Tag Archives: google

Legislation Could Force Breakup of Google’s Ad Business



A bipartisan group of senators led by Utah Republican Mike Lee introduced legislation that would take aim at conflicts of interest in the advertising industry and force Google to break up its dominant online-ad business, The Wall Street Journal reported.

Senators Amy Klobachar (D-MN), Ted Cruz (R-TX), and Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) are cosponsors of this legislation.

The bill is titled “The Competition and Transparency in Digital Advertising Act”. The purpose of this bill is “to prevent conflicts of interest and promote competition in the sale and purchase of digital advertising.” According to The Wall Street Journal, it would prohibit companies processing more than $20 billion in digital ad transactions annually from participating in more than one part of the digital advertising ecosystem.

Senator Lee commented about the legislation: “Digital advertising is the lifeblood of the internet economy, It supports most of the free content and services Americans have come to rely upon, including local journalism, and it allows businesses of every size to reach their customers quickly and efficiently. Unfortunately, online advertising is also suffering under the thumb of trillion-dollar ad companies.

“Companies like Google and Facebook have been able to export their unprecedented troves of detailed user data to obtain vice grip-like control over digital advertising, amassing power on every side of the market and using it to block completion and take advantage of their customers. The conflicts of interest are so glaring that one Google employee described Google’s ad business as being like ‘if Goldman or Citibank owned the NYSE.”…

The Wall Street Journal also reported that similar legislation is to be introduced in the House of Representatives by Republican Ken Buck of Colorado and Democrat Pramilla Jayapal of Washington. If the legislation becomes a law, companies would have a year from the enactment of the legislation to comply with new rules.

The Verge reported that Google spokesperson Julie Tarallo McAlister said the proposed law would ultimately hurt users.

“Advertising tools from Google and many competitors help American websites and apps fund their content, help businesses grow, and help protect users from privacy risks and misleading ads,” said Julie Tarallo McAlister. “Breaking those tools would hurt publishers and advertisers, lower ad quality, and create new privacy risks. And, at a time of heightened inflation, it would handicap small businesses looking for easy and effective ways to grow online.”

According to The Verge, the bill could require Google to divest majorities of its digital advertising business. Google’s advertising marketplace rakes in billions each quarter for the company, pulling in $54 billion across Search, YouTube, and its ad networks in the first quarter of this year alone. Meta (Facebook’s parent company) could also be similarly affected by this legislation.

Personally, I don’t think it is a terrible idea to have reasonable legislation that regulates the amount of money big companies can take in from selling ads. It would also be nice to have more transparency about the pricing of ads. That information could be really significant for a business to fully understand if the price Google gives them for an ad is too high.

Overall, though, I don’t think it was ever a good idea for Google (or Meta) to choose to rely so heavily on the money that it takes in from selling ads. It is not reasonable to presume that their ad systems would be able to sustain them forever.


Google Announces Pixel Buds Pro



Google posted on The Keyword “Loud and clear, Pixel Buds Pro are here”. The post was written by Product Manager Nidhi Rathi. Pixel Buds Pro look like earplugs with a large bulb that sticks out of them. My best guess is that this is Google’s way of competing with Apple’s Earbuds.

Have you heard? Google Pixel Buds Pro are here. These premium wireless earbuds with Active Noise Cancellation bring you full, immersive sound – now that’s music to our ears. Pixel Bud Pros are built to work great across our full Pixel portfolio and with other Android phones, and they’re packed with all the helpfulness and smarts you expect from Google.

The Keyword states that you can pre-order Pixel Buds Pro on July 21 for $199. To use them requires a device that runs on Android 6.0 or newer.

According to Google, Pixel Buds Pro uses Silent Seal to adapt to your ear, to help maximize the amount of noise that’s cancelled. And built-in sensors will measure the pressure in your ear canal to make sure you’re comfortable even during long listening sessions.

Once you’re listening to your music or podcast, Volume EQ will adjust the tuning as you turn the volume up or down – so highs, mids, and lows consistently sound balanced. Later this year, Pixel Buds Pro will also support spatial audio. So when you watch a spatial audio-supported movie or TV show on compatible Pixel phones, you’ll feel like you’re in the middle of the action.

