Category Archives: google

Australian Court Finds Google “Partially” Misled Consumers

The Australian Competition & Consumer Commission (ACCC) has found that Google misled customers about personal location data collected through Android mobile devices between January 2017 and December 2018, in a world-first enforcement action brought by the ACCC.

The Guardian provided a good explanation of what happened. The Court found that Google continued to collect “Location History” and “Web & App Activity” on some Android and Pixel phones, even for customers who ticked “No” or “Do not collect” on their settings.

If a customer said no to “Location History”, but left “Web & App Activity” switched on, Google continued to collect location data, the ACCC said.

The ACCC also stated:

The Court ruled that when consumers created a new Google Account during the initial set-up process of their Android device, Google misrepresented that the ‘Location History’ setting was the only Google Account setting that affected whether Google collected, kept, or used personally identifiable data about their location. In fact, another Google Account setting titled ‘Web & App Activity’ also enabled Google to collect, store and use personally identifiable location data when it was turned on, and that setting was turned on by default.

In addition, the ACCC wrote: The Court found that when consumers later accessed the ‘Location History’ setting on their Android device during the same time period to turn that setting off, they were also misled because Google did not inform them that by leaving the ‘Web & App Activity’ setting switched on, Google would continue to collect, store and use their personally identifiable data.

According to The Guardian, a judgment published by Justin Thomas Thawley said that Google’s behavior was “partially misleading” He felt that some consumers would have been misled, and reasonably believed that this data would not be collected, and others would not have.

The ACCC is seeking declarations, pecuniary penalties, publications orders, and compliance orders. These will be determined at a later date. In addition to penalties, the ACCC is seeking an order for Google to publish a notice to Australian consumers to better explain Google’s location data settings in the future.

Personally, I think its very sneaky of Google to try and trick people into giving Google their location data. Anybody else remember when Google’s motto was “Don’t be evil”?

Google Dumps Play Movies to YouTube for Smart TVs

Google Play Movies LogoGoogle has announced that it’s discontinuing support for Play Movies on smart TVs and will make purchases available on the TV’s YouTube app instead.

In a small posting on its support forum, Google said that from mid-June the Google Play Movies & TV app will no longer be available on Roku, Samsung, LG, and Vizio smart TVs. Previously purchased films will be available in the YouTube app under “Your Movies”.

I’m not happy. Up to this point, Play Movies was my video store of choice: I don’t have a huge collection but before Disney+ came along, it was where I bought my Marvel films and cartoons, sorry, animated features. The really good thing was that Play Movies was available across smartphone, tablet, smart TV and web. It also had a simple user interface with curated content – children could not access inappropriate material.

And now we have YouTube. Clearly Google has learned nothing from the bloatware that is iTunes or the mess that Spotify is rapidly becoming, and is trying to throw all media into YouTube so that it can further sell adverts and tracking. The home of user-generated content has already gobbled up Play Music and unless I’m very much mistaken, it looks like the writing is on the wall for Play Movies too. The parental controls on YouTube are next to useless and going by the comments on the support forum, I’m not alone in my displeasure.

Everything doesn’t have to be a social media experience. I just want to watch my films: I’m not going like, favourite or subscribe something I’ve already purchased.

And Google, just in case no-one’s mentioned it, I don’t think anyone associates YouTube with quality programming.

Google Faces Lawsuit Over Incognito Mode Tracking

Google is facing a lawsuit that it tried (and failed) to kill. Bloomberg reported that the suit alleges that Google secretly scoops up troves of internet data even if users browse in “Incognito” mode to keep their search activity private.

The case is called Brown v. Google LLC, and was brought by three plaintiffs (individually and on behalf of all other similarly situated). The defendants are Google LLC and Alphabet Inc. The case was filed in June of 2020 in U.S. District Court Northern District of California.

Plaintiff’s alleged: “… To prevent information being shared with Google, Google recommends that its consumers need only launch a browser such as Google Chrome, Safari, Microsoft Edge, or Firefox in ‘private browsing mode’. Both statements are untrue. When users undertake either – or both – of the aforementioned steps, Google continues to track, collect, and identify their browsing data in real time, in contravention of federal and state laws on wiretapping and in violation of consumers’ rights to privacy.”

…Google knows who your friends are, what your hobbies are, what you like to eat, what movies you watch, where and when you like to shop, what your favorite vacation destinations are, what your favorite color is, and even the most intimate and potentially embarrassing things you browse on the internet – regardless of if you follow Google’s advice to keep your activities “private”…

Bloomberg reported that the plaintiffs alleged that even when they turn off data collection in Chrome, other Google tools used by websites end up amassing their personal information. Federal judge Lucy Koh denied Google’s request to throw out the case.

“The court concludes that Google did not notify users that Google engages in the alleged data collection while the user is in private browsing mode”, Judge Koh wrote.

According to The Verge, that Google said in a court filing that it makes clear to users “that ‘Incognito’ does not mean ‘invisible,” and that the user’s activity during that session may be visible to websites they visit, and any third-party analytics or ads services the visited websites use.”

As far as I can tell, there has not been a ruling on the case yet. One thing is clear: there are likely a lot of people who believed that they would not be tracked while using the “Incognito” part of Google’s browser. If the plaintiffs win their case, it could mean big problems for Google, especially in regards to users from states with strong data privacy laws.

News Corp and Google Agree to Global Partnership on News

News Corp announced today that it has agreed to an historic multi-year partnership with Google to provide trusted journalism from its news sites around the world in return for significant payments by Google. The long-term deal involves payment for premium content for Google News Showcase.

Among the News Corp publications joining Google News Showcase will be The Wall Street Journal, Barron’s, MarketWatch, and the New York Post; in the UK: The Times and The Sunday Times, and the Sun; and in Australia a range of news platforms including The Australian,, Sky News, and multiple metropolitan and local titles.

Reuters reported that the companies will develop a subscription platform, share advertising revenue through Google’s ad technology services, build out audio journalism and develop video journalism by YouTube.

According to Reuters, this deal comes after years of public feuding between Murdoch and Google, most recently in Australia, where Google has threatened to shut down its search engine to avoid “unworkable” content laws.

The New York Times reported: Google’s rush to pay up in Australia shows how regulation in a relatively small country – or just the threat of it – can sharply alter the behavior of a global tech behemoth that grew with impunity back home in the United States. The New York Times noted that “journalism seems to have fewer friends in the halls of power” in the United States.

Google’s decision to pay news publishers is a good idea. In my opinion, it makes sense for Google to pay news publishers for their content. Both sides benefit from this situation. According to Reuters, Microsoft Corp. has publicly endorsed the proposed Australian law and recently urged the U.S. government to copy it.

The decisions made by Google and Microsoft stands in sharp contrast to Facebook’s decision to block Australian news from its platform. It seems to me that Australians have the opportunity to get their news from Google – and spend less time on Facebook.

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.