Category Archives: google

Google Allegedly Monopolized Internet Search For A Decade

The watershed antitrust trial pitting the US Government against Google began on Tuesday in a Washington district court, as the government started to argue its case that the tech giant illegally abused its power to monopolize internet search, The Guardian reported. The case is the biggest test of antitrust law in decades and the first such case against Google to go to trial in the US.

According to The Guardian, the trial is set to last 10 weeks, over the course of which the government will make its case that Google leveraged its market power and wealth to strangle competition. Google spent billions on deals with companies such as Apple and Samsung to make itself the default search browser on their devices, which the government alleges shut out competition and allowed Google to attain a monopoly on searching the internet.

Google denies the justice department’s allegations. The company’s longtime chief legal officer, Kent Walker, has argued that consumers can still freely use any rival search engines and that Google’s services represent a fraction of the ways that people browse the internet.

The Guardian also reported that Judge Amit Mehta, an Obama appointee from 2014, is presiding over the case and will decide on a ruling. There is no jury in the trial. Throughout the first day, Mehta challenged attorneys in both sides of the case to clarify their argument that people could easily switch internet browsers from their default setting, asking how often people actually do that.

CNBC reported lawyers for the Department of Justice and a coalition of state attorneys general led by Colorado faced Google on Tuesday, as the 10-week trial kicked off in Washington, D.C., District Court. Day one of the trial set the stage for how the government and Google would argue their opposing views of how the company has maintained a large slice of the search market for years.

According to CNBC, the government’s case is that Google has kept its share of the general search market by creating strong barriers to entry and a feedback loop that sustained its dominance.

Google says it’s simply been the preferred choice of consumers. That popularity, the company says, is why browser makers and phone manufacturers have chosen Google as their default search engine through revenue-sharing agreements.

TechCrunch reported that the Justice Department’s landmark antitrust case against Google marks the beginning of a trial that will stretch on for months, potentially upending the tech world in the process.

At issue is Google’s search business. The Justice Department says that Google has run afoul of antitrust laws in the course of maintaining its top spot in search, while the tech giant argues that it maintains its dominance naturally by offering consumes a superior product.

According to TechCrunch, the Justice Department filed the civil antitrust against Google in late 2020 after examining the company’s business for more than a year.

A large coalition of state attorneys general also filed their own parallel suit against Google, but Judge Amit Mehta decided that the states did not clear the bar that would allow them to go to trial with their own complaints about Google’s search ranking practices.

Personally, I think it is obvious that this is a court case that is going to take a very long time to sort out. We will just have to wait and see what Judge Mehta decides.

Google’s Antitrust Trial Gets Underway In Washington

Google and the Justice Department square off Tuesday in opening arguments for the biggest antitrust trial in more than two decades, kicking off a case with major implications for the search giant and the future of antitrust law, The Wall Street Journal reported.

The nonjury trial, scheduled to go through mid-November, will be decided by U.S. District Judge Amit Mehta, who could order a breakup or changes to the way Google promotes its search engine.

According to The Wall Street Journal, the Justice Department has alleged Google’s agreements with companies including Apple and Samsung to make its search engine the default option on web browsers and mobile phones illegally helped maintain a monopoly in that market. Google has said it competes fairly for the contracts, and users can easily switch away from defaults.

The trial in Washington will be closely watched by lawmakers and policy experts who have pushed for stricter policing of U.S. tech giants. The DOJ hasn’t brought an antimonopoly case to trial since it successfully sued Microsoft in 1998 for using its dominance in personal computer software to squash upstart web browsers.

The Justice Department, Google and a group of state attorneys general also suing the company are all expected to make opening arguments on Tuesday. The state AGs sued Google for allegedly favoring its own search engine when building tools placing ads across multiple services, an accusation Google has also fought.

Politico reported that the Biden administration’s push to check the power of the tech giants gets its first big test Tuesday in a Washington courtroom where the Department of Justice will kick off a case designed to curb Google’s dominance in online search.

The trial against the $1.7 trillion company will be “the most significant U.S. monopoly case in a generation,” said Bill Baer, a fellow with the Brookings Institution and former DOJ antitrust head under President Barack Obama.

According to Politico, the DOJ’s suit against Google claims the company has become the overwhelmingly most-used search engine not because of a superior product but because it illegally uses its money to box out its competitors.

The case centers on a series of revenue-sharing agreements, worth tens of billions of dollars annually, that Google has with Apple, Mozilla, Samsung, and others to be the default search engine on web browsers and mobile phones, as well as its control of the ads that populate search results. Google does not disclose the exact value of the deals. The DOJ says these contracts have hindered the ability of rivals to compete and deprived customers of the benefits of high quality, innovative services that only competition can foster.