Pixel Buds Pro come in four different colors: Coral, Lemongrass, Fog, and Charcoal.

Google says that Pixel Buds Pro charge wirelessly and give you up to 11 hours of listening time or up to 7 hours with Active Noise Cancellation turned on. However, there is a footnote that points out “Use of other features will decrease battery life. Battery life depends on device, features enabled, environment and many other factors. Actual battery life may be lower.”

How does Google’s Pixel Buds Pro compare with Apple’s Airpods?

Cost:
Google’s Pixel Buds Pro – $199
Apple’s AirPods 2nd generation – $129
Apple’s AirPods 3rd generation – $179
Apple’s AirPods Pro – $249

Battery Life:
Google’s Pixel Buds Pro – Up to 11 hours of listening time or up to 7 hours with Active Noise Cancellation
Apple’s AirPods 2nd generation – More than 24 hours with charging case / 5 hours of listening time on one charge / 15 minutes of charging provides up to 3 hours of listening time
Apple’s AirPods 3rd generation – Up to 6 hours of listening time with one charge / Up to 30 hours of total listening time with the charging case
Apple’s Air Pods Pro – More than 24 hours of battery life with the MagSafe Charging Case/ Case compatible with wireless chargers/ Up to 4.5 hours of listening time with one charge/ 1 hour of listening time on only 5 minutes of charging

Colors:
Google’s Pixel Buds Pro – Coral, Lemongrass, Fog, Charcoal
Apple’s Air Pods – White


Google Removed Over 3.4 Billion Ads in 2021



Google posted their 2021 Ads Safety Report. The information was posted on Google’s Ads and Commerce Blog by VP of Product Management, Ads Privacy and Safety, Scott Spencer. The annual report describes Google’s efforts to prevent malicious use of their ads platforms.

The blog post states that in 2021, Google introduced a multi-strike system for repeat policy violations. They added or updated over 30 policies for advertisers and publishers including a policy prohibiting claims that promote climate change denial and a certification for U.S.-based health insurance providers to only allow ads from government exchanges, first-party providers and licensed third-party brokers.

Google says that they removed over 3.4 billion ads, restricted over 5.7 billion ads and suspended over 5.6 million advertiser accounts. They also blocked or restricted ads from serving on 1.7 billion publisher pages, and took broader site-level enforcement action on approximately 63,000 publisher pages.

In addition, Google says it “doubled down” on their enforcement of unreliable content. They blocked ads from running on more than 500,000 pages that violated Google’s policies against harmful health claims related to COVID-19 and demonstrably false claims that could undermine trust and participation in elections.

Google also added a feature to their advertiser controls that allows brands to upload dynamic exclusion lists that can be automatically updated and maintained by trusted third parties. Google also made targeted improvements to the publisher approval process that helped Google better detect and block bad actors before they could even create accounts.

CNET reported that of the 3 billion-plus ads that were removed, over 650 million were pulled for abusing the ad network, while 280 million violated rules on adult content. Other reasons for removal were related to trademarks, gambling, alcohol, health care and misrepresentation. Google also prevented inappropriate ads from showing up on nearly 2 billion publisher pages, and over 600,000 individual publisher sites received enforcement action.

Apparently, Google has made efforts to remove your personal information from Google Search. Google will remove the following: non-consensual explicit or intimate personal images, involuntary fake pornography, “about me” content on sites with exploitative removal content, select personally identifiable information (PII) or doxing content, images of minors from Google search results, and irrelevant pornography from Google search results for your name.

They will also remove content for legal reasons, such as DMCA copyright violation reports and child sexual abuse imagery.

Overall, Google’s efforts sound like a good thing. I want to believe that Google is returning to its “Don’t Be Evil” motto. Nobody wants the types of unfortunate content listed above to be on the internet – for everyone to see – and Google should have started removing that long ago. Seems they finally got there! I also like that Google has been weeding out the bad ads that are full of misinformation. Most people don’t enjoy watching or viewing ads. The least Google could do is get rid of the worst ones before they go live.


Google Launches Data Safety Sections for Apps on Play Store



Google has launched a Data Safety feature for apps that are on the Google Play store. This was announced on Google’s The Keyword blog in a post titled: “Get more information about your apps in Google Play”. It was written by Vice President, Product, Android Security and Privacy Suzanne Frey.

