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  1. There are 200+ security and bug fixes, Google recorder improvements, and more. Google is shipping its first big Android patch since the release of Android 13. Rolling out to Pixel phones now is Android 13 Quarterly Platform Release 1 (QPR1), which contains a few new features, 77 bug fixes named in a huge support post, 151 Pixel-specific security issues outlined in the December Security Bulletin for Pixels, and a bunch of other security patches in the more generic Android Security Bulletin. On the Pixel 7, this is a monster 500MB patch. The Pixel 7 is getting an always-on VPN from Google, just like the VPN service that is already offered to Google Fi (Google cell service) and Google One (extra Google storage) subscribers. The feature will run all your traffic through an encrypted tunnel that connects directly to Google's servers and could theoretically stop Internet service providers and other Wi-Fi users from spying on your activity. It's hard to say who a Google VPN is for since, if you're privacy-conscious, Google is probably near the top of the list of companies you don't trust, but it's here if you want it. For what it's worth, Google says it only does "minimal logging" and doesn't track users. To enable the VPN, you'll need to install the "Google One" app if it's not already on your phone. The Pixel 7 is also becoming a better phone thanks to a "clear calling" feature. Google says this feature takes your incoming phone call audio and "enhances the other caller’s voice and reduces their background noise, so you’ll be able to hear them clearly if they’re in a noisy place." This sounds a lot like the Google Meet noise cancellation AI, just applied to dusty old cellular calls. The feature is exclusive to the Pixel 7, and you'll have to turn it on manually in Settings -> Sound & Vibration -> Clear calling. The VPN settings and Google Recorder with speaker labels. Google The Google Recorder app—a journalist's best friend—live-transcribes meetings and interviews to text, instantly giving you a searchable transcription that is synced to the recorded audio. Best of all, it's stored in the cloud on your Google account at recorder.google.com, which helps alleviate the fear of losing your audio. With this new update, the recorder can now identify and label each speaker automatically—an impressive feat. Google Recorder is exclusive to the Pixel 6 and newer Pixel devices. It might be for a niche audience, but if you need transcription services, this is one of Google's best apps, and it's almost worth the price of admission of a Pixel 6a. As for bug fixes, Android 13 made major changes to the Bluetooth stack, and it looks like many tweaks are dedicated to fixing compatibility issues with the millions of available devices. The longest section in Google's post is concerned with "user interface" and covers a lot of layout issues. There are also many fixes for Wi-Fi and cellular networking, which has probably been the largest area of Pixel 7 complaints. The update should be rolling out now. If you don't already have a prompt, head to "Settings -> System -> System update." Checking for it should make it appear. Pixel 7 gets 500MB update including “clear calling,” lots of bug fixes
  2. Google is sunsetting Duplex on the Web, its service where users can use the Google Assistant to purchase movie tickets, order food, and more. According to the service's support page spotted by TechCrunch, Duplex on the Web and any automation features will no longer be supported as of this month. "As we continue to improve the Duplex experience, we’re responding to the feedback we’ve heard from users and developers about how to make it even better," a Google spokesperson shared with TechCrunch. "By the end of this year, we’ll turn down Duplex on the Web and fully focus on making AI advancements to the Duplex voice technology that helps people most every day." The spokesperson added that Duplex on the Web partners have been notified to help them prepare for the service's imminent shutdown. Duplex on the Web was introduced back in 2019 as an expansion of Google's Duplex phone reservation technology. Originally, the feature was limited to opening a movie theater company's website to fill out information on a user’s behalf. Eventually, Duplex on the Web gave Google Assistant the ability to help users automatically change passwords, check-in for flights, find discounts, and assist with checkout for e-commerce retailers. TechCrunch notes that Google could be shutting down Duplex on the web because of the resource-intensiveness of training an AI to crawl websites. As the feature's support page points out, the service uses a special user agent that crawled sites several hours a day. The search giant also fine-tuned AI models to understand how certain websites were laid out and worked from a user’s perspective. Duplex on the Web might also function improperly if website owners blocked the user agent from indexing their content. Source: TechCrunch Google shuts down Duplex on the Web, a tool that made ticket booking easier, and more
  3. Project Zero calls out Android and Pixel for not fixing a GPU vulnerability. Google's "Project Zero" team of security analysts wants to rid the world of zero-day security vulnerabilities, and that means it spends time calling out slacking companies on its blog. The group's latest post is a bit of friendly fire aimed at the Android and Pixel teams, which Project Zero says aren't dealing with bugs in the ARM GPU driver quickly enough. In June, Project Zero researcher Maddie Stone detailed an in-the-wild exploit for the Pixel 6, where bugs in the ARM GPU driver could let a non-privileged user get write access to read-only memory. Another Project Zero researcher, Jann Horn, spent the next three weeks finding related vulnerabilities in the driver. The post says these bugs could allow "an attacker with native code execution in an app context [to] gain full access to the system, bypassing Android's permissions model and allowing broad access to user data." Project Zero says it reported these issues to ARM "between June and July 2022" and that ARM fixed the issues "promptly" in July and August, issuing a security bulletin (CVE-2022-36449) and publishing fixed source code. But these actively exploited vulnerabilities haven't been patched for users. The groups dropping the ball are apparently Google and various Android OEMs, as Project Zero says that months after ARM fixed the vulnerabilities, "all of our test devices which used Mali are still vulnerable to these issues. CVE-2022-36449 is not mentioned in any downstream security bulletins." The affected ARM GPUs include a long list of the past three generations of ARM GPU architectures (Midgard, Bifrost, and Valhall), ranging from currently shipping devices to phones from 2016. ARM's GPUs aren't used by Qualcomm chips, but Google's Tensor SoC uses ARM GPUs in the Pixel 6, 6a, and 7, and Samsung's Exynos SoC uses ARM GPUs for its midrange phones and older international flagships like the Galaxy S21 (just not the Galaxy S22). Mediatek's SoCs are all ARM GPU users, too, so we're talking about millions of vulnerable Android phones from just about every Android OEM. In response to the Project Zero blog post, Google told Engadget, "The fix provided by Arm is currently undergoing testing for Android and Pixel devices and will be delivered in the coming weeks. Android OEM partners will be required to take the patch to comply with future SPL requirements." The Project Zero analysts end their blog post with some advice for their colleagues, saying, "Just as users are recommended to patch as quickly as they can once a release containing security updates is available, so the same applies to vendors and companies. Minimizing the 'patch gap' as a vendor in these scenarios is arguably more important, as end users (or other vendors downstream) are blocking on this action before they can receive the security benefits of the patch. Companies need to remain vigilant, follow upstream sources closely, and do their best to provide complete patches to users as soon as possible." Google says Google should do a better job of patching Android phones