According to some estimates, including those cited in the DOJ’s lawsuit, Google controls about 90 percent of the search engine market in the U.S. and globally.

ArsTechnica reported that DC-based U.S. District Court Judge Amit Mehta will hear opening arguments in a 10-week monopoly trial that could disrupt Google’s search business and redefine how the U.S. enforces antitrust law in the tech industry.

“Google’s anticompetitive conduct harms consumers – even those who prefer its search engine – because Google has not innovated as it would have with competitive pressure,” the DOJ wrote in a pre-trial brief filed on Friday.

According to ArsTechnica, this trial will be “the federal government’s first monopoly trial of the modern era,” (the New York Times reported). For officials, the trial marks a shift away from opposing anti-competitive tech mergers and acquisitions – which attempt to stop tech giants from getting even bigger in desirable markets. Starting with this trial, officials will now begin scrutinizing more closely than ever before how tech giants got so big in the first place.

It seems to me that this trial – which is to last for ten weeks – should fill up news articles as new parts of the case are reported on. That said, I suspect that you won’t find anything about this case posted on Google’s search engine.

Google Announces The New Transparency Report

David Graff, VP, Trust & Safety, posted an announcement: Today, we’re announcing the Transparency Center, a central hub for quickly and easily learning more about Google’s product policies. From the blog post:

Billions of people turn to Google every day for access to trustworthy information and content, and we take this responsibility seriously. Our terms of service, product policies, developer policies, and community guidelines all exist to keep users safe as we strive to deliver on our mission to make information universally accessible.

Today, we’re launching the Transparency Center – a central hub for you to learn more about our product policies.

The Transparency Center collects existing resources and policies, and was designed with you in mind, providing easy access to information on our policies, how we create and enforce them, and much more, including:

* Our policy development process

* Policies by product or service

* Reporting & appeal tools

* Transparency reports

Google’s principles for privacy and AI

As the online threat landscape changes, our policies evolve, helping to prevent abuse on our platforms. And since the uses of our products differ, we tailor our policies to each platform, aiming to create a safe and positive experience for everyone. With the Transparency Center, you can learn about our policy development process, how we enforce our policies, and view each policy by product and service…

Access Tools for reporting and appeals

The Transparency Center has a dedicated page to help you find ways to report harmful content and make appeals across several of our services. Our appeals process aims to ensure due process, efficiency, and transparency for users appealing our enforcement decisions…

TechCrunch reported that Google started publishing transparency reports over a decade ago to show users how government policy impacts access to information. Users can now access the Transparency Reports to read more about Google’s transparency reports, insight into how the company enforces its policies across products, and where to view them in full.

The Transparency Center has a dedicated page to help users find ways to report harmful content and make appeals across Google’s services.

Android Authority reported: If you ever wanted to find a specific Google product policy, like for YouTube Premium or Chrome, it was a bit of a headache due to all the products the company owns. But Google has made it much easier by centralizing everything into a single hub that the tech giant calls the “Transparency Center”.

According to Android Authority, while all of this information was readily available, the new Transparency Center hub seems to be a good step forward toward making these resources more accessible to consumers.

Personally, I think it is a good idea for huge companies, like Google, to provide transparency about their decision making process. I think it will help people who have been reported to understand what they were reported for – and a way for them to appeal that decision.

Google Announced Hands-Free Photos For The Pixel Family

Google announced that their latest Feature Drop is here, and it’s jam-packed with helpful tools and updates for your Pixel Phone, Pixel Watch and Fitbit devices. These began rolling out yesterday, and will continue over the next few weeks.

For Pixel Phones

Peace of mind from Google Assistant: Use your voice to ask Google Assistant on your Pixel phone to start emergency sharing or to schedule a safety check for some extra piece of mind. If you’re out for a night run, just say “Hey Google, start a safety check for 30 minutes.” If you don’t respond to your safety check in the set duration, your emergency contacts will be notified and your real-time location will be shared.

Added safety on the road: Car crash detection on Pixels has helped keep drivers safe since launching in 2019, and now it can even keep loved ones in the loop if you’ve been in a severe crash. In addition to contacting emergency services, it can share your real-time location and call status with your emergency contacts.

Stunning videos, down to the smallest detail: Pixel Pro’s Focus is now available for video, so you can have larger-than-life videos of the smallest details, like butterflies fluttering or flowers waving in the wind.

Easier hands-free photos: Pixel 6 and newer phones will now let you take self-timed photos by simply raising your palm to trigger the timer after setting it for 3 or 10 seconds.

