Category Archives: google

Google Stifled Scientists’ Writing About AI Research

Alphabet Inc’s Google this year moved to tighten control over its scientists’ papers by launching a “sensitive topics” review, and in at least three cases, requested authors to refrain from casting its technology in a negative light, according to internal communications and interviews with researchers involved in the work, Reuters reported.

Google’s new review procedure asks that researchers consult with legal, policy and public relations teams before pursuing topics such as face and sentiment analysis and categorizations of race, gender or political affiliation, according to internal webpages explaining the policy.

According to Reuters, four staff researchers, including senior scientist Margaret Mitchell, said they believe Google is starting to interfere with crucial studies of potential technology harms.

“If we are researching the appropriate thing given our expertise, and we are not permitted to publish that on grounds that are not in line with high-quality peer review, then we’re getting into a serious problem of censorship,” Mitchell said.

Reuters reported that studying Google services for biases is among the “sensitive topics” under the company’s new policy, according to an internal webpage. Among dozens of other “sensitive topics” listed were the oil industry, China, Iran, Israel, COVID-19, home security, insurance, location data, religion, self-driving vehicles, telecoms and systems that recommend or personalize web content.

It seems to me that Google feels that it has something to hide when it comes to research not only about AI, but also about several other topics. There is no point hiring scientists to examine something if Google is just going to alter the findings in order to make the company look better. I’m suspicious that Google including the oil industry under “sensitive topics” means that Google is getting something lucrative from that industry.

Google Really Doesn’t Care About Android Tablets

Android Green Robot LogoI’ve used Android tablets for nearly ten years, starting with the Motorola Xoom way back in 2011. I then adopted the Google Nexus series with the Nexus 10, 7 and 9 tablets over a couple of years. After those, I jumped ship to a Huawei M5 10″ before getting a previously-enjoyed Samsung Tab S6, which is a very capable piece of kit.

At times, I feel like I’m the last Android tablet user left. I do like Apple hardware, but I don’t like Apple’s walled garden, the holier-than-thou attitude and I find iOS / iPadOS is too rigid and inflexible for my liking. All too often I try to do something on my daughter’s iPad that would straightforward on my Tab S6 but turns out to be impossible. Go on, change the default app for opening a jpg.

I know that Google’s not been giving tablets much love since ChromeOS became the new poster child and ChromeOS-based tablets started to appear. Of course, ChromeOS runs Android apps but the problem with Chrome devices is the spec. ChromeOS doesn’t need much CPU and RAM to run fast, but that doesn’t mean the screen has to be cheap too. Almost without fail, Chromebooks come with screen resolutions more suited to a 6″ smartphone than a 12″ laptop.

For example, the Chrome device-of-the-year Lenovo Duet has a 10″ 1920 x 1200 display. Or take the Acer Spin with a 13″ 2256 x 1504 screen. Even the HP Elite X2 only has 1920 x 1280 on a 13″ display. And that’s a convertible that costs GB£1700. Are they crazy?

The Samsung Galaxy Tab S6 is 2560 x 1600 in a 10.5″ screen. I love reading on mine and magazines presented in Zinio look great.

Google’s abandonment of Android tablets came home to me today when I tried to use the YouTube, sorry, the YT Studio app in landscape mode on the S6….and you simply can’t. YT Studio stubbornly refuses to even rotate away from portrait orientation, never mind present a more suitable landscape layout.

Frankly it’s embarrassing that Google can’t even be bothered to make its own apps tablet friendly and it’s no wonder that the best tablet apps are on iPads. Apple didn’t so much win the battle of the tablets as Google failed to turn up.

Google Photos is Updating its Storage Policy

Google announced changes to Google Photos’ storage policy. This may affect people who have posted a lot of photos there. The change will not take place immediately.

Starting on June 1, 2021, any new photos and videos you upload will count toward the free 15 GB storage that comes with every Google Account or the additional storage you’ve purchased as a Google One member. “We know this is a big shift and may come as a surprise, so we wanted to let you know well in advance and give you resources to make this easier,” Google stated.

In the same blog post, Google clarified:

Any photos or videos you’ve uploaded in High quality before June 1, 2021 will not count toward your 15GB of free storage. This means that photos and videos backed up before June 1, 2021 will still be considered free and exempt from the storage limit. You can verify your backup quality at any time in the Photos app by going to back up & sync in Settings.

Also starting on June 1, any new Docs, Sheets, Slides, Drawings, Forms or Jamboard file will begin counting toward your free 15 GB of allotted storage or any additional storage provided through Google One.

The Verge reported that Pixel owners will still be able to upload high-quality (not original) photos for free after June 1st without those images going against their cap.

The Verge also noted that it appears that Google hopes to influence people to switch from Google Photos to Google One. The price starts at $1.99/month for 100GB and has tiers going through 200GB ($2.99/month), 2TB ($9.99/month) and up to 30TB ($149.00/month).

It is always a good idea to have a copy of your photos and videos somewhere that you have control over, such as on your computer or on an external hard drive. There will always be some people who feel that their photos and videos are safe on Google Photos (and other services similar to it), and who fail to keep copies for themselves. Never assume that Google, or any other photo hosting service, will be around forever.

Afraid to go house-to-house tonight? You can play Google’s Halloween game

There are plenty of reasons to be afraid of this night every year – people who place coffins on their porches and suddenly sit up as you ascend the steps, mechanical ghosts and witches that scream or give an evil laugh as you approach them, you see pretty much everything out there. 

This year, though, is especially problematic, with Coronavirus, or Covid-19, running rampant, especially in the US, which just set a new record for new cases in a single day just yesterday. Halloween is designed to fake scare you, but his year it genuinely can. 