  4. Specializing in pirated books, Z-Library billed itself as “the world’s largest library”. The site excelled at making knowledge available to the public. However, based on details laid out in the criminal complaint against two alleged operators, security wasn't high on the list of priorities. With search warrants directed at Google and Amazon, it wasn't hard for the FBI to connect the dots. A few hours ago, the U.S. Department of Justice unsealed the indictment and complaint against two alleged operators of Z-Library. Following an FBI investigation, the authorities pinpointed Russian nationals Anton Napolsky and Valeriia Ermakova as prime suspects. The two were arrested in Argentina and now await potential extradition to the United States. There’s little doubt that Z-Library helped to distribute millions of copyrighted books but tracking down and then identifying people behind pirate sites can be a challenge. In this case, however, the FBI didn’t have to look very far. Details laid out in the complaint show that it was fairly straightforward to connect the dots, largely thanks to data provided by Google and Amazon, which led directly to the suspects. The complaint includes various statements provided by FBI special agent Brett Dohnal, who links various personal email addresses, phone numbers, and other records of Napolsky and Ermakova to the Z-Library operation. Anton N. For the investigation, the FBI used search warrants directed at various companies such as Amazon and Google. This showed that the personal information of Anton Napolsky could be linked to Z-Library email addresses and domains in several instances. For example, Napolsky’s personal mail.ru address was used to register [email protected], [email protected], and [email protected] His personal phone number was also linked to Z-Library email addresses. “Google records reflect that a Russian-based telephone number ending in – 2458 (‘Napolsky Phone-1’) was used to register the email [email protected] as well as the emails [email protected], [email protected] and [email protected],” the complaint reads. Amazon data corroborate these findings. According to the FBI, Napolsky had two Amazon accounts in his name, using his personal phone number and overlapping street addresses, mostly located in Saint Petersburg, Russia. With this account, several orders were placed and paid with Amazon gift cards, allegedly donated by Z-Library users. “One of the accounts is registered with the email address ‘[email protected],’ and the other account, which is registered with Napolsky Personal Email-1, has a lengthy Amazon order history that includes at least 21 orders that were paid for using Amazon.com gift cards that originated as ‘donations’ by users to Z-Library.” Amazon’s cloud hosting service AWS also linked Napolsky to Z-Library. According to the complaint, his name and email account is connected to the email service that was used by @bookmail.org. This bookmail service was used by Z-Library to send ebooks to users over email. That was independently confirmed by undercover FBI agents. “According to records obtained by law enforcement from Amazon, the Simple Email Service for @bookmail.org is connected to an AWS Account ending in 4421, which is registered to the customer ‘Anton Napolsky’ at the email address Napolsky Personal Email-1,” it reads. Valeriia E. The complaint also links Valeriia Ermakova to Z-Library, relying on data provided by Google and Amazon. Again, gift card donations from Z-Library users play an important role. Special agent Dohnal specifically mentions a card that was donated around January 2021. Not much later, the person who made the donation received a message that the card had been received. That message was sent from Z-Library’s official email address [email protected] With help from Amazon, the recipient of the donation was linked to Valeriia Ermakova, her email address, as well as her credit card records. “According to records obtained by law enforcement from Amazon, the Donation was claimed by an Amazon customer account ending in -1502, registered to customer ‘Valeriia’ at email address [email protected]” “The account was registered on November 30, 2018, and has payment methods on file, including a Visa and a Mastercard in the name of Ermakova Valeriya with the billing address for each of Fontanka River Embankment 24 18, St. Petersburg, Russia.” The donations weren’t all used to reinvest in the site, it seems. According to the complaint, Ermakova mostly used her Amazon account to buy clothes and beauty products. “Since March 20, 2019, the 1502 Account has placed more than 110 orders totaling over $13,628.32, most of them for beauty and apparel products,” the complaint reads, without mentioning how much of this amount can be linked to donations. In addition to the Amazon data, information provided by Google reveals that Ermakova’s personal email was accessed by an IP-address that also accessed Z-Library Gmail accounts. “Based on subscription records obtained by law enforcement from Google, the Google account associated with Ermakova Personal Email-1 logged on numerous times from IP addresses that were also used to log into the accounts associated with the email addresses [email protected] and [email protected], indicating that a single internet access point was used to log in to all three accounts.” Collaborating on and Controlling Z-Library The complaint ends with an overview of evidence that aims to show that Napolsky and Ermakova controlled the Z-Library website and collaborated on this criminal endeavor. Information obtained through search warrants link Napolsky to the Google Adwords account of Bookos.org and he also received an invoice for the domain registration of Booksc.org, among other things. Z-Library used project management software Atlassian to manage tasks and projects. Atlassian’s software sent updates and tasks the team assigned, which purportedly shows that the defendants were collaborating on the Z-Library software. All-in-all, the information suggests that Napolsky and Ermakova didn’t spend much effort concealing their alleged involvement with Z-Library. That said, all of these allegations have yet to be proven in court. What we can say is that people with the same names as the defendants are surprisingly easy to find online, on social media, and elsewhere. The criminal investigation of Z-Library also sheds new light on a Sci-Hub issue we reported earlier. At the time, Sci-Hub founder Alexandra Elbakyan said that the FBI obtained access to her Google account, suggesting that she may have been investigated too, perhaps in a separate case. — A copy of the complaint, which includes much more information than what we summarized in this article, is available here (pdf) Google and Amazon Helped the FBI Identify Z-Library’s Operators
  5. The next Tensor SoC could use a 3 nm Samsung Exynos chip as its core. Google's Pixel line changes from year to year, but one area of consistency is frequent supply chain leaks at every stage of a Pixel's life. Just a few weeks after the Pixel 7 arrived in most people's hands, a German website claims to have details of two Pixel-like devices being tested at Google. WinFuture cites devices codenamed "Shiba" and "Husky," both running Android 14 "Upside Down Cake" and sporting a new Tensor G3 system-on-a-chip developed with Samsung's Exynos division. WinFuture's source suggests the package, codenamed Zuma, would have the same 5G modem as the Tensor G2, but the processor would be based on Samsung's 3 nm Exynos 2300, with the typical Google AI/ML improvements baked in. The Exynos 2300 was seemingly on the verge of cancellation but has recently shown up again in Bluetooth certification documents. A 3 nm, Exynos-2300-based Tensor matches up with what noted Pixel hardware-watcher Kuba Wojciechowski has seen in export databases and heard from sources. Our review of the Pixel 7 Pro noted that Google's 5 nm Tensor chips, introduced because the company was supposedly "held back for years" by Qualcomm's offerings, were slower than the newest Qualcomm offerings. A change in fabrication could help push Pixels beyond run-of-the-mill Android performance (but likely not even touch Apple's significant lead). The biggest change WinFuture suggests to these purported prototypes is 12GB of memory in both the 8 and 8 Pro models, making the standard 8 stand out more from the mid-to-higher-end competition. Screen shape and ratio could shift slightly, too, from 2400×1080 to 2268×1080 on the standard model and 3120×1440 to 2822×1344 on the Pro. All this, WinFuture notes, is "pure speculation," and the devices could be "only test platforms of Google's hardware team." There are indeed a number of Pixel platforms with hardware ideas floating around, including what could become the Pixel 7a, a highly speculative Pixel Fold (potentially delayed to 2023), and an ultrasonic fingerprint sensor test model on a "Pixel G10." That said, it's easier to believe a leak about a Pixel product than just about any other flagship device out there. Pixel 8 hardware leaks suggest faster chip, tweaked screen ratios
