Tag Archives: google

Apple and Google Released a FAQ About their Coronavirus Tracker



Earlier this month, Google and Apple announced a joint effort to enable the use of Bluetooth technology to help governments and health agencies reduce the spread of the COVID-19 virus. As you may have expected, people had questions about how that contact tracing technology would work.

In response, Apple and Google released a Frequently Asked Questions PDF with more information. Some of it explains what contact tracing is, how it works, and how it can help slow the spread of COVID-19. It also covers how their contact tracing system will protect user privacy.

Here are some key points about user privacy:

  • Each user will have to make an explicit choice to turn on the technology. It can also be turned off by the user at any time by uninstalling the contract tracing application or turning off exposure notification in Settings.
  • This system does not collect location data from your device, and does not share the identities of other users to each other, Google or Apple. The user controls all data they want to share, and the decision to share it.
  • Bluetooth privacy-preserving beacons rotate every 10-20 minutes, to help prevent tracking.
  • Exposure notification is only done on device and under the user’s control. In addition people who test positive are not identified by the system to other users, or to Apple or Google.
  • The system is only used for contract tracing by public health authorities apps.
  • Google and Apple can disable the exposure notification system on a regional basis when it is no longer needed.

However, the FAQ also makes it clear that government health authorities will have access to the information facilitated by the app. “Access to the technology will be granted only to public health authorities. Their apps must meet specific criteria around privacy, security, and data control. The public health authority app will be able to access a list of beacons provided by users confirmed as positive for COVID-19 who have opted into sharing them. The system was also designed so that Apple and Google do not have access to information related to any specific individual.”

The FAQ states a user can choose to report a positive diagnosis of COVID-19 to their contact tracing app. The user’s most privacy-preserving beacons will be added to the positive diagnosis list shared by the public health authority so that others who came in contact with those beacons can be alerted. I don’t see how that can be done without the app being able to identify one individual user from another.

It comes down to how much you trust your government to use the information from the app to help people. This sort of heath information can be used to prevent people from being eligible for health insurance coverage, or to be discriminated against in other ways. Personally, I am not going to use this app.


Google Considered a Tipping Feature for Google Contributor



What would it be like to earn income through Google, from people who visited your website and wanted to give you a tip? According to TechCrunch, Google was considering a feature like that, but decided to scrap it. TechCrunch obtained this information, and several screenshots of it, from “a source that provided evidence that they came directly from Google”.

Apparently, the tipping feature was explored last year by Google, who considered adding it to Google Contributor. In short, Google Contributor allows people to buy an ad removal pass for the web (from participating sites).

You load your Contributor pass with an initial payment, that gets distributed each time you visit a (participating) site without ads. That money goes to the creators “after a small portion is kept by Google to cover the cost of the service.” The creator of the website you visited is able to set the price per page.

I personally find that system to be a little clunky. Most people who don’t want to see ads simply start using an ad blocker. If they want to support a particular creator’s website, they can join that person’s Patreon, or give them a tip via PayPal or Ko-fi. I don’t really understand why anyone would want Google to be a “middleman” in that process.

The screenshots obtained by TechCrunch appear to show images of a feature that would enable those who visit a website that is participating with Google Contributor to give the creator a tip through Google Contributor itself. There is an image of a iPhone with a news article on it and a suggestion to support that website (in this case, The New York Times). Three funding amounts are suggested: $1.00, $3.00, or $5.00.

It isn’t clear what amount of money Google would take from the tipping feature, or how much would actually go to the creator. The tipping system might have been useful for the big news sites who relied upon revenue from ads and are now struggling to find a different way to monetize their content.


Australian Code of Conduct to Make Social Media Companies Pay for News



The Australian federal government has asked the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) to create a mandatory code of conduct that would require companies like Google and Facebook to pay media companies for news. This comes after the ACCC advised that reaching a voluntary agreement with the big social media companies to pay for content would be “unlikely”.

The mandatory code will cover issues including the sharing of data, ranking of news content online and the sharing of revenue generated from the news. It will be enforced through penalties and sanctions and will include a binding dispute resolution process.

A draft of the mandatory code of conduct will be released in July of 2020. The voluntary code of conduct negotiations were expected to run until November. But, the mandatory code of conduct is now being created in part because COVID-19 has “exacerbated financial woes within the media sector.”

The Guardian reported that the mandatory code of conduct would force Facebook and Google to pay news media for their content, advise news media in advance of algorithm changes that would affect content rankings, favor original source and new content in search page results, and share data with media companies. At least some of this was also in the voluntary version of the code of conduct.

I find this fascinating because, if the Australian mandatory code of conduct is put in place, it could set a precedent for other countries to make one of their own. Obviously, Google and Facebook will fight against this, as they are quite used to receiving plenty of content for free while paying the content creators little to nothing.

It has become common for people to seek news online rather than through a newspaper subscription. It seems only fair that news organizations should be financially compensated for their content that big social media companies financially benefit from.


Apple and Google Partner on COVID-19 Contact Tracing Technology



Google and Apple announced a joint effort to enable the use of Bluetooth technology to help governments and health agencies reduce the spread of the COVID-19 virus, with user privacy and security central to the design.

Since COVID-19 can be transmitted through close proximity to affected individuals, public health officials have identified contract tracing as a valuable tool to help contain its spread. A number of leading public health authorities, universities, and NGOs around the world have been doing important work to develop opt-in contact tracing technology.

To further this cause, Apple and Google will be launching a comprehensive solution that includes application programming interfaces (APIs) and operating system-level technology to assist in contact tracing. Given the urgent need, the plan is to implement this solution in two steps while maintaining strong protections around user privacy.

