Tag Archives: google

EU Antitrust Regulators Investigating Google’s Data Collection



The European Commission antitrust regulators are investigating Google’s collection of data. This comes months after the U.S. Department of Justice announced that they were reviewing how Google’s platforms have reduced competition.

Reuters reported that an EU executive said the Commission was seeking information on how and why Alphabet unit Google is collecting data. A document seen by Reuters indicates the EU’s focus is on data related to targeting services, local search services, web browsers, and others.

“The Commission has sent out questionnaires as part of a preliminary investigation into Google’s practices relating to Google’s collection and use of data. The preliminary investigation is ongoing,” the EU regulator told Reuters in an email.

The European Commission antitrust policy is developed from the two central rules of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union. Article 101 of the Treaty prohibits agreements between two or more independent market operators which restrict competition. Article 102 of the Treaty prohibits firms that hold a dominant position on a given market to abuse that position, for example by charging unfair prices, limiting production or “by refusing to innovate to the prejudice of consumers.”

For those who, like me, no longer trust Google’s data collection practices (or what it does with that data), there are options. You can use Firefox or Safari instead of Chrome. There are search engines, such as Ecosia, that are more ethical than Google’s search. It might be time to migrate away from your Gmail account in favor of a better option.


Google has Acquired CloudSimple



Google announced that is has acquired CloudSimple, which Google describes as “a leading provider of secure, high performance, dedicated environments to run VMware workloads in the cloud.” CloudSimple has its headquarters in Santa Clara, California. It also has locations in Ukraine and India.

Google started a partnership with CloudSimple earlier this year. The purpose of the partnership appears to be a way for Google to “accelerate a fully integrated VMware migration solution with improved support for our customers.”

This is something for Google’s enterprise customers, and intended to help them to modernize their IT infrastructure. Perhaps that is a smart move on Google’s part, considering that the company dropped its focus on non-enterprise customers in May of this year when it announced that ad blocker extensions on Chrome would be restricted to its enterprise customers.

Through our existing partnership with CloudSimple, our customers can migrate VMware workloads from on-premises datacenters directly into Google Cloud VMware Solution by CloudSimple, while also creating new VMware workloads as needed. Their apps can run exactly the same as they have been on-premises, but with all the benefits of the cloud, like performance, elasticity, and integration with key cloud services and technologies.

In their own blog post, CloudSimple stated: “We are thrilled to join Google Cloud and its journey to establish the most modern public cloud for the enterprise.”

CNBC reported that the terms of Google’s acquisition of CloudSimple were not disclosed. It also reported that the deal follows the buys of data integration company Alooma, storage file company Elastifile, and cloud migration company Velostrata. Google also acquired Looker, but CNBC says that deal hasn’t closed yet.


Google Upgrades Android Messages with RCS



Google announced that it will be upgrading Android Messages with RCS. This new feature has already begun rolling out to users in the United States. Those who already have Messages will be prompted to enable chat features in the coming weeks. Android users who don’t yet have it can download it in the Play Store. Google expects to have this service broadly available in the U.S. by the end of the year. Google enabled the RCS upgrade earlier this year for anyone in the UK, France, and Mexico.

To make your conversations more seamless, we’ve worked on upgrading traditional SMS text messaging with more useful chat features, powered by RCS (Rich Communication Services). When you and your friends message each other with these chat features, you can chat over Wi-Fi or mobile data, send and receive high-resolution photos and videos, and see if people have received your latest messages. Plus, you’ll get better group chats, with the ability to name groups, add and remove people to and from groups, and see if people haven’t seen the latest messages.

TechCrunch described RCS as “the next generation of SMS”. According to TechCrunch, the push for RCS is a way for Google to compete with Apple’s iMessages, (though Google’s RCS doesn’t feature end-to-end encryption). In addition, TechCrunch makes another interesting observation. Google is taking control of this rollout, and that means it will be responsible for keeping the network running.

ArsTechnica also points out that Android Messages is not end-to-end encrypted, stating that “Google or your carrier (or the NSA) could read your messages”.

The Verge reported that many Android phones use Android Messages as the default texting app, but Samsung users will need to go to the Google Play Store to download Android Messages and then switch it to their default. The Verge also noted that the big four US carriers just announced that they will offer RCS in 2020.

In my opinion, it seems like Google has gotten ahead of the big four carriers with RCS implementation – but not by very much. It sounds like Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile and Sprint are heading in the same direction, and could potentially be rolling that out a few months from now. The bigger concern, though, is that Android Messages is not end-to-end encrypted. That could result in privacy issues.


Fitbit to be Acquired by Google



Fitbit announced that it has entered into a definitive agreement to be acquired by Google LLC for $7.35 per share in cash, valuing the company at a fully diluted equity value of approximately $2.1 billion. The transaction is expected to close in 2020, subject to customary closing conditions, including approval by Fitbit’s stockholders.

“More than 12 years ago, we set an audacious company vision – to make everyone in the world healthier. Today, I’m incredibly proud of what we’ve achieved towards reaching that goal.We have built a trusted brand that supports more than 28 million active users around the globe who rely on our products to live a healthier, more active, life,” said James Park, co-founder and CEO of Fitbit.

Consumer trust is paramount to Fitbit. Strong privacy and security guidelines have been part of Fitbit’s DNA since day one, and this will not change. Fitbit will continue to put users in control of their data and will remain transparent about the data it collects and why. The company never sells personal information, and Fitbit health and wellness data will not be used on Google ads.