  6. The right-to-repair specialists now stock genuine parts and bundles to handle the most common repairs to the Pixel 6A yourself. Thanks to a partnership with Google, the right-to-repair champions at iFixit have begun stocking parts for Google’s midrange phone, the Pixel 6A. While iFixit has stocked genuine parts for just about all of Google’s Pixel phones since June, replacement parts for the Pixel 6A have only recently become available. While you can purchase the parts you need piecemeal through its site, iFixit also offers kits that bundle all of the necessary parts and tools you’ll need to solve a specific issue. The most expensive kit, priced at $99.99, is meant to repair the screen, but other kits are also available to replace the battery ($39.99), wide-angle camera ($56.99), and ultrawide camera ($36.99). The tools and other supplies provided can vary depending on the kit you’ve purchased but largely mimic iFixit’s $19.99 10-piece iOpener tool kit. iFixit doesn’t just provide the necessary tools and parts to repair all of your expensive technology but also provides detailed instructions on how to replace everything from your screen to the battery on your phone, laptop, or camera. While sending your device back to the manufacturer is usually an option if your device is still under warranty, sometimes fixing something yourself is the fastest (and cheapest) option. That’s saying nothing for the feeling of pride you get from solving a problem by yourself. The kits featured on the iFixit site only represent the genuine replacement parts provided by Google and aren’t a comprehensive list of all the potential hardware issues your phone could have. iFixit provides teardown instructions to replace the 5G antenna, loudspeaker, and even the motherboard but currently doesn’t provide the necessary replacement parts. I probably do more than the average amount of tinkering with my devices at home, but I can safely say that investing in an iFixit Pro Tech Toolkit was one of the wiser purchases I’ve ever made. In addition to including bits for every type of screw imaginable, the Pro Tech Toolkit comes packaged with everything you need to take a handheld device apart and put it all back together. iFixit starts selling parts for the Google Pixel 6A
  7. In January 2022, rightsholders began utilizing a new site-blocking law introduced by France, specifically targeted at live sports streaming piracy. In the following months, Internet providers were ordered to block hundreds of domain names. Positive results of the new legislation are already being reported and with Google taking action, the crackdown has serious momentum. At the start of this year, a French bill went into effect that sanctioned the formation of a new regulatory body. The old HADOPI anti-piracy outfit merged with the Higher Audiovisual Council, creating the Audiovisual and Digital Communication Regulatory Authority (Arcom). Sports Piracy Crackdown Along with this organizational change, Arcom received new anti-piracy powers. It can swiftly order online services to take down unlicensed streams of live sporting events, for example. Thus far, more than 700 domain names have been reported to Arcom and subsequently blocked by local internet providers. According to the French authorities, live sports piracy was cut in half following these measures. The speed and breadth at which these measures were implemented is impressive. Site blocking is common in other countries as well but legal procedures tend to be slower and more cumbersome elsewhere. Google Offers a Helping Hand Under Article L. 333-10 of the Sports Code, Internet providers can be ordered to take “proportionate measures” to prevent copyright infringement. Other services can be asked to take action as well, with Google a prime example. Over the past months, Arcom has repeatedly sent notices to the search engine, asking it to remove infringing sports domains from its search results. The “Government Requests” cite orders issued under the new blocking legislation. They target a wide range of sports streaming sites, including 4stream.gg, buffstream.io, pirlotv.fr, rojadirecta.me, and bingsport.com. “It has been found that these services have as their main objective or among their main objectives the broadcasting of the FIM Moto GP World Championship Grand Prix 2022,” one notice reads, asking Google to delist the domain names. The new law can be used against Google but, as far as we know, there are no recent court orders that compel the company to take action (Cf.). That said, the search engine decided to voluntarily comply with local blocking orders that are directed at Internet providers, which also appears to be the case here. Interestingly, Arcom isn’t the only party asking Google to take action. The rightsholders themselves also send notices to the search engine, sometimes with similar domain names. For example, last week broadcaster Canal+ asked Google to remove several domain names, citing an unnamed court order. This includes 4stream.gg, which is part of an earlier blocking order. Bing? In the past, we noticed that Google’s blocking actions were not followed by other search engines. However, when we searched for several of the above-mentioned pirate site domains on Bing, we didn’t get any results either. Bing doesn’t link to any specific requests. There is a notice at the bottom of some of the results pages, indicating that “some results have been removed” but whether that’s related to Arcom requests is unknown. With or without Bing, the French authorities and rightsholders will be pleased that Google is lending a helping hand, voluntary or not. While it’s unrealistic to think that sports piracy can be fully defeated, marginalizing the practice is already a victory. Google Removes Hundreds of Domains to Aid French Sports Piracy Crackdown
  8. Google shut down a bunch of projects this quarter, and now we see why. Google CEO Sundar Pichai has been on a belt-tightening mission at Google over the past three months, so it seems he saw this coming: Parent company Alphabet's latest earnings are kind of a disaster. The company's Q3 2022 earnings were released last night, and they show a 27 percent drop in profits compared to last year, with weaker-than-expected earnings and revenue. Revenue was up 6 percent year over year to $69.1 billion, a sharp growth decline from 2021 Q3, which saw 41 percent growth. Profits were at $13.9 billion, down from $18.9 billion in Q3 2021. As usual, Alphabet earnings are mostly about Google ad revenue and click-through rates, with the company citing reduced spending from the "insurance, loan, mortgage, and crypto subcategories" in particular. Worries about the economy and inflation are causing many Google customers to cut their ad budgets. Alphabet doesn't break down the non-ads business in much detail, but the two biggest money losers on Alphabet's reports are the "Other Bets" section and Google Cloud. Other Bets lost $1.6 billion, more than the $1.29 billion loss a year ago. "Other Bets" is the "non-Google" part of Alphabet and includes long-term R&D projects like Waymo self-driving cars and the "Wing" drone delivery project. Google says the only significant revenue generators for Other Bets are the "health technology" projects—that would be Verily and/or Calico—and "Internet services," aka Google Fiber. The other big loser is Google Cloud, which lost $699 million this quarter, up from $644 million in Q3 2021. "Google Cloud" on the earnings report combines the Amazon Web Services-fighting infrastructure business and Google Workspace's suite of productivity apps like Gmail and Google Docs. Workspace definitely earns money by showing ads to its 3 billion users, charging for user storage, and charging businesses for Gmail accounts with custom domains. The infrastructure business—Google Cloud Platform—is growing, but it's still struggling as the No. 3 cloud provider behind Amazon and Microsoft. Google is taking a "longer-term path to profitability" with Cloud Platform. Sundar Pichai has been gearing up for this report all quarter. Saying that Google's productivity is “not where it needs to be,” Pichai has slowed hiring since August, revamped the employee evaluation process, and said the company should be "more mission-focused" and "20 percent more efficient." The Google Grim Reaper got a workout, too; Google Hardware's laptop division was shut down, the experimental "Area 120" group was forced to ax half its projects, the Project Loon leftovers were spun out into a separate company, and Google Stadia was shut down. YouTube has been trying (and canceling) a series of revenue-boosting experiments like adding up to 10 unskippable pre-roll ads to videos and charging for 4K resolution, but it seems like the change that will stick is a 27 percent price hike for YouTube Premium family plans. The latest rumor is that Google Assistant—which doesn't generate significant revenue—will have to cut support for various hardware platforms. Google has hope for the future, though, with the company's financial executives repeatedly highlighting the plan to roll out ads to "YouTube Shorts" later this year. For the first time in a while, YouTube is facing serious competition from a rival video site—TikTok—and YouTube Shorts is a straight-up clone of that service. The plan to monetize Shorts also includes creator ad revenue sharing in 2023, at which point the bite-sized YouTube video site will be fully operational. Google profits plummet 27 percent in Q3 2022 earnings report