Express yourself with wallpapers that wow: Now on Pixel 6 and newer phones, you can bring your favorite memories of friends and family to life with Pixel’s new cinematic wallpapers. Pixel uses AI to transform your 2D wallpaper photos into dynamic 3D scenes for a truly magical look. And with new emoji wallpapers, you can also mix and match over 4,000 emoji with different patterns and colors to create live wallpapers that fit your personality.

Recorder speaker labels are even better: Recorder makes transcribing recordings a breeze with speaker labels. Starting next week, users with Pixel 6 and newer phones will be able to export transcripts into Google Docs, generate speaker-labeled video clips and search for speakers within recordings.

Quick access to smart home controls: Quickly access your favorite home devices right from your Pixel lock screen when using the Google Home app. Use the designated home panel to turn off lights, adjust the temperature, see your cameras and more.

Smarter haptics: For Pixel 6a and Pixel 7a, Pixel’s adaptive haptics can now lower its vibration intensity when it detects that it’s on a hard, flat surface like a desk of table.

Charging that adapts to your habits: Adaptive Charging now uses Google AI to help extend the lifespan of your Pixel battery. When you plug in your phone, it can predict a long charging session based on your previous charging habits, and slowly charge to 100% one hour before it’s expected to be unplugged.

New Google Assistant Voices: Google Assistant now sounds more natural and relatable to even more users with two new options to add to our diverse array of voices, totaling 12 in U.S. English.

In addition, Google has also introduced new features for Pixel Watches. For example, Pixel Watch will now be able to check your oxygen saturation (SpO2) and help you identify the changes in the level of oxygen in your blood while you are sleeping. There are also new features for Fitbit Devices

To me, it sounds like some of these features included in the Pixel family can make life easier for people with certain disabilities. Hands-free photos, an easy way to record speakers, and smart access to home controls are all a great place for Google Pixel to start with.

Google Cloud Partners With Mayo Clinic To Use AI In Health Care

Google’s cloud business is expanding its use of new artificial intelligence technologies in health care, giving medical professionals at Mayo Clinic the ability to quickly find patient information using the types of tools powering the latest chatbots, CNBC reported.

On Wednesday, Google Cloud said Mayo Clinic is testing a new service called Enterprise Search on Generative AI App Builder, which was introduced Tuesday. The tool effectively lets clients create their own chatbots using Google’s technology to scour mounds of disparate internal data.

In health care, CNBC reported, that means workers can interpret data such as a patients’ medical history, imaging records, genomics or labs more quickly and with a simple query, even if the information is stored across different formats and locations. Mayo Clinic, one of the top hospital systems in the U.S. with dozens of locations, is an early adopter of the technology of Google, which is trying to bolster the use of generative AI in the medical system.

Mayo Clinic will test out different use cases for the search tool in the coming months, and Vish Anantraman, chief technology officer at Mayo Clinic, said that it has already been “very fulfilling” for helping clinicians with administrative tasks that often contribute to burnout.

According to CNBC, generative AI has been the hottest topic in tech since late 2022, when Microsoft backed OpenAI released the chatbot ChatGPT to the public. Google raced to catch up, rolling out its Bard AI chat service earlier this year and pushing to embed the underlying technology into as many products as possible. Health care is a particularly challenging industry, because there’s less room for incorrect answers or hallucinations, which occur when AI models fabricate information entirely.

Recently, Google posted on The Prompt: “Let’s talk about recent AI missteps”. From the article:

…By now, most of us have heard about “hallucinations,” which are when a generative AI model outputs nonsense or invented information in response to a prompt. You’ve probably also heard about companies accidentally exposing proprietary information to AI assistance without first verifying that interactions won’t be used to further train models. This oversight could potentially expose private information to anyone in the world using the assistance, as we discussed in earlier editions of “The Prompt”…

Google also wrote a blog post titled: “Bringing Generative AI to search experiences”. From the article:

…For example, building search by breaking long documents into chunks and feeding each segment into an AI assistant typically isn’t scalable and doesn’t effectively provide insights across multiple sources. Likewise, many solutions are limited in the data types they can handle, prone to errors, and susceptible to data leakage…. Even when organizations make these efforts, the resulting solutions tend to lack feature completeness and reliability, with significant investments of time and resources required to achieve high quality results…

Google also points out that their Gen App Builder lets developers create search engines that help ground outputs in specific data sources for accuracy and relevance, can handle multimodal data such as images, and include controls over how answer summaries are generated. Google also indicates that multi-turn conversations are supported so that users can ask follow up questions as they peruse outputs, and customers have control over their data – including the ability to support HIPAA compliance for healthcare cases.

Personally, I would prefer to talk to an actual human being about whatever questions I might have about my health care needs. Giving this over to an generative AI, that could easily make mistakes or have “hallucinations”, sounds like a gimmick that could potentially cause harm to patients.