Google posted on The Keyword about their definitive agreement to acquire Fitbit. The focus in this announcement is about wearables, and how Fitbit’s team of experts “can help spur innovation in wearables and build products to benefit even more people around the world.” Google also mentioned privacy.

But to get this right, privacy and security are paramount. When you use our products, you’re trusting Google with your information. We understand this is a big responsibility and we work hard to protect your information, put you in control and give you transparency about your data. Similar to our other products, with wearables, we will be transparent about the data we collect and why. We will never sell personal information to anyone. Fitbit Health and wellness data will not be used for Google ads. And we will give Fitbit users the choice to review, move, or delete their data.

I’m willing to believe that those who use Fitbit’s products trust the company not to do nefarious things with their health data. But, I’m not certain that those customers also trust Google.


Google, Mozilla, and Apple Block Kazakhstan’s Root Certificate



Three big browser makers are now blocking the use of a root certificate that Kazakhstan’s government had used to intercept internet traffic. According to Ars Technica, Khazakhstan reportedly said it halted the use of the certificate. Ars Technica reported that the actions taken by Google, Mozilla, and Apple could protect users who already installed it or prevent future use of the certificate by Kazakstan’s government.

Apple told Ars Technica that it is blocking the ability to use the certificate to intercept internet traffic.

Mozilla posted on The Mozilla Blog “Today, Mozilla and Google took action to protect the online security and privacy of individuals in Kazakhstan. Together, the companies deployed technical solutions within Firefox and Chrome to block the Kazakhstan government’s ability to intercept internet traffic within the country.”

The response comes after credible reports that internet service providers in Kazakhstan have required people in the country to download and install a government-issued certificate on all devices and in every browser in order to access the internet. This certificate is not trusted by either of the companies, and once installed, allowed the government to decrypt and read anything a user types or posts, including intercepting their account information and passwords. This targeted people visiting popular sites like Facebook, Twitter, and Google, among others.

Google posted information on its Google Security Blog. Part of that blog post says: “In response to recent actions by the Kazakhstan government, Chrome, along with other browsers, has taken steps to protect users from the interception or modification of TLS connections made to websites.”

It continues: “Chrome will be blocking the certificate the Kazakhstan government required users to install. The blog post has more specific details about that certificate.

It is good that these companies, all of whom make browsers, are taking a stand against government intrusion into people’s privacy. I hope that these companies will take the same action whenever another government chooses to spy on its own people in an effort to sneakily discover what those people do online.


Amazon Allows You to Disable Human Review of Recordings



Amazon is now allowing people who use Alexa to opt-out of human review of their voice recordings, Bloomberg has reported. This comes after a researcher revealed that some of Google’s Assistant recordings had been listened to by human contractors, and people started to become concerned about what other voice activated assistants do with recorded speech.

A new policy took effect Friday that allows customers, through an option in the settings menu of the Alexa smartphone app, to remove their recordings from a pool that could be analyzed by Amazon employees and contract workers, a spokesman for the Seattle company said. It follows similar moves by Apple, Inc., and Google.

According to Bloomberg, Amazon’s decision to let Alexa users opt-out of human review of their recordings follows criticism that the program violated customers’ privacy. Amazon says the Alexa app will now include a disclaimer in the settings menu that acknowledges that people might review recordings through Alexa. Bloomberg explains how to disable that and opt-out of human review.

The Guardian reported that Apple has suspended its practice of having human contractors listen to users’ Siri recordings to “grade” them. That decision came after a Guardian report that revealed that Apple’s contractors “regularly” hear confidential and private information while carrying out the grading process. The bulk of the confidential information was recorded through accidental triggers of the Siri assistant.

Google posted on The Keyword that it has provided tools for users to manage and control the data in their Google account. You can turn off storing audio data to your Google account completely, or choose to auto-delete data after every 3 months or 18 months.


U.S. Department of Justice Announced Antitrust Review of Big Tech



The United States Department of Justice announced that the Department’s Antitrust Division is reviewing whether and how market-leading platforms have achieved market power and are engaging in practices that have reduced competition, stifled innovation, or otherwise harmed consumers.

The Department’s review will consider the widespread concerns that consumers, businesses, and entrepreneurs have expressed about search, social media, and some retail services online. The Department’s Antitrust Division is conferring with and seeking information from the public, including industry participants who have direct insight into competition in online platforms, as well as others.

The Wall Street Journal reported that the inquiry by the Justice Department add “a new Washington threat for companies such as Facebook Inc., Google, Amazon.com Inc., and Apple Inc.”

CNBC reported: “The move is the strongest by Attorney General William Barr towards Big Tech, which faces increased scrutiny from both political parties because of the expanded market power the companies have and the tremendous amount of consumer data they control”.

CNBC also reported that shares of Facebook, Alphabet, and Amazon all fell more than 1% immediately after the announcement and that Apple’s stock also dropped.

This follows the European Commission’s antitrust investigation to assess whether Amazon’s use of sensitive data from independent retailers who sell on Amazon’s marketplace is in breach of EU competition rules.

There have been several investigations, by other countries, regarding questionable practices made by the big technology companies.

It seems to me that the more investigations that happen, the less likely it is that all of these big tech companies will come away from this without facing penalties, fines, or requirements that they make changes.