  9. Is the Google Assistant in trouble? It's true that it doesn't make any money... Google is facing turbulent times due to CEO Sundar Pichai's decision to cut costs across the company. We first got word of this belt-tightening in August, and since then, we've seen the "Area 120" incubation lab get cut in half, a spinoff of what was left of Project Loon, the death of the Pixel laptop division, and the dramatic shutdown of Google Stadia. A new report from The Information details more changes Pichai's budget cuts are having across the company, with some divisions surviving and others getting ominous resource cuts. There's plenty to go over. More resources for Google hardware First, we have news that the hardware division, other than losing laptops, seems mostly safe. Google's biggest Android partner, Samsung, is in decline in many established markets, and Apple is hitting an all-time high in US market share last quarter. The report says Google views Apple as more of a problem than it has in the past, thanks to worries that regulators might shut down the usual multi-billion-dollar Google/Apple agreement to put Google Search on iPhones. If iPhones stop showing Google ads, the rise of Apple and fall of Samsung is one of the few things that could actually be a major problem for Google's revenue. According to the report, Google views itself as the solution to this problem. As a hedge against what the report calls the "further decline" of Samsung, Google is "doubling down" on its investment in Pixel hardware. Google is apparently doing this by "moving product development and software engineering staff working on features for non-Google hardware to work on Google-branded devices." The goal here is to not spend more money, so Google is apparently sacrificing partner devices to focus on the Pixel division. (Making your business a Google partner just seems like you're asking for trouble, doesn't it?) Pichai’s cost-cutters are coming So what projects are seeing cuts? Google TV is one, with the report saying: "Executives also have discussed moving some product managers working on Google TV software for television sets" to Wear OS and the Pixel Tablet. This is the only OS called out as specifically receiving less OS development. A lot of this report seems to focus on cuts to Google Assistant's support for specific form factors, which is strange since Google Assistant is more or less the same on every platform. The whole point of the Assistant is one reliable, predictable voice assistant that lives everywhere, and it's not clear what platform-specific support needs to be done other than whipping up an app that can receive audio and read back results. That said, the report says that Google is going to "invest less in developing its Google Assistant voice-assisted search for cars and for devices not made by Google, including TVs, headphones, smart-home speakers, smart glasses and smartwatches that use Google’s Wear OS software." That makes it sound like a mix of more Pixel-exclusive software features and less development for software that is purely for partner devices. In that list, Google makes TV dongles, headphones, smart home speakers, and a watch, but it doesn't make a car. Honestly, Google Assistant seems to be the hardest-hit project in this report. On one hand, that's hard to believe since the Assistant is basically just "Google Voice Search," and search is Google's second-favorite product (after ads). On the other hand, it has never been clear that Google Assistant makes money. Google Assistant never reads you an audio ad, and you never see an ad from the answer it returns. It's only if the product fails and kicks you out to a Google Search results screen that you can see an ad. Google kicked around Assistant monetization options in the past, but I don't think any of them ever took off. Some hardware companies are still favored? While Google is going to focus on its own hardware, the report says it's also not completely cutting off existing hardware makers. The report says that "Google has singled out Samsung and Chinese brands OnePlus and Xiaomi as premium Android phone partners for which it should develop the best Google services. But that leaves a long list of other manufacturers that may not get the same attention from Google groups like the Assistant team." Picking favorite hardware manufacturers sounds a lot like the recent rollout of Wear OS 3. That OS was exclusive to Samsung for a year, with smaller OEMs like the fashion brand Fossil being left out in the cold. When it came time to launch the Pixel Watch, Google built an exclusive Fitbit app for itself and never ported its public fitness project, Google Fit, to the new Wear OS 3. This week the new Fossil Gen 6 watch is finally launching with Wear OS 3, but now it doesn't have a Google fitness solution. Those watches also don't have the Google Assistant anymore, because Google didn't prioritize the development of the Wear OS 3 Assistant on the slower Wear 4100 SoC that Fossil watches ship with. We'll keep an eye out for actual, practical results from these changes, but Wear OS already shows a focus on Google hardware, a prioritization of certain partners, and declining Google Assistant support for others. Everything in this report is already happening. Google hardware's biggest weakness is probably its very small list of supported countries, but that did just increase slightly with the Pixel 7 launch. Report: Google “doubles down” on Pixel hardware, cuts Google Assistant support
  10. Google unveiled the Pixel 7 and 7 Pro today with a Tensor G2 chip, an improved camera, and three color options. The Pixel 7 series resembles its predecessor, the Pixel 6, which was Google’s first phone that utilized the Tensor chip. Pixel 7 and 7 Pro come with a 6.3-inch and 6.7-inch Full High Definition (FHD) display respectively, and maximum 1400-nit brightness. The Pixel 7 Pro also has a 10-120 Hz variable refresh rate - the rate at which the display refreshes. The phones are made of aluminum and recycled material. Pixel 7 is available in three shades: Snow, Obsidian, and Lemongrass similar to Pixel 7 Pro, however, the Pro model replaces Lemongrass with Hazel. The shades are similar to the latest Nest products like the Nest Doorbell and Nest Wifi Pro by Google. The Pixel 7 runs Android 13, which increases the customization of apps, icons, and wallpapers. Pixel 7 also has a full-day battery that lasts up to 72 hours. Additionally, Pixel 7 comes with a Super Res Zoom that extends the camera range up to 8 times, whereas the Pixel 7 Pro extends up to 30 times. Pixel 7 Pro also has MacroFocus that snaps photos in Pixel High Dynamic Range (HDR+). Google stated: “We’ve also achieved optical quality similar to a dedicated 2x telephoto lens for Pixel 7 and a 10x telephoto lens for Pixel 7 Pro, so you have the flexibility to creatively frame your shot at multiple magnifications while maintaining high quality.” Google introduced an exclusive Photo Unblur feature for the latest Google Pixel phones that can edit blurry pictures; users can also edit out distractions from their photos through the Magic Eraser tool. A Guided Frame feature has also been added to increase accessibility through audio guidance, haptic feedback such as vibrations, and visual animations when taking selfies. Users can also access the Cinematic Blur feature and record videos in 10-bit HDR. Google shared how the Real Tone camera algorithm was exposed to various skin tones, allowing it to render them authentically in different lightings, especially the Night Sight. With Night Sight in the Google Pixel 7 and Pixel 7 Pro, sharper images can be taken with half the average amount of exposure. The latest phones are also coming with an improved version of the Direct My Call feature announced last year, where users can now see a pre-made list of menu options for their frequently called businesses. Previously, the Direct My Call feature would transcribe different extensions and automated messages in real-time to allow users to take action without remembering the content. Users can also transcribe received audio messages, use Face Unlock to access their phones, and get emoji suggestions while texting. Furthermore, Google mentioned the Pixel 7 series consists of a Titan M2 security chip and VPN by Google One without additional fees. The Pixel 7 and Pixel 7 Pro have a starting price of $599 and $899, respectively, and are available for pre-order from today in these countries. The orders will arrive at major U.S. carriers on October 13, 2022. Countries like Norway, Denmark, Netherlands, and Sweden can also access Pixel phones for the first time. Google launches Pixel 7 and 7 Pro with larger display, improved camera, and more