Google Is Updating Its Inactive Account Policies

Google’s VP, Product Management, Ruth Kricheli, posted on The Keyword about “Updating our inactive account policies” From the post:

People want the products and services they use online to be safe and secure. Which is why we have invested in technology and tools to protect our users from security threats, like spam, phishing scams, and account hijacking.

Even with these protections, if an account hasn’t been used for an extended period of time, it is more likely to be compromised. This is because forgotten or unattended accounts often rely on old or re-used passwords that may have been compromised, haven’t had two factor authentication set up, and receive fewer security checks by the user.

Our internal analysis shows abandoned accounts are 10x less likely than active accounts to have 2-step-verification set up. Meaning, these accounts are often vulnerable, and once an account is compromised, it can be used for anything from identity theft to a vector for unwanted or even malicious content, like spam.

To reduce this risk we are updating our inactivity policy for Google Accounts to 2 years across our products. Starting later this year, if a Google Account has not been used or signed into for at least 2 years, we may delete the account and its contents – including content within Google Workspace (Gmail, Docs, Drive, Meet, Calendar), YouTube and Google Photos.

The policy only applies to personal Google Accounts, and will not effect accounts for organizations like schools or businesses. This update aligns with our policy with industry standards around retention and account deletion and also limits the amount of time Google retains your unused personal information.

The blog post provided the following information:

While the policy takes effect today, it will not immediately impact users with an inactive account – the earliest we will begin deleting accounts is December 2023.

We will take a phased approach, starting with accounts that were created and never used again.

Before deleting an account, we will send multiple notifications over the months leading up to deletion, to both the account email address and the recovery email (if one has been provided).

Google says the simplest way to keep a Google Account active is to sign-in at least once every 2 years. If you have signed into your Google Account or any of our services recently, your account is considered active and will not be deleted.

Things you can do to keep your account active include: Reading or sending an email; Using Google Drive; Watching a YouTube video; Downloading an app on the Google Play Store; Using Google Search; Using Sign in with Google to sign in to a third-party app or service.

Personally, I put two-factor authentication on everything I can. It makes it much harder for some random person to hack into your accounts and take them over.

As far as I can tell, the post on Google’s Keyword blog is the only place where this information has been placed. I think there will be people who never look at The Keyword, and who may be unfortunately surprised when Google decides to delete their account (in December of 2023).

Android Developers Blog Gives Users Control Of Their Data

The Android Developers Blog posted “Giving Users More Transparency and Control Over Account Data”. It was posted by Bethel Otuteye, Senior Director, Product Management, Android App Safety. From the blog post:

Google Play has launched a number of recent initiatives to help developers build consumer trust by showcasing their apps’ privacy and security practices in a way that is simple and easy to understand. Today we’re building on this work with a new data deletion policy that aims to empower users with greater clarity and control over their in-app data.

For apps that enable app account creation, developers will soon need to provide an option to initiate account and data deletion from within the app and online. This web requirement, which you will link in your Data Safety Form, is especially important so that a user can request account and data deletion without having to reinstall an app.

While Play’s Data safety section already lets developers highlight their data deletion options, we know that users want an easier and more consistent way to request them. By creating a more intuitive experience with this policy. We hope to better educate our shared users on the data controls available to them and create greater trust in your apps and Google Play more broadly.

As the new policy states, when you fulfill a request to delete an account, you must also delete the data associated with that account. The feature also gives developers a way to provide more choice: users who may not want to delete their account entirely can choose to delete other data only where applicable (such as activity history, images, or videos). For developers that need to retain certain data for legitimate reasons such as security, fraud prevention, or regulatory compliance, you must clearly disclose those data retention practices…

…As a first step we’re asking developers to submit answers to new Data deletion questions in your app’s Data Safety form by December 7. Early next year, Google Play users will begin to see reflected changes in your app’s store listing, including the refreshed data deletion badge in the Data safety section and the new Data deletion area.

9to5 Google reported that Google specifies that Play developers must “delete the user data associated with that app account”. 

Temporary account deactivation, disabling, or “freezing” the app account does not qualify as account deletion. If you need to retain certain data for legitimate reasons such as security, fraud protection, or regulatory compliance, you must clearly inform users about your data retention practices (for example, within your privacy policy.

TechCrunch reported that Google announced a new account deletion policy for Android apps, which means that apps that offer account creation must have an easy way to delete the account as well. 

According to TechCrunch, the company said it would start enforcing this policy sometime early next year. This move follows Apple, which implemented a similar policy on June 30, 2022, for apps on the App Store.

Personally, I think that requesting that your data be removed from an app is an excellent idea. This is especially important for people who have decided they no longer want to use a particular app.