Category Archives: google

Google has “Effectively Ended” Project Dragonfly



Google had been working on a project called Dragonfly, which was being developed as censored search engine that would be used in China. The decision comes after hundreds of Google employees called on the company to cancel the project.

The Intercept has a very detailed article about what Project Dragonfly was. It was a very secretive project that relied upon data gleaned from 265.com, a Beijing-based website.

The controversy over Dragonfly is largely because it was being built as a censored search engine. From the Intercept:

The dispute began in mid-August, when The Intercept revealed that Google employees working on Dragonfly had been using a Beijing-based website to help develop blacklists for the censored search engine, which was designed to block out broad categories of information related to democracy, human rights, and peaceful protest, in accordance with strict rules on censorship in China that are enforced by the country’s authoritarian Communist Party government.

I’m certainly not the first person to say this, but it bears repeating. If Google were to create and launch Dragonfly in China, it would not stop there. The existence of a tailor-made censored search engine for one country could influence other countries to demand that Google create a highly censored search engine for them – blocking whatever that government chooses to censor.

The existence of Project Dragonfly is dangerous and disturbing. The Intercept points out that Google’s CEO, Sundar Pichai, appeared before Congress and stated that “right now” there were no plans to launch Dragonfly. That doesn’t mean it is gone for good, and we need reporters to continue to monitor the situation.


Google Expedites Closure of Google+ After Bug Investigation



Google announced that it will expedite the closure of Google+ for consumers. In October of this year, Google said it would shut down Google+ for consumers “over a ten month period”.

That timeframe has been shortened to “within the next 90 days”. This decision comes after the discovery of a new bug that impacted approximately 52.5 million users in connection with a Google+ app.

We’ve recently determined that some users were impacted by a software update introduced in November that contained a bug affecting a Google+ API. We discovered this bug as part of our standard and ongoing testing procedures and fixed it within a week of it being introduced. No third party compromised our systems, and we have no evidence that the app developers that inadvertently had this access for six days were aware of it or misused it in any way.

As a result of discovering this bug, Google has decided to shut-down all Google+ APIs within the next 90 days. Google is also going to accelerate the sunset of consumer Google+ from August 2019 to April 2019.

Google says it wants to give users ample opportunity to transition off consumer Google+. It will also provide users with ways they can safely and securely download and migrate their data.

In addition, Google is in the process of notifying any enterprise customers that were impacted by the bug. That notification will come by email to those affected.

In my opinion, Google enterprise customers should take a minute and consider how much they trust Google to keep Google+ secure. This isn’t the first time this year that Google+ has had a data breach.


Google will Stop Working on Allo



Google announced that it will stop working on Google Allo, a smart messaging app. Google is going to focus more on its Messages app for Android phones.

Google stated that, thanks to their partnerships with over 40 carriers and device makers, over 175 million people are now using Messages, their messaging app for Android phones, every month.

Earlier this year, Google “paused investment” on Allo and brought some of its most-loved features over to Messages. Those features include: Smart Reply, GIFs, and desktop support. Google has decided to stop supporting Allo to focus on Messages, which has shown “continued momentum”.

Allo will continue to work through March of 2019. Those who are using Allo will have up until then to export all of their existing conversation history from the app. Visit Google’s “The Keyword” blog for a link that explains how to do that.

Will people who like Allo, and can no longer use it, switch to Messages? I’m assuming that’s what Google would like to have happen. I suspect that some people are currently using Allo to talk with some friends and Messages to talk with the friends who don’t use Allo. Putting those two groups together on Messages might streamline things.


Google Fi will Work with iPhones and Most Android Devices



Google launched Project Fi in 2015. It has been renamed Google Fi. It is now available on more phones. Their plan works with the majority of Android devices and iPhones.

You can now sign up for Google Fi with popular Android phones (including many Samsung, LG, Moto and OnePlus devices) and with iPhones (in beta). Google says there are some extra steps involved for iPhones, and they will walk you through it in the Google Fi iOS app.

A Google Fi plan starts at $20/month for unlimited calls and texts. Get exactly how much data you need for just $10/GB until 6 GB. After that, Google Fi’s Bill Protection caps your bill and data is free for the rest of the month. (It is worth noting that “Data is slowed when individuals have used more than 15 GB in a month.”)