  11. As leaks had earlier suggested, Google, today, has introduced the Nest Wifi Pro, a Wi-Fi system encompassing the WiFi 6E technology. Wi-Fi 6E stands for Wi-Fi 6 "Extended", where the 6 represents the maximum speed of the 6GHz radio band. The Nest Wifi Pro uses 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz radio bands but is now adding 6 GHz to the list. It is a tri-band mesh network system to provide faster network services. The Nest Wifi Pro is accessible on older devices that use 2.4 and 5 GHz bands and can connect with almost 100 devices. However, it is incompatible with Google Wifi (Wi-Fi 5) or Nest Wifi. Google elaborated that the Wi-Fi 6 devices do not support 6 GHz radio bands preventing access to 160 MHz-wide radio channels; however, with Wi-Fi 6E, it is possible to do so. The upgrade allows more data flow totaling up to 5.4 Gbps, or 4.2 Gbps, outside the United States. You can read more details here. The router can be set up by following the instructions using the Google Home application. Moreover, the app lets users monitor their networks, such as running speed tests, and comes with timely scanning for connection issues notified to the users, alongside steps to resolve the issue. Users can also access parental controls through the Family Wi-Fi settings, where they can set up Wi-Fi schedules to restrict Wi-Fi at wanted times. Lastly, Google hinted at the ability of these routers to become a Matter hub to control devices running the smart home protocol named Matter. Although, Matter is yet to launch to more devices. Google also stated: “We built safety and security measures directly into Nest Wifi Pro, at no additional cost, to help protect your connection. For example, in the Google Home app, you can see every device that’s connected to your network to help you easily identify and pause any that might look suspicious.” A single Nest Wifi Pro router can provide network access to an area of up to 2,200 feet. It comes with a Thread border router which connects it to other Thread devices. The routers are available in colors labeled Fog, Snow, Linen, and Lemongrass. Nest Wifi Pro routers are available in packs of three, two, and one costing $399.99, $299.99, and $199.99, respectively. Pre-orders begin today and will arrive in stores and online from October 27, 2022. Google's latest Nest Wifi Pro supports 6 GHz radio band and connectivity to more devices
  12. Google has announced that it’s working on a new Google Home app with support for the Matter connectivity standard. This will let you connect any Matter-supported device to Google Home in a quick and easy manner – what’s nice is that Matter is being supported by different brands, so you don’t need to just use Google smart home devices. When Google adds Matter support later this year, billions of Android devices, Google Nest smart speakers, smart displays, and routers will be able to control Matter devices. Aside from Matter support, the new Google Home app will allow you to manage the smart home devices you care most about through a new Favourites tab, which will be the default tab. You can select the connected items you care most about and have quick access to them from there. The tab will also feature Spaces which sorts your connected devices into categories such as lights, camera, thermostats, and network devices. Eventually, you’ll be able to customize these too. For people with Nest cameras, Google has brought new functionality to the Google Home app so that you can find important events. Using machine learning, the app will label events by type such as people, packages, vehicles, activities, and animals. For advanced users, the Google Home app will eventually get a new script editor that offers over 100 features to make your smart home do more. The new Google Home app for Wear OS that was shown off earlier this year will be coming to Wear OS 3 devices next week. Google is also rolling out a new camera experience for the web version of Google Home, so you can check your cameras from your computer. Google will release the new app on Android and iOS to people in the Public Preview programme in a few weeks. Google's Matter support and Home update will let you quickly add smart devices
  13. Google is coming out with a new Nest product, the Nest Doorbell (wired, 2nd gen). It is an addition to other Nest products it revealed today, such as the Nest Wifi Pro and the Nest Renew. The Nest Doorbell is a wired doorbell that prevents the need of recharging the batteries. It comprises of local storage that records hour-long footage of occurrences, in case of a poor WiFi connection. Users can rewind and replay up to five clips from three hours of video history without paying additional fees. However, if users wish to get more footage recording – 10 days of non-stop recording – they can buy the Nest Aware Plus subscription. Google claims that the doorbell has improved image quality through image tuning that records events in a variety of lighting and weather. The Nest Doorbell prevents the fish-eye distortion that is usually seen in security camera footage and records in High Dynamic Range (HDR) to catch the most detail. Additionally, the company states the product has a lesser carbon footprint and is built from 43% recycled material. According to DXOMark, a website that tests audio, battery, and image display in smartphones and cameras, Google’s Nest Doorbell comes with the best camera quality as it states: “The Google Nest Doorbell (wired, 2nd-gen) is the best camera doorbell we have tested so far in terms of image quality, with a high level of detail and accurate exposure, allowing you to easily recognize whoever is at the door, even at night.” The doorbell can detect packages, pets, people, and vehicles and record specific areas through the Activity Zones feature. It also has a "talk and listen" feature that allows users to communicate with visitors either through pre-recorded messages or converse in real time. In case a visitor rings the doorbell, the users are notified through alerts; they can also connect the doorbell with Nest speakers or stick with their existing doorbell chimes. Nest Doorbell is available in four colors It can be controlled through the Google Home app, which has also been upgraded to enable users to manage their Nest devices. Google shared that users will be able to view the Nest doorbell and camera feeds on the web in the future. Users can also set a Household Routine for their Doorbells, where the bell can perform certain actions when someone interacts with it. The Nest Doorbell is available in four shades: Linen, Snow, Ivy, and Ash (images above), with a starting price of $179.99 in the U.S. and $239.99 CAD in Canada, although only Snow and Ash colors are available in Canada. Google unveils the wired Nest Doorbell that records footage in HDR
  14. Stadia Announcement FAQ Q: How long will I be able to play my games on Stadia? A; We will be leaving the Stadia platform and game servers online until January 18, 2023, so you can continue to play games in your library. Q: Will all games work as expected during this time? A: We anticipate that there will be some gameplay issues during this period, especially any games requiring commerce, but the majority of games should continue to work normally. Q: What about my game progress? Can I take my game progress to another platform? A: While that may be possible for some games that support cross-progression play on other platforms, unfortunately, for the majority of games, that won’t be possible. Q: Will I get a refund? What is available for a refund? A: We will be offering refunds for all Stadia hardware purchases (Stadia Controller, Founders Edition, Premiere Edition, and Play and Watch with Google TV packages) made through the Google Store and software transactions (games and add-on purchases) through the Stadia store. Stadia Pro subscriptions are not eligible for refund, however you will be able to continue playing your games in Pro without further charges until the final wind down date. Q: Do I have to return my hardware to get a refund? A: Most hardware purchases (Stadia Controller, Founders Edition, Premiere Edition, and Play and Watch with Google TV packages) made directly from Google will not need to be returned. More details on how to obtain a refund for your Stadia hardware purchases will be posted here in the coming weeks. Q: How/When will I get my refund? A: We are working through this process now and will keep this article updated as we define the process for each of the countries and different situations. Our intent is to have the majority of refunds processed back to the original payment by January 18, 2023. Q: Are you refunding my Stadia Pro subscription? A: We will not be refunding Stadia Pro subscriptions. Players who held an active Stadia Pro subscription as of September 29, 2022 will not be charged for access to their Pro library or other subscription entitlements during the shut-down period. Q: Why can I no longer purchase games? Can I purchase in-game transactions? A: We have now closed the Stadia Store and disabled all commerce on the Stadia platform, including in-game transactions. Q: I no longer have the form of payment I used to make the purchase, how will I get a refund? A: Keep an eye out for an email from us, we’ll provide you with instructions on how to choose a new form of payment. Q: I paid with a gift card and have since thrown it away, how do I get my refund? A: Keep an eye out for an email from us, we’ll provide you with instructions on how to choose a new form of payment. Q: I ordered something via pre-order - will I get charged? A: All future pre-orders will be canceled and you will not be charged. If you were already charged, you will be refunded your payment. Q: Can I return hardware to physical locations (Google Store, Best Buy, etc.)? A: No. Physical locations (Google Store, Best Buy, etc.) will not be able to process any returns or refunds. Source: https://support.google.com/stadia/answer/12790109?hl=en