Google’s Data Safety features are likely a response to Apple’s App Tracking Transparency. It gives iOS users the ability to not only see what each app on their devices is tracking, but also to stop the apps from doing that. The Keyword blog includes information about what their Data Safety feature does:

We heard from users and app developers that displaying the data an app collects, without additional context, is not enough. Users want to know for what purpose their data is being collected and whether the developer is sharing user data with third parties. In addition, users want to understand how app developers are securing user data after an app is downloaded.

Here is the information developers can show in the Data safety section:

  • Whether the developer is collecting data and for what purpose.
  • Whether the developer is sharing data with third parties.
  • The app’s security practices, like encryption of data in transit and whether users can ask for data to be deleted.
  • Whether a qualifying app has committed to following Google Play’s Families Policy to better protect children in the Play store.
  • Whether the developer has validated their security practices against a global security standard (more specifically, the MASVS).

TechCrunch reported that both sets of labels focus on informing users about how apps collect and manage data and user privacy. There are some key differences. Apple’s largely focuses on what data is being collected, including data used for tracking purposes, and on informing the user what’s linked to them. According to TechCrunch, Google’s labels put a bigger focus on whether you can trust the data that’s collected is being handled responsibly by allowing developers to disclose if they follow best practices around data security.

TechCrunch also reported that the labels give Android developers a way to make their case as to why they collect the data on the label, so users can understand how the data is used. This helps inform the user’s decision to download the app. They can also see if the data collection is required or optional.

Personally, I’m in favor of labels that let people know what an app is going to track and/or collect from them if they decide to download an app. The labels require app developers to be more ethical about why they want to grab a user’s data.


Brave Browser Is Rolling Out a De-AMP Feature To Enhance Privacy



Brave announced that they are rolling out a new feature called De-AMP, which allows brave users to bypass Google-hosted AMP pages, and instead visit the content’s publisher directly. Brave states that AMP harms users’ privacy, security, and internet experience, and just as bad, AMP helps Google further monopolize and control the direction of the Web.

Brave will protect users from AMP in several ways. Where possible, De-AMP will rewrite links and URLs to prevent users from visiting AMP pages altogether. And in cases where that is not possible, Brave will watch as pages are being fetched and redirect users away from AMP pages before the page is even rendered, preventing AMP/Google code from being loaded and executed.

The Verge reported that Brave stated: “In practice, AMP is harmful to users and to the Web at large”. Brave also explained that AMP gives Google even more knowledge of users’ browsing habits, confuses users, and can often be slower than normal webpages. It also warned that the next version of AMP – so far called AMP 2.0 – will be even worse.

Brave pointed out why AMP is harmful:

AMP is harmful to privacy: AMP gives Google an even broader view of which pages people view on the Web, and how people interact with them. AMP encourages developers to more tightly integrate with Google servers and systems, and penalizes publishers with decreased search rankings and placements if they don’t, further allowing Google to track and profile users.

AMP is bad for security: By design, AMP confuses users about what site they’re interacting with. Users think they’re interacting with the publisher, when in actuality the user is still within Google’s control.

AMP furthers the monopolization of the Web: AMP encourages more of the Web to be served from Google’s servers, under Google’s control and arbitrary non-standards. It also allows Google to require pages to be built in ways that benefit Google’s advertising systems.

AMP is bad for performance and usability: Though Google touts AMP as better for performance, internally, Google knows that “AMP only improves the ‘median of performance’ and AMP pages can actually load slower than other publisher speed optimization techniques”.

The Verge explained that AMP was controversial from the beginning and smelled to some like Google trying to exert even more control over the web. Over time, more companies and users grew concerned about that control and chafed at the idea that Google would prioritize AMP pages in search results.

DuckDuckGo tweeted: “NEW: our apps & extensions now protect against AMP tracking. When you load or share a Google AMP page anywhere from DuckDuckGo apps (iOS/Android/Mac) or extensions (Firefox/Chrome) the original publisher’s webpage will be used in place of the Google AMP version.”

Personally, I think that the more privacy online, the better the internet will be for all of us. It is great that Brave and DuckDuckGo are offering people simple solutions to prevent Google from tracking them all over the web. It is very sketchy of Google to trick users into thinking they are on the website they searched for – but swapping it with an AMP page.


