Tag Archives: google

California Hits Google For $93M Over Deceptive Location Data



A lawsuit filed against Google by California’s Attorney General over the company’s deceptive and misleading options for managing location data has resulted in a $93 million settlement – and new protections for consumers in the state, TechCrunch reported.

As detailed in an incredibly straightforward complaint, Google in several ways appeared to promise users that they could choose whether or how much location data was used in order to target them for advertisements.

Location History is one of several detailed records Google keeps of your activity – you can turn it off here if you haven’t already, TechCrunch noted.

According to TechCrunch, this particular setting is off by default, but users were repeatedly told they should “enhance” their Google Maps experience with the responses “Yes, I’m in” or “Skip for now.” Little did they know agreeing would turn on Location History for purposes far beyond “enhancing” Maps.

Here’s how the AG’s office summarized what Google must now do, for Californians at least:

* Show additional information to users when enabling location-related account settings.

* Provide more transparency about location tracking.

* Provide users with detailed information about the location data that Google collected and how it is used through a “Location Technologies” web page.

* Disclose to users that their location information may be used for ads personalization

* Disclose to users before using Location History data to build ad targeting profiles for users

* Obtain review by Google’s internal Privacy Working Group

* Obtain review by Google’s Internal Privacy Working Group and document approval for all material changes to location-setting and ads personalization disclosures that will have a material impact on privacy.

The Guardian reported that the settlement stems from a lawsuit brought by the California attorney general, Rob Bonta, that concluded the company misled consumers into believing they had more control over their location information than they actually did.

“Our investigation revealed that Google was telling its uses one thing – that it would no longer track their location once they opted out – but doing the opposite and continuing to track its users’ movements for its own commercial gain,” Bonta said in a statement announcing the settlement. “That’s unacceptable, and we’re holding Google accountable.”

According to The Guardian, the AG’s office further alleged that Google “deceived users about their ability to opt out of advertisements targeted to their location.”

CNN reported that California Department of Justice found that, after a multi-year investigation, the tech giant was “deceiving users by collecting, storing, and using their location data for consumer profiling and advertising purposes without informed consent.”

California Attorney General Rob Bonta also said Google accepted taking future actions to prevent those practices. These actions would apply beyond California to other states, according to the proposed order.

The Hill reported that José Castañeda, a Google spokesperson, said in a statement that “consistent with improvements we’ve made in recent years, we have settled this matter, which was based on outdated product policies that we changed years ago.”

According to The Hill, the settlement with California comes after Google settled with 40 other states in November for $391.5 million over similar allegations.

As a person who lives in California, I am well aware that the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) (updated on May 10, 2023) gives consumers who live in California more control over the personal information that businesses collect about them. The huge fine set by the Attorney General should cause Google to think twice about playing around with people’s privacy rights.


Google Extends Lifespan Of Chromebooks With 10-Year Update Policy



Google is working to push back the expiration date of Chromebooks, addressing concerns held by administrators that the laptops are too short-lived to be cost effective, The Wall Street Journal reported.

The Alphabet-owned company – which developed the Chrome operating system running on computers made mostly by others – said Thursday it plans to provide software updates for Chromebooks for up to a decade. The new policy, which starts next year, ensures that no Chromebook will expire within the next two years.

According to The Wall Street Journal, Chromebooks are ubiquitous in classrooms around the country, but some education software doesn’t work after what Google calls the Auto Update Expiration date. Unsupported Chromebooks can’t be used for mandatory state testing, even if the hardware still appears to be functional.

When the laptops expire, school districts recycle them, sometimes at a cost, and spend millions of dollars on replacements.

Google posted the following information on The Keyword blog. From the blog post:

When Chromebooks debuted in 2012, their affordable price tags helped make personal computing more accessible. That also made them a great fit for the education world, providing schools with secure, simple and manageable devices while helping them save on their budgets. In fact, Chromebooks are the number one device used in K-12 education globally, according to Futuresource. Plus, they’re a sustainable choice, with recycled materials that reduce their environmental impact and repair programs that help them last longer.

Today, we are announcing new ways to keep your Chromebooks up and running even longer. All Chromebooks will get regular automatic updates for 10 years – more than any other operating system commits to today. We’re also working with partners to build Chromebooks with more post-consumer recycled materials (PCR), and rolling out new power-efficient features and quicker processes to repair them. At the end of their usefulness, we continue to help schools, businesses, and everyday users find the right recycling option…

…Security is our number one priority. Chromebooks get automatic updates every four weeks that make your laptop more secure and help it last longer. And starting next year, we’re extending those automatic updates so your Chromebook gets enhanced security, stability and features for 10 years after the platform was released…

…Starting in 2024, if you have Chromebooks that were released from 2021 onwards, you’ll automatically get 10 years of updates. For Chromebooks released before 2001 and already in use, users and IT admins will have the option to extend automatic updates to 10 years from the platform’s release (after they receive their last automatic update)…

ArsTechnica reported that ten years of support is a notable achievement for Chromebooks, which are often budget-priced. The average Mac receives seven years of macOS updates. Windows, meanwhile, usually sees 10 years of updates, but you can install Windows (and update it) on devices form as long ago as the late 2000s.