  15. AV1's Alliance for Open Media wants more royalty-free standards. Google can do basically whatever it wants regarding video and web standards. YouTube is the world's most popular video site. Chrome is the world's most popular browser. Android is the world's most popular operating system. Anything Google wants to roll out can immediately have a sizable user base of clients, servers, and content. From there, it's just a matter of getting a few partners to tag along. This is how Google's next-generation AV1 video codec is being rolled out, and next, Google is setting its sights on HDR and 3D audio standards. Protocol's Janko Roettgers has a report on "Project Caviar," Google's plan to take on Dolby and create royalty-free alternatives to its HDR standard (Dolby Vision) and its 3D audio standard (Dolby Atmos). Dolby's old media business model relies on royalty fees from hardware manufacturers and support from content creators. The company's technology is deeply embedded in movie theaters and Blu-rays, and more modern streaming companies like Apple are big backers of Dolby technology. That all costs money, though, and Protocol's report says $50 streaming sticks end up having around $2 of that price tag go to Dolby. Surround sound has been a movie feature forever with various numbers of front, back, and side speakers, but Dolby Atmos adds height into the equation. If you take a 5.1 or 7.1 speaker setup—that's three front speakers, two back, a subwoofer, and for 7.1, two side speakers—Dolby Atmos adds four overhead speakers into the mix, allowing sound to pan overhead of the viewer. Atmos is supported by Apple, Netflix, HBO Max, and Disney+. Google is tackling Dolby via the "Alliance for Open Media" standards group, which counts Amazon, Apple, Arm, Google, Intel, Meta, Microsoft, Mozilla, Netflix, Nvidia, and Samsung in its "founding members" group. This is the same group behind the AV1 standard, which grew out of Google's purchase of On2 and the open sourcing of its video codec. Neither Dolby Vision nor Atmos competitors require new codec development. Google's strategy is mostly about standardizing a way to ship audio and video data that doesn't involve paying Dolby and branding it well enough to compete. To start, the group already has specs for an "Immersive Audio Container" published on the web, which describes itself as a "codec-agnostic audio bitstream format to deliver three-dimensional sound fields that can be used for multichannel sound playback." For HDR, the group wants to adopt the HDR10+ standard, which was originally cooked up by Samsung but lacks content. It's not yet known what consumer-facing brand these standards will be for. That's a big deal, since the name "Dolby" still holds a lot of sway with home theater enthusiasts, and that means streaming apps can market the Dolby brand as a premium add-on, creating demand for the standards. Few companies have enough sway over the media space to push a new standard, but Google is one of them. As we've already seen with AV1, pushing support into YouTube, Android, Chrome, and any hardware manufacturers seeking to license access to YouTube is a powerful cudgel. After pushing AV1 codec, Google goes after Dolby with HDR and audio standards
  16. Today, Google announced the rollout of the new Chromecast with HD streaming support for just $30. It comes bundled with a remote control too. The streaming product, as rumored, has been named Chromecast with Google TV (HD). It features the same overall design and includes the same voice remote as the 4K model. It streams in high definition with 1080 HDR and Google says it has made some software optimizations that ensure its viewers get the best entertainment experience no matter what TV they’re watching on. Besides using the dongle for casting (sharing your Google Photos to a TV or casting your Google Meet video calls), you can use it to browse the web, watch TV shows and movies, and listen to music simply by plugging it into the back of your TV and connecting it to a Wi-Fi network. Jess Bonner, product manager, Nest wrote in a blog post: Today, we’re expanding this lineup with the new Chromecast with Google TV (HD). We built this product with affordability in mind and to help bring all our favorite features of Chromecast and Google TV to more people than ever. Chromecast was originally launched as a $35 dongle. Its newer version - Chromecast with Google TV HD comes at an even less price of $29.99 in the US, making it even more affordable. It ships in classic snow color with Android 12. Google announces a new Chromecast with HD streaming support for $30
  17. Earlier this week, Google made some serious cuts to its startup incubator Area 120, cutting half of its projects, according to TechCrunch. The purpose of Area 120 was to give Google employees somewhere to experiment or chase their passion projects, with the hope that they could stumble upon the next Big Idea like Adsense, Gmail, or Google News. But as the economy has turned, it seems Google may be losing its stomach for big bets and experimentation, instead trying to focus its efforts on what makes money today (or services that it really just has to run despite the fact that they lose money, like Google Cloud). Instead of challenging employees to spend 20 percent of their time building wacky apps, CEO Sundar Pichai says the company needs to be 20 percent more efficient and productive. In a memo earlier this summer, he urged employees to be “more entrepreneurial,” but it read more like a demand to work harder and find ways to cut costs rather than to bark up trees that may or may not bear future fruit. That perception has permeated outside the company as well. According to a recent report from The Information, some recruiters looking to hire employees for startups are starting to look away from Google because they have the impression that the tech giant’s employees mostly maintain legacy products instead of building new ones. One of the places this idea is most evident is the company’s hardware. Earlier this week, we reported Google canceled a Pixelbook project that was “deep into development” to cut costs, effectively leaving it up to other companies to push the Chromebook category forward. As my colleague Monica Chin pointed out, the original Pixelbook felt more like a halo device meant to inspire other manufacturers and show what was possible with Chromebooks rather than something Google actually expected people to buy. While we don’t know whether the canceled Chromebook would’ve had that same ethos, it feels safe to say that launching any sort of laptop wouldn’t be a guaranteed home run for Google — according to market analysis firm IDC, the company isn’t even one of the top five Chromebook manufacturers in terms of market share or units shipped. Google would have to convince people to choose its laptop over ones from trusted brands like Acer, HP, or Lenovo, something it’s seemingly failed to do at any sort of scale with the 2019 Pixelbook Go (perhaps owing to its rather high $649 starting price). Other parts of Google’s Pixel lineup also feel less bold than they used to. Remember the Pixel 4, which came with a radar sensor, or the Pixel 2, which introduced squeezable sides to Google’s phones? Those were fun, cool features that gave you a good reason to consider a Pixel. Everything we’ve seen about the Pixel 7 so far makes it look like it’ll be a relatively minor upgrade, complete with a very similar design to its predecessor. We’ll find out if that’s actually the case on October 6th, but I won’t be shocked if there’s nothing shocking about Google’s next phones. It’d be unfair to say that Google isn’t doing anything new when it comes to Pixels, though. It is, after all, adding both a smartwatch and a tablet to its lineup. However, neither seem to be pushing any boundaries, especially the latter, which has a design that feels years out of date now and will likely feel even more so next year after we get a fresh new crop of iPads. Instead of being halo devices that inspire other manufacturers, it just feels like Google’s playing catch-up to Samsung (and at this point, it’s unclear if these devices will even be competitive). This phenomenon isn’t entirely new for Google, and it’s not just limited to hardware. Google is infamous for giving up on projects shortly after they launch, and sometimes even before — just in the past year or so, it’s turned around on plans to integrate banking into Google Pay (which has largely been replaced now by a reincarnated Google Wallet), mostly done away with its YouTube Originals program, and moved Stadia away from being a game streaming service to more of