Google Quietly Launched “Switch to Android” App on iOS



Google has launched its “Switch to Android” app on the App Store. The app does not yet appear if you look for it on an iPhone, but it can be viewed via the App Store on your desktop computer. The Switch to Android app is free, but is not downloadable just yet.

TechCrunch reported that Google has not officially launched “Switch to Android”. It also has not released when the app will become available. The app does not appear on Google’s developer page on the App Store or in App Store search results.

9to5Google reported that it is not clear at this time when Google intends for “Switch to Android” to launch widely, but considering how long Apple’s own “Move to iOS” app has been in the PlayStore, Google’s alternative is already arriving years later than it should have.

Google’s Android.com provides information to people who want to “Switch to Android”. There are four steps in the process:

Get Google Drive: – Make sure you have the latest version of Google Drive on your iPhone, then sign in to Drive with your Google Account. If you don’t have a Google Account, you can create one after you download Drive.

Back up your stuff: – Back up your content in Google Drive. Pull up Settings in Google Drive, then tap Backup. You can pick specific things to store, or do it all at once. Your choice.

Turn off iMessage: Go to Settings and turn off iMessage on your iPhone. Also turn off FaceTime. So you won’t miss any messages or calls once you’ve switched to Android.

Sign in on your new phone: Sign in on your Android device with the same Google Account you used during backup. And just like that, you’re in. Your data will automatically available in your Google Contacts, Calendar and Photos apps.

Apps that are on the App Store will include an App Privacy section that shows people what data a specific app will grab. “Switch to Android” may collect your location, contact info, user content, identifiers, usage data, diagnostics, and other data. It might also collect diagnostics – that are not linked to your identity.

I don’t think that either side will win this battle over users. Each side is likely to put some effort into convincing people to switch from whatever phone they are currently using to the competitor’s phone. It looks like it is easy to switch from one to the other. I haven’t seen any information about how easy or difficult it might be to switch back.


Google and iFixit Launch a Pixel Parts Program



Good news is coming for Pixel users! Google and iFixit are launching a genuine Pixel spare parts program later this year. This will allow Pixel users to fix their own phones, or to bring their Pixel to sites that partner with Google.

Google announced that starting later this year, genuine Pixel spare parts will be available for purchase at iFixit.com for Pixel 2 through Pixel 6 Pro, as well as future Pixel models. This will launch in the U.S., UK, Canada, Australia, and EU countries where Pixel is available. The full range of spare parts for common Pixel phone repairs – things like batteries, replacement displays, cameras, and more – will be available either individually or in iFixit Fix Kits, which include tools like screwdriver bits and spudgers.

iFixit announced that they are working with Google to sell genuine parts for Pixel phones, starting later this year. iFixit will be continuing to write their step-by-step Google Pixel phone repair guides, which are comprehensive going all the way back to the original Pixel. Repair guides are lie for every Pixel through the Pixel 5, and they are writing guides for the 5a, 6, and 6 Pro right now.

iFixit points out that their parts selection will include everything you need for the most common Google Pixel repairs – batteries, displays, cameras and more. They will sell them both individually and as part of Fix Kits, which include all the tools you need to fix your Google Pixel, from screwdrivers to spudgers.

The full set of tools in iFixit’s Pixel repair kits include:

  • iOpener (iFixit’s opening tool designed to apply heat directly and evenly to case components joined with adhesive)
  • Replacement pre-cut adhesive
  • iFixit Opening Picks (Set of 6)
  • Spudger
  • iFixit Opening Tool
  • Suction Handle
  • Angled Tweezers
  • Precision Bit Driver with integrated SIM Eject Tool
  • 4mm Precision Bits appropriate for the specific phone

The upcoming launch of Google and iFixit’s ability to get genuine Pixel parts to those who want to fix their phones themselves, or those who want places like iFixit to do that for them, is a good idea. It follows a similar effort done by Microsoft and iFixit (in 2021) to allow independent repairers, Microsoft Authorized Service Providers, Microsoft Experience Centers, and Microsoft Commercial customers to purchase Microsoft service tools for Surface devices directly from iFixit.