Chromebooks are unique in individual models having automatic update expiration (AUE) dates and have faced criticism for this for years.

In my opinion, Google’s decision to grant 10 years of updates on Chromebooks that were released from 2021 onwards, is a great idea. It means that schools won’t have to spend money they don’t have on replacing Chromebooks that gone past their repair dates.


Google Is Laying Off Hundreds Of Workers In Its Recruitment Division



Google is laying off hundreds of people across its global recruiting team as hiring at the tech giant continues to slow. The company declined to cite what percentage of its recruiting workforce was impacted, but said that it plans to retain a significant majority, Semafor reported.

“The volume of requests for our recruiters has gone down,” Google spokesperson Courtenay Mencini said in a statement. “In order to continue our important work to ensure we operate efficiently, we’ve made the hard decision to reduce the size of our recruiting team. We’re supporting everyone impacted with a transition period, outplacement services, and severance as they look for new opportunities here at Google”, Semafor reported.

CNN reported that Google confirmed it will lay off hundreds of staff members who helped recruit and hire employees, as Silicon Valley continues its cost-cutting efforts.

The latest cuts come after Google parent Alphabet in January eliminated 12,000 jobs, or about 6% of the workforce, across the company as it grappled with economic uncertainty that hit the company’s bottom line last year, especially its core advertising business.

During Google’s July earning call, CEO Sundar Pichai said the company was continuing to slow its “expense growth and pace of hiring”.

According to CNN, the cuts will affect a few hundred members of Google’s recruiting organization globally; most of the team will remain and continue hiring for critical roles such as top engineering talent, according to Google. The company did not specify the exact number of layoffs in the department.

Google also said the recruiting cuts are not part of any wider layoffs, and that affected employees will be supported with severance offers and other benefits.

CNBC also reported that Google is cutting hundreds of jobs in its global recruiting organization as part of a broader pullback in hiring over the next several quarters.

“We unfortunately need to make a significant reduction to the size of the recruiting organization,” Brian Ong, Google’s recruiting vice president, told employees in a Wednesday video meeting, a recording of which was obtained by CNBC.

“It’s not something that was an easy decision to make, and it definitely isn’t a conversation any of us wanted to have again this year,” Ong said. “Given the base of hiring that we’ve received the next several quarters, it’s the right thing to do overall.

Employees involved in the recruiting group reductions will receive emails starting Wednesday, Ong said.

In my opinion, when a large corporation suddenly chooses to fire hundreds of the people who helped them to recruit workers – something has gone terribly wrong. It indicates that Google is struggling. Less recruitment means the company will have difficulty if and when it decides to start hiring again.


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 Hit With Lawsuit Over Alleged Stolen Data To Train AI Tools



Google was hit with a wide-ranging lawsuit on Tuesday alleging the tech giant scraped data from millions of users without their consent and violated copyright laws in order to train and develop its artificial intelligence products, CNN reported.

The proposed class action suit against Google, its parent company Alphabet, and Google’s AI subsidiary DeepMind was filed in federal court in California on Tuesday, and was brought by Clarkson Law Firm, CNN reported. The firm previously filed a similar smaller suit against ChatGPT-maker OpenAI last month.

The complaint alleges that Google “has been secretly stealing everything ever created and shared on the internet by hundreds of millions of Americans” and using this data to train its AI products, such as its chatbot Bard. The complaint also claims Google has taken “virtually the entirely of our digital footprint,” including “creative and copywrite works” to build its AI products.

According to CNN, the complaint points to a recent update to Google’s privacy policy that explicitly states the company may use publicly accessible information to train its AI models and tools such as Bard.

The lawsuit comes as a new crop of AI tools have gained tremendous attention in recent months for their ability to generate work and images in response to user prompts. The large language models underpinning this new technology are able to do this by training on vast troves of online data.

The suit is seeking injunctive relief in the form of a temporary freeze on commercial access to and commercial development of Google’s generative AI tools like Bard. It is also seeking unspecified damages and payments as financial compensation to people whose data was allegedly misappropriated by Google. The firm says it has lined up eight plaintiffs, including a minor.

SlashGear reported that the news regarding Google comes only days after OpenAI was slapped with (another) lawsuit involving its models – in that case, the GPT-3.5 and GPT-4 upon which the ChatGPT name is based. Authors including comedian Sarah Silverman accused OpenAI – via the lawsuit – of violating their book copyrights by including them in training data without permission. Even more, that lawsuit suggested that OpenAI may have used illegal shadow libraries to source the books.

When big companies fight with lawsuits, there are many people indirectly swept up in the matter who don’t have the resources to individually challenge tech giants, SlashGear reported. It’s no surprise, then, that Google is facing a proposed class action suit that wants among other things, for the company to hit pause on providing commercial access to its AI models.

In my opinion, Google (and other big companies) have absolutely no right to steal content from creators, especially because the company does not ask for permission to use work that doesn’t belong to them, nor does it financially compensate the creators. This is why I have stopped posting my artwork publicly online.