a white-label tech that companies can use for demos and cell plan add-ons. But there’s a difference between giving up on select projects and shifting your culture to be more conservative towards experimentation. Declaring for certain which of those Google’s doing would require more data, but moves like transferring assets from a failed experiment to a startup and then investing in the company feel less ambitious than just rebooting the project yourself. None of this is to say that Google is completely standing still — obviously, its core apps and services are continuing to get new features, redesigns, and tweaks. And it’s not like Google’s stopped throwing everything it can at the messaging platform wall. The company spends almost $10 billion a quarter on research and development — that money is obviously going somewhere. But I’d be hard-pressed to think of any of the company’s recent work that really made me sit up and go, “Wow!” Sure, I enjoy watching the occasional TikTok but on Youtube, and I appreciate that Google’s making Android more customizable and web tracking a little less creepy, but those changes are incremental, not revolutionary. Perhaps part of the reason it’s been hard to get excited about Google’s efforts is where it’s focusing on innovating. It’s introduced a flurry of changes to Workspace recently, adding “chips” that let you blend your documents, spreadsheets, reminders, and even meetings and emails together. It’s also been paying some attention to Meet, its Zoom competitor. But while these changes have probably made people’s work lives a little easier, adding new features in an office suite doesn’t exactly seem like swinging for the fences to build the future to me. Even if Google were to completely stop all experimentation, it would likely survive — its services are engrained in the fabric of how almost all of us use the Internet at this point. But if it doesn’t take big bets, it’ll be hard for it to come up with the next Gmail, Google Assistant, or ChromeOS and almost impossible to help invent new categories of tech like self-driving cars or ambient computing. If companies want to attract the sort of people who are going to build the future, they have to be the type of place where people can actually go out on limbs and not be worried about getting in trouble for barking up the wrong tree. It’d be a shame if Google became a company where that wasn’t the case. It sure seems like Google is struggling to invent the future
  18. Google has announced that it will hold an event on October 6 where it will show off its Pixel 7 and Pixel 7 Pro in more depth, as well as its Pixel Watch and Pixel Buds. The company is planning to hold the event at 10 a.m. ET, according to a tweet put out earlier. The search giant attached a video of the upcoming phones, watch, and buds, giving us a good idea about what will be announced. Google has not kept the Pixel 7 series or the Pixel Watch a very closely guarded secret. In fact, for several months, it has had dedicated pages for them on its Google Store. We know that the Pixel 7 will be available in three colours: Obsidian, Lemongrass, and Snow and that they will feature the Google Tensor G2 chip which will bring new features to photos and improve videos, security, and speech recognition. According to CNBC, Google is planning to make the new products available for order on the same day that they’re announced. Now that the COVID-19 pandemic is largely over, Google will be holding the event in-person in New York City, but you’ll be able to tune in on YouTube during and after the event. While Google has taken the wraps off its Pixel phones, we still don’t know too much about the specifications or pricing, officially. The Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro went on sale for $599 and $899 respectively, so expect similar pricing for the Pixel 7 and Pixel 7 Pro, unless Google takes the opportunity to factor in the recent inflation and bump up the prices. Source: Twitter via CNBC Google is set to launch new phones and watch at October 6 event
  19. Google has reached a new milestone. Over the past several years, copyright holders have asked the search engine to remove URLs from four million unique domains. These include some egregious pirate sites but The White House, the FBI, and the Vatican have also been flagged as infringers. For many people, Google is the go-to starting point when they need to find something on the web. With just a few keystrokes, the search engine can find virtually anything. This makes life easier but for copyright holders, there’s a drawback too, as the web is littered with pirate sites. Over the past decade, Google has removed more than five billion ‘infringing’ URLs from its search results. A few days ago the company hit a new milestone after receiving DMCA notices for more than four million unique domain names. To mark this event we decided to take a closer look at the submitted URLs to see who the worst offenders are. This leads to some interesting conclusions and puts the four million number in perspective. Top Recipients The domain most flagged for infringement is 4shared.com. This popular file-sharing service has had more than 68 million of its URLs removed from Google. The majority of these were removed several years ago. More recently, 4shared started to actively work with rightsholders to prevent piracy by deploying filtering technologies. The runner-up on the list with 51 million removed URLs is the relatively unknown mp3toys.xyz. This domain has been inactive for roughly half a decade but previously hosted pirated MP3s. The top three is completed by rapidgator.net, which has had more than 42 million of its URLs removed from Google’s search results. What stands out is that the majority of the reported URLs are linked to a tiny fraction of the four million domain names. Just 400 domains (0.01%) are responsible for 41% of all links removed by Google over the years. Hundreds of Pirate Bays The Pirate Bay is ranked 66th based on the number of URLs Google had to remove. That’s only for the site’s main .org domain and there are hundreds of Pirate Bay proxy domains that are also frequently targeted. There are currently close to 900 domain names that include the phrase “piratebay” in Google’s list of copyright infringing domain names. On top of that, there are more than 5,000 that use other variations of the word “bay,” many of which are inspired by the notorious pirate site. Legitimate Domains in the Long Tail It’s clear that a relatively small number of domains generate the bulk of all takedown requests. This means that there’s a long tail of domains that are flagged just a few times. This long tail includes many marginal pirate sites, but there are also thousands of domain names that are not typical copyright infringers. Some of these are simply flagged in error. There are numerous examples of legitimate sites. These include the FBI (22x), the RIAA (2x), the Vatican (reported 3x), and the White House (17xx), but there are thousands more we could add to the list. The good news is that Google is usually quite good at spotting these errors. There are also legitimate sites that are flagged relatively often. The movie and TV database IMDb, for example, was reported 5,564 times. Another popular target is Wikipedia, which was mentioned 3,492 times in takedown notices. Interestingly, Google.com was also targeted over 700,000 times. All in all, it’s safe to conclude that the four million domain names are not all blatant infringers. Instead, the bulk of all pirated content is centered around just a few hundred sites. Google Received DMCA Takedown Notices For 4 Million Unique Domains
  20. Google has removed several popular YouTube rippers from its UK search results. The company took this action following a notice from local music group BPI, which pointed out that local ISPs are required to block the sites due to a High Court order. In response, Google voluntarily took the same action. Last year, the UK music industry claimed a major victory in its fight against online piracy. Following a two-year process initiated by the British Recorded Music Industry Ltd (BPI) and Phonographic Performance Ltd (PPL), the High Court ordered major ISPs to block access to several YouTube rippers. The order aims to make these sites, including Flvto and 2Conv, harder to reach. Many workarounds exist but rightsholders have been particularly frustrated by search engines such as Google including the domains in their results. Following the blocking order, the BPI asked Google to remove thousands of YouTube ripper links, but this is a game of whack-a-mole; targeted sites actively fight delistings by switching to new URLs. Google Removes YouTube Rippers A few days ago, BPI and PPL broke this impasse. The groups sent a copy of the UK High Court order to Google, requesting removal of the listed domains. While Google isn’t legally obliged to comply, it did so voluntarily, albeit only in the UK. This is not the first time that the search engine has taken action based