In May, both companies will release APIs that enable interoperability between Android and iOS devices using apps from public health authorities. These official apps will be available for users to download via their respective app stores.

In the coming months, Apple and Google will work to enable a broader Bluetooth-based contact tracing platform by building this functionality into the underlying platforms. This is a more robust solution than an API and would allow more individuals to participate, if they choose to opt in, as well as enable interaction with a broader ecosystem of apps and government health authorities.

Apple and Google stated: “Privacy, transparency, and consent are of utmost importance and effort, and we look forward to building this functionality in consultation with interested stakeholders. We will openly publish information about our work for others to analyze.”

I understand that Apple and Google are trying to do something that could, potentially, reduce the spread of COVID-19. I can see where having public health authorities involves with the project is important, as that would be a good way to ensure that credible information is presented.

It is wonderful that the project will be opt-in for users. Nobody likes it when companies go ahead and opt-in someone without asking for their permission. My biggest concern about this contact tracing project is that a government could try and us the data to cause harm to people.

Google and Apple really need to get this right when it comes to user privacy.


I’m on Windows 10 and I’m OK with that – for now



OK, for 5 years or so now I’ve been primarily using a Chromebook. I’ve been through three. It’s not that I didn’t have Windows around, the desktop in my office is Windows and the laptop was on my kitchen counter is Windows. I used it while cooking so I could keep an eye on messages, plus I have recipes in Evernote. 

Well, that kitchen laptop is currently my work machine. The keyboard on my Chromebook, an Asus C206, died. Literally no keys work. Yes, I’ve tried to fix it in many ways. I’ve declared it DOA. 

So that laptop that was on my kitchen counter is suddenly my work machine. It took me a day to get used to it. I’m used to an 11 inch and that keyboard size. This is 17 inches and my fingers were getting lost on the keyboard. However, by day 2 I was basically fine, I adjusted. 

I did have to turn off the touchpad, I use an external mouse so it isn’t necessary. Worse, my wrist brushed it while typing and deleted a whole story. In Chrome OS turning it off is as easy as Shift-Search-P. It’s a little harder in Windows, but it isn’t rocket science. 

I also remembered this is a touchscreen when I went to wipe a spot off the screen. I didn’t use this very much so I’d forgot. Things happened when I touched it to wipe the spot off. 

However, I’ve been scouring online and picked out a new Chromebook. So I’ll be heading back to one very soon, just need to place my order and wait for delivery. In the meantime, I’m OK on Windows 10. I know Windows well, it was just a matter of getting my fingers used to the bigger keyboard. 

So what are all of you using these days? Let us know. And stay healthy out there. 


Google Uses Location Data to Help Combat COVID-19



Google announced it is using aggregated, anonymized data showing how busy certain types of places are during the COVID-19 outbreak. The data can help identify when a local business tends to be the most crowded. Public health officials can use the data to make critical decisions to combat COVID-19.

Starting today, we’re publishing an early release of our COVID-19 Community Mobility Reports to provide insights into what has changed in response to work from home, shelter in place, and other policies aimed at flattening the curve of this pandemic. These reports have been developed to be helpful while adhering to our stringent privacy protocols and policies.

The reports use aggregated, anonymized data to chart movement trends over time and geography, across different high-level categories of places such as retail and recreation, groceries and pharmacies, parks, transit stations, workplaces, and residential. Google will show trends over several weeks, with the most recent information representing 48-72 hours prior. Google will release these reports globally, starting with 131 countries and regions.

Google, again, attempts to reassure people that while they display a percentage point of increase or decrease in visits, they do not share the absolute number of visits. Google states that, to protect people’s privacy, no personally identifiable information (such as an individual’s location, contacts or movement) is made available at any point.

The Verge clarifies that the reports use data from people who have opted-in to storing their location history with Google. So, if the idea of Google using your location in this project bothers you – now is the time to go to Google’s Manage Your Location History page and pause Google’s Location History feature.

Personally, I don’t trust Google’s ability to keep private information secure considering some of the mishaps that have happened over the years. I think their idea to use location data to help public health officials make decisions on COVID-19 was done with good intentions. But, my concern is that if any of that data leaks, it could lead to unpleasant governments inflicting physical injury upon people who didn’t follow the quarantine rules.


Google Launches Google Translate for Android



Google announced that Google Translate will be rolling out in the next few days for any combination of the following eight languages: English, French, German, Hindi, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish, and Thai.

Sami Iqram, Product Manager, Google Translate, shared a story where he used Google Translate:

Recently, I was at my friend’s family gathering, where her grandmother told a story from her childhood. I could see that she was excited to share it with everyone but there was a problem – she told the story in Spanish, a language that I don’t understand. I pulled out Google Translate to transcribe the speech as it was happening. As she was telling the story, the English translation appeared on my phone so that I could follow along – it fostered a moment of understanding that would have otherwise been lost…

Those with Android phones can try the transcribe feature by going to their Translate app on Android, and making sure they have the latest updates from the Play store. Select the source and target languages. Users can pause or restart transcription by tapping the mic icon.

Right now, the transcribe feature will work best in a quiet environment with one person speaking at a time. In other situations, the app will try to provide the gist of what’s being said. There is also a Conversation mode in the app that can continue to help users have a back and forth translated conversation with someone.

According to Venture Beat, Google plans to bring Transcribe to iOS devices at an unspecified date in the future. Venture Beat also points out that at launch, Translate is unable to export speech recording audio or a translation transcription. That feature might appear in the future.

Personally, I think Google Translate is a good thing that will help people to communicate with each other. It can help break down the language barrier and perhaps encourage people to get to know their neighbors who speak a different language than they do.