Tag Archives: google

Ohio Attorney General Wants Google Declared a Public Utility



Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost filed a lawsuit asking a court to declare Google a public utility, “reining in the ways the powerful search engine provides search results to Ohioans.”

According to the news release, Ohio is the first state in the country to bring such a lawsuit. The lawsuit was filed in Delaware County Common Pleas Court. It asserts two causes of action against Google:

It seeks a legal declaration that Google is a common carrier (or public utility) subject to proper government regulation.

It says Google has a duty to offer sources or competitors rights equal to its own, meaning it should not prioritize the placement of its own products, services, and websites on search results pages. Those equal rights should extend to advertisements, enhancements, knowledge boxes, integrated specialized searches, direct answers and other features.

The Columbus Dispatch posted a statement from Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost:

“Google uses its dominance of internet search to steer Ohioan’s to Google’s own products – that’s discriminatory and anti-competitive,” Yost said in a statement. “When you own the railroad or the electric company or the cellphone tower, you have to treat everyone the same and give everybody access.”

The lawsuit, which The Columbus Dispatch embedded into their article, does not seek monetary damages.

Google also provided a statement to The Columbus Dispatch. “Ohioans simply don’t want the government to run Google like a gas or electric company,” the company said in a statement. “This lawsuit has no basis in fact or law and we’ll defend ourselves against it in court.”

Personally, I find this lawsuit interesting because of its unique interpretation of Google as a public utility – beholden to all the rules and regulations that other public utilities are. I’ve no idea how this court case will end up. However, if Ohio Attorney Dave Yost wins, it could set a very interesting precedent for other states to file similar lawsuits.


Google’s Android 12 Includes Some Privacy Features



Google announced the release of the first beta of Android 12. It includes options for people to personalize their phone with a custom color palette and redesigned widgets. It also includes some privacy features, but not the one that I suspect Android users really want – Apple’s App Tracking Transparency.

Starting with Android 12 on Pixel devices, you’ll be able to completely personalize your phone with a custom color palette and redesigned widgets. Using what we call color extraction, you choose your wallpaper, and the system automatically determines which colors are dominant, which ones are complementary and which ones look great. It then applies those colors across the entire OS: the notification shade, the lock screen, the volume controls, new widgets, and much more.

There are also some new animations. For example, when you dismiss your notifications on the lock screen, your clock will appear larger so you know when you’re all caught up. Google also stated that Android devices are now faster and more responsive with better power efficiency so you can use your device for longer without a charge.

What about privacy settings? Macworld reported that you won’t find anything like Apple’s App Tracking Transparency feature. “To be fair, Google does include an option to turn off ad tracking. In Settings, there is a toggle to opt out of ads personalization, which tells apps not to use your advertiser ID to create interest-based ads.” This, Macworld reported, is similar to Apple’s “Prevent cross-site tracking” toggle “and is a good thing to turn off.”

MacWorld also points out: “To get a similar level of granularity you need to go to the Google tab in Settings, then Manage Your Google Account, Data & personalization, and finally Ad settings. Inside, you’ll find a dizzying array of options and preferences for Google and its partners as well as an ability to turn off access for individual apps and categories. MacWorld notes that Android users may not know those features exist, or that Google routinely changes the access.

In my opinion, if the most important thing about a smartphone is the ability to customize the interface – then maybe you will feel comfortable with Android 12. However, if you consider the ability to prevent companies and advertisers from tracking you through apps and across the internet – I would recommend you get an iPhone.


Google Wants Users to Enable Two-Step Verification



Google is encouraging users to enroll in two-step verification (2SV) in order to ensure that the person who attempts to sign in on your account is really you. A post on The Keyword states that the best way to protect your account from a breached or bad password is by having a second form of verification in place.

The 2SV option isn’t new for Google. I opted-in to it a while ago because I believe that 2SV is a good way to protect my gmail from people who aren’t me. I say this as a Mac users who got a gmail account back when it was new and shiny. Those of you who connected your gmail account to a variety of websites might want to consider 2SV protection. That, or see if you can remove your gmail from those websites.

Google announced that users will soon lose the ability to choose for themselves whether or not they want to enroll in Google’s 2SV.

Today, we ask people who have enrolled in two-step verification (2SV) to confirm it’s really them with a simple tap via a Google prompt on their phone whenever they sign in. Soon, we’ll start automatically enrolling users in 2SV if their accounts are appropriately configured… Using their mobile device to sign in gives people safer and more secure authentication experience than passwords alone.