Google Fi also offers 4G LTE coverage from coast to coast. If you are using a phone designed for Google Fi, your phone will keep you on the best signal by shifting between three mobile 4G LTE networks and automatically connecting to 2 million+ secure Wi-Fi hotspots. Visit the Google Fi website to find out if your current phone is compatible with Google Fi.

It seems to me that Google Fi might be an option for people who are completely fed up with the plan they currently have on their phone. Maybe.

The Verge reported that Google Fi is an MVNO, (mobile virtual network operator), which means the Google Fi service actually comes from larger carriers Google Fi uses – like T-Mobile, Sprint, and US Cellular. So, if you don’t happen to like one (or more) of those carriers, switching to Google Fi won’t necessarily separate you from them.

Whether or not you choose Google Fi might be influenced by how much (or how little) you trust Google with your data. Earlier this year, the Wall Street Journal reported that Google exposed the private data of thousands of users of the Google+ social network. The Wall Street Journal said Google discovered it in the Spring of 2018, but did not disclose the issue at that time.


Google Now Allows Users to Delete Search Activity



Google has announced that they will now allow you to review and delete your search activity and get quick access to the most relevant privacy controls in your Google Account.

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

Google is launching this improvement in Google Search on desktop and mobile today, and in the Google app for iOS and Android in coming weeks. They will expand this to Maps next year.

This is a step in the right direction. Users want the option to delete the information and data that Google (and other companies) collect from them. But, I don’t think Google is doing this primarily to benefit users. It might be an attempt to convince users that Google is working on its security and privacy problems.

Recently, the Wall Street Journal reported that Google exposed the private data of hundreds of thousands of users of the Google+ social network. According to the Wall Street Journal, Google became aware of that data breach last spring, and opted not to disclose the issue at that time.

In addition, there was the outrage about Google’s decision with Chrome 69, which would automatically log a user into the Chrome browser anytime the user logged into a Google service or site. It appears that Google feels that this was done to protect the user’s privacy – but many people disagree with that interpretation.

It’s also noteworthy that if you decided to click the button to “Delete a Search Activity” it causes a pop-up to appear that, to me, is an attempt to talk users out of deleting their search activity.


Android Phone Apps Used in Ad Fraud Scheme



BuzzFeed reported, in an extremely detailed article, information about their investigation into a fraud scheme that involved more than 125 Android apps and websites, some of which were targeted ads.

Google has responded in a blog post on the Google Security Blog, with details about what they have done after BuzzFeed informed them about the ad fraud scheme.

In short, the scam involved the TechSnab botnet, which operated by creating hidden browser windows that visit web pages to inflate ad revenue. Google says that malware contains common IP based cloaking, data obfuscation, and anti-analysis defenses. Google also stated that the fraud primary impacted mobile apps. According to Google, those apps were monetizing by using AdMob.

So, basically, what happened was some nefarious people put a ton of effort into finding a way to make money by artificially inflating ad revenue in mobile apps. I find it disgusting that someone out there is so selfish and greedy that they felt the need to do this. I understand that people want to make money – but most people don’t assume that means it is ok for them to commit fraud.

Garbage like the malware used in the fraud scheme clutters up the internet. It has no legitimate purpose at all, and I’m glad that Google is actively tracking this operation.

The only good thing that has come from this situation is that it involved a collaborative effort between BuzzFeed and Google in order stop the problem. Google stated: “Collaboration throughout our industry is critical in helping us to better detect, prevent, and disable these threats across the ecosystem.” I’m hoping the collaboration will make it much harder for people to pull these kind of shenanigans in the future.

Image from StockSnap.io


Google Maps will help charge your car



Electric cars are catching on. After starting off on the high end of pricing, the market is leveling off and openinh up to more customers, The biggest hindrance now seems to be charging stations, or lack of them.

The problem is slowly shrinking and now Google Maps would like to help out current and future users. “We built Google Maps to help people get where they need to go no matter what mode of transportation they use. Our newest feature brings helpful information about electric vehicle (EV) charging stations to the Map, so you can be confident that your car will be charged and ready for your ride, wherever you’re headed.”

Now you’ll be ablt to tryp in things like EV charging or EV charging station. Businesses with charging stations can also become involved.