Well, it you don’t want to go out with a mask under a mask (the recommendation) then you can at least play a fun, non-scary, Halloween game. 

Head to and click on the Google doodle. You will get a brief example of how to play and then the ghosts will start coming after you. Slowly at first, so it’s fairly easy, but it won’t take long for the pace to pick up and you’ll be surrounded and have them closing fast. It becomes difficult to eliminate them before they’re on you. 

It’s a fun time-waster. A distraction from current events. It sort of harks back to Atari days. Not quite, but it does have that feel. 

By all means, give it a try whether you do or don’t head out there tonight. If you go please take the necessary precautions and stay safe. 

U.S Department of Justice Sued Google for Antitrust Violations

U.S. Department of Justice, along with eleven state Attorneys General, has filed a civil antitrust lawsuit in the U.S. District Court of Columbia against Google for violating antitrust laws. The Attorneys General involved in the lawsuit represent Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, South Carolina, and Texas.

The Wall Street Journal reported that all eleven of the Attorneys General are Republicans. More could join the case later. Other states are still considering their own cases related to Google’s search practices, and a large group of states is considering a case challenging Google’s power in the digital advertising market.

One of the things I found interesting from The Wall Street Journal article is that the Justice Department’s case doesn’t focus on a search-bias theory. This surprised me because all of the Attorneys General involved in the lawsuit are Republican, and many people from that party appear to feel that search engines and social media sites are biased against them. Perhaps that argument isn’t stong enough to bring to court.

The U.S. Department of Justice alleges that Google has unlawfully maintained monopolies in search and search advertising by:

  • Entering into exclusivity agreements that forbid preinstallation of any competing search engines
  • Entering into tying and other arrangements that force preinstallation of its search applications in prime locations on mobile devices and make them undeletable, regardless of consumer preference
  • Entering into long-term agreements with Apple that require Google to be the default – and de-facto exclusive – general search engine on Apple’s popular Safari browser and other Apple search tools
  • Generally using monopoly profits to buy preferential treatment for its search engine on devices, web browsers, and other search access points, creating a continuous and self-reinforcing cycle of monopolization.

Google responded with a blog post on The Keyword. Part of that post states: Today’s lawsuit by the Department of Justice is deeply flawed. People use Google because they choose to, not because they’re forced to, or because they can’t find alternatives.

Google also wrote: This isn’t the dial-up 1990s, when changing services was slow and difficult, and often required you to buy and install software with a CD-ROM. Today, you can easily download your choice of apps or change your default settings in a matter of seconds – faster than you can walk to another aisle in the grocery store.

Google Rolls Out Visual Improvements to Maps

Google announced that it is rolling out visual improvements to Google Maps. The purpose seems to be to give people a way to get a good look at the details in a specific location. I imagine that those who really want to travel, but cannot due to COVID-19, might use the update Google Maps to do some virtual traveling.

Google Maps has high-definition satellite imagery of 97 percent of the world’s population. With a new color-mapping algorithmic technique, Google is able to take that imagery and translate it into an even more comprehensive, vibrant map of an area at a global scale. The result is that people can more easily look at the natural features of a specific area.

With this update, Google Maps has one of the most comprehensive views of natural features on any major map app – with availability in all 220 countries and territories that Google Maps supports. That’s coverage for over 100M square kilometers of land, or 18 billion football fields.

In addition, Google Maps will soon enable users to see highly detailed street information that shows the accurate shape and width of a road to scale. It will show exactly where sidewalks, crosswalks, and pedestrian islands are located. Google points out that this kind of information is crucial to people who have accessibility needs.

Personally, I think this addition is fantastic! People who use wheelchairs need to know if a sidewalk has a “curb cut” or slope that will make it possible for them to get their wheelchair onto or off of a sidewalk. The same feature can help parents who are talking a walk and pushing their infant or toddler in a stroller.

Google will start rolling out detailed street maps in London, New York, and San Francisco in the coming months. The company has plans to expand more cities over time.

Google Posted Open Letters to Australians to Avoid Revenue Sharing

In April of this year, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) created a mandatory code of conduct that would require Google and Facebook to pay media companies for news. Large companies, like Google and Facebook, tend to resist having to share the money they make from the content that newspapers created.

According to The Guardian, Google has started targeting Australians with pop-up ads that link to an open letter that appears to be designed to scare people. Google doesn’t want a proposed law called the News Media Bargaining Code to go into effect.

Google’s Open Letter to Australians has a bright yellow caution sign at the top of it. Caution signs tend to make people nervous, wondering why a site had been flagged with that warning. In this case, Google intentionally put it there.

We need to let you know about new Government regulation that will hurt how Australians use Google Search and YouTube.

A proposed law, the News Media Bargaining Code, would force us to provide you with a dramatically worse Google Search and YouTube, could lead to your data being handed over to big news businesses, and would put the free services you use at risk in Australia.

According to Google, the law would “force us to give an unfair advantage to one group of businesses – news media business – over everyone who has a website, YouTube channel or small business.” Google says “the proposed changes are not fair and they mean that Google Search results and YouTube will be worse for you”. Google also implies that they would have to hand user’s date over to news businesses, and that “your search data may be at risk”.

The Guardian reported that Chair of the ACCC, Rod Sims, said Google’s letter “contains misinformation” about how the code connected to the law works. He also said, “Google would not be required to charge Australians for the use of its free services such as Google Search and YouTube, unless it chooses to do so. Google would not be required to share any additional user data with Australian news businesses unless it chooses to do so.”