I don’t think Google should require their users to enroll in 2SV if they don’t want to. Having that automatically happen could make some people angry, especially if Google doesn’t give people a way to opt-out.

Google also mentioned their Password Import feature. According to Google, it “allows people to easily upload up to 1,000 passwords at a time from various third party sites into our Password Manager (for free).” Personally, I’m not comfortable handing over all of my passwords to Google. I suspect that other people won’t want to do that, either. To me, it feels like collecting passwords is just one more way for a big company to gather data on people


Google Used “Double Irish” Tax Structure to Shift Profits Out of Ireland



One of Google’s headquarters is based in Dublin, Ireland. According to The Irish Times, Google shifted more than $75.4 billion in profits out of Ireland using the controversial “double Irish” tax arrangement in 2019.

Financial Times provided information about the “double-Irish” in 2014. In short, it is a simple structure used by US technology and pharmaceutical companies to route profits to tax havens like Bermuda where they hold intellectual property.

The double Irish exploits the different definitions of corporate residency in Ireland and the US. Dublin taxes companies of they are controlled and managed in Ireland, while the US’ definition if tax residency is based on where a corporation is registered. Companies exploiting the double Irish put their intellectual property into an Irish-registered company that is controlled from a tax haven such as Bermuda.

The Financial Times continued: Ireland considers the company to be a tax-resident in Bermuda, while the US considers it to be a tax-resident in Ireland. The result is that when royalty payments are sent to the company, they go untaxed – unless or until the money is eventually sent home to the US parent company.

The Irish Times reported that the “double Irish” was abolished in 2015 for new companies establishing operations in Ireland. However, it allowed companies already using it until the end of 2020 to phase it out.

To me, it sounds like Google took advantage of its ability to continue using the “double Irish” structure to move profits out of Ireland and to also keep those profits safe from being taxed in the United States. It bothers me when huge corporations make efforts to avoid paying their fair share of taxes.

That said, it appears what Google was doing was considered legal until the end of 2020. It appears that Ireland abolished the “double Irish” tax arrangement. My hope this means that big corporations will actually have to pay their taxes, just like small businesses are required to.


Google’s FLoC is Unpopular with Other Browser Creators



Google introduced a new piece of technology called “Federated Learning Cohorts” (FLoC). According to Google, FLoC “protects your privacy” because it “allows you to remain anonymous as you browse across websites and also improves privacy by allowing publishers to present relevant ads to large groups (called Cohorts)”.

EFF has launched “Am I FloCed?” It is a new site that will tell you whether your Chrome browser has been “turned into a guinea pig for Federated Learning of Cohorts or FLoC, Google’s latest targeted advertising experiment.”

Google’s FloC is unpopular with other browser creators. Brave posted a blog titled: “Why Brave Disables FLoC”:

“Brave opposes FloC, along with any other feature designed to share information about you and your interests without your fully informed consent. To protect Brave users, Brave has removed FLoC in the Nightly version of both Brave for desktop and Android. The privacy-affecting aspects of FLoC have never been enabled in Brave releases; the additional implementation details of FLoC will be removed from all Brave releases with this week’s stable release. Brave is also disabling FLoC on our websites, to protect Chrome users learning about Brave.”

Vivaldi posted a blog post titled: “No, Google! Vivaldi users will not get FLoC’ed.” In the blog post, Vivaldi makes it clear it does not support FLoC, which they call “a privacy-invasive tracking technology”. From the blog post:

“The FLoC experiment does not work in Vivaldi. It relies on some hidden settings that are not enabled in Vivaldi… Although Vivaldi uses the Chromium engine, we modify the engine in many ways to keep the good parts but make it safe for users; we do not allow Vivaldi to make that sort of call to Google.”

DuckDuckGo posted a blog in which it points out that you can use the DuckDuckGo Chrome extension to block FLoC’s tracking.

Mozilla gave The Verge a statement that included: “We are currently evaluating many of the privacy preserving advertising proposals, including those put forward by Google, but have no current plans to implement any of them at this time. We don’t buy into the assumption that the industry needs billions of data points about people, that are collected and shared without their understanding, to serve relevant advertising.”

Opera gave The Verge a statement that included: “While we and other browsers are discussing new and better privacy-preserving advertising alternatives to cookies including FLoC, we have no current plans to enable features like this in the Opera browsers in their current form”.

The fact that so many browser creators have decided against enabling Google’s FLoC is significant. It means that FLoC is really bad for users, and that Google should not impose it upon people who use Chrome.


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.