report from VentureBeat: Mozilla today launched a new browser for Android. In addition to Firefox, the company now also offers Firefox Focus, a browser dedicated to user privacy that by default blocks many web trackers, including analytics, social, and advertising. You can download the new app now from Google Play. Because Google isn't as strict as Apple, Android users can set Firefox Focus as their default browser. There are many use cases for wanting to browse the web without being tracked, but Mozilla offers a common example: reading articles via apps "like Facebook." On iOS, Firefox Focus is basically just a web view with tracking protection. On Android, Firefox Focus is the same, with a few additional features (which are still "under consideration" for iOS):
  • Ad tracker counter -- Lists the number of ads that are blocked per site while using the app.
  • Disable tracker blocker -- For sites that are not loading correctly, you can disable the tracker blocker to fix the issues.
  • Notification reminder -- When Firefox Focus is running in the background, a notification will remind you so you can easily tap to erase your browsing history.

Google

Google Launches Its AI-Powered Jobs Search Engine (techcrunch.com) 38

Now you can search for jobs across virtually all of the major online job boards like LinkedIn, Monster, WayUp, DirectEmployers, CareerBuilders, Facebook and others -- directly from Google's search result pages. The company will also include job listings it finds on a company's homepage. TechCrunch reports: The idea here is to give job seekers an easy way to see which jobs are available without having to go to multiple sites only to find duplicate postings and lots of irrelevant jobs. With this new feature, which is now available in English on desktop and mobile, all you have to type in is a query like "jobs near me," "writing jobs" or something along those lines and the search result page will show you the new job search widget that lets you see a broad range of jobs. From there, you can further refine your query to only include full-time positions, for example. When you click through to get more information about a specific job, you also get to see Glassdoor and Indeed ratings for a company. You can also filter jobs by industry, location, when they were posted, and employer. Once you find a query that works, you can also turn on notifications so you get an immediate alert when a new job is posted that matches your personalized query.
Government

Tim Cook Told Trump Tech Employees Are 'Nervous' About Immigration (cnbc.com) 328

Behind the scenes at the White House tech CEO meeting, Apple CEO Tim Cook told President Donald Trump that technology employees are "nervous" about the administration's approach to immigration, CNBC reports, citing a source familiar with the exchange. From the report: The source said the president told the CEOs on Monday that the Senate's health-care bill needs "more heart." That would be a second known instance of the president criticizing the GOP plan in private meetings. To that, the source said, Cook replied that the immigration approach by the administration also "needs more heart." Cook cited the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which is under review by the Trump administration. He also said people in tech and their co-workers were nervous about their status, and added that it "would be great" if the president could "send them a signal." Here's what executives of Amazon, Google, and Microsoft said.

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