on a court order targeting a third party. Google has done the same in several other countries, including Australia, Denmark, France and the Netherlands. The BPI previously requested similar removals in the UK. These included a wide variety of sites including The Pirate Bay, but the YouTube rippers were not mentioned until last week. Deindexing from search results will make these YouTube rippers harder to find, but the game of whack-a-mole game is far from over as hundreds of other stream-rippers remain readily accessible. Legal Uses? Finally, its worth noting that while the music industry sees YouTube rippers as piracy tools, others see them as neutral services. The Electonic Frontier Foundation (EFF), for example, wrote an amicus curiae brief in support of Flvto and 2Conv when they were sued for copyright infringement in the United States. “Like a web browser, photocopy machine, or video recorder, the converters at issue in this case are neutral technologies, equally capable of lawful and infringing uses. And lawful uses abound, from saving a copy of a family member’s home video to downloading clips from a TV show as raw material for a critical commentary,” EFF wrote. These comments didn’t help the YouTube rippers in question, as they eventually lost their legal battle against the RIAA earlier this year. The New Normal Google’s voluntary domain removals are noteworthy because the company openly warned against such measures in the past. In 2015, it told the U.S. Government that whole-site removals would chill free speech and be counterproductive. “Whole site removal would simply drive piracy to new domains, legitimate sites, and social networks,” the company said at the time. The search engine’s position has clearly shifted since its earlier criticism, at least when there’s a third-party court order involved. In a recent presentation to Japanese rightsholders, Google confirmed that it will ‘generally’ remove domains based on third-party injunctions. Google Removes YouTube Rippers from UK Search Results
  21. Google seems to be safeguarding its advertising business. The company has confirmed that it will prohibit Android VPN apps on its Play store from interfering with or blocking advertising. Needless to add, this decision could help Google, but it may pose problems for some applications that need privacy and secure transmission of data. The updated Google Play policy, which outlines specific requirements for VPN services that work on Android devices, was announced last month. It will take effect on November 1. Google basically asks all VPN service providers to use the Android VPNService base class. Apps that explicitly confirm they offer VPN services and choose to use Google’s VPN API, would be allowed to open a secure device-level tunnel to a remote service. However, no VPN service should, “manipulate ads that can impact apps monetization”. In other words, VPN service providers may open a secure device-level channel for data exchange that takes place via a remote service. However, services will have to ensure that apps and services that pass through the VPN tunnel retain their communication to ad servers. The revised Terms and Conditions state that developers must declare the use of VPNservice in their apps' Google Play listing, must encrypt data from the device to the VPN endpoint, and must comply with Developer Program Policies, particularly those related to ad fraud, permissions, and malware. The majority of these conditions seem logical as they will secure a user’s data. Users will have the added reassurance that the data isn’t being used in any other way. Nonetheless, it appears Google may be prioritizing its own interests. Google claims it is taking action against apps that advertise a VPN service, but use it instead to track user data. These apps can, and often do reroute user traffic to earn money through ads. Incidentally, Apple's iOS App Store has a very similar requirement. Apple mandates VPN service providers use a specific VPN API, called NEVPNManager. The API is only available to developers who are part of an organization. Via: The Register Google will cripple Android VPN services that threaten to break advertisements
  22. To better demonstrate how much data Google is accumulating over the course of a browsing session, Dutch software developer and entrepreneur Bert Hubert created Google Teller. The browser extension makes a beep (more of a sound classic modems made when data was transferred) whenever a connection to Google is established to transfer data to the company. It may begin even before a website is loaded, if Google is the default search provider. Then, beeps may occur when a site is loaded, after a site has been loaded, or when site elements are moved over or selected. To use the extension , simply install it in Firefox, Chrome or compatible browsers, and visit sites like you normally do. Note: I could not find the extension in the Chrome Web Store. I tried various searches and it did not come up. Hubert confirmed that it is available for Chrome as well. Whenever a site or the browser makes a connection to Google to send data packets to the company, the extension is giving you an audio-cue; this happens when you type in the address or search bar, on page load, when you move the mouse over elements on a webpage, and also after the initial site load in the browser. Some sites refresh advertisement in intervals, which usually means new connections to advertising servers on the Internet. Most of the time, when you hear a beep while moving the mouse over an element on the site, it is a connection to Google Analytics that is established. Many sites use Google Analytics to track website visits, how a website is used, and website errors. Hubert notes that Google Cloud users are excluded by the extension, but that other connections to major Google sites and servers are covered by the browser extension. IP addresses were taken from an official Google support page listing them, A visit to YouTube, one of Google's main properties, creates a near endless stream of audio cues. Testing the extension on Google's own sites may be a bit unfair, but most sites that you visit during regular browsing sessions submit data to Google in one way or another. The extension does not reveal which data is submitted. Not all connections are necessary tracking related, but with each, Google gets information about the user and browser/site the connection originated from. Some sites become unusable when the extension is enabled; this is the case for YouTube, which connects to Google servers constantly. The extension has no option to exclude certain properties, which would help with that. Closing Words Google Teller is a smart extension that may be used as a wake up call for Internet users. The extension could be extended with Facebook, Amazon and Microsoft servers to highlight the involvement of these companies on the Internet. It is in need of an exceptions list and maybe a toggle to turn it on or off easily. Now You: What is your take on Google Teller? Google Teller: browser makes a noise whenever Google gets data
  23. Download your data — just in case Bad stuff happens — and occasionally, it happens to your Google account. One nightmare for those who depend on their Gmail, Google Photos, and other Google apps is to lose access to all that data. This is what happened to a father who sent photos of his child to a doctor using his Android phone and found himself suddenly without access to the years of personal data — contacts, family photos, you name it — that were in his Google accounts. There are other good reasons to have a local backup of your Google info. You may be switching jobs, or maybe you’ve decided to stop using a specific email account, or you just want a copy of all your emails just in case. Whatever your reasons, it’s not a bad idea to back up and export your Gmail and other Google accounts using Google’s Takeout feature. In fact, you can set your accounts to back up regularly, which is a good practice — especially if you’ve got several years of important stuff packed into them. Note: if you’re backing up a company account, you may find that your company has disabled Takeout. There are third-party apps that say they can back up your Gmail, but you should check your company’s policies before you try them out. How to back up your Gmail: Go to myaccount.google.com Under Privacy & personalization, click on Manage your data & privacy. Scroll down to Download or delete your data. Click on Download your data. Select “Download your data.” This will take you to the Google Takeout page. If you only want to download the data of specific accounts — just your Gmail, say — first, click on Deselect all at the top of the page and then go through the list. If you want everything, then just go ahead. Note that the first choice, Access log activity, is not automatically checked; this can slow down your download considerably, so you may want to leave it unchecked. Click on “Deselect all” if you only want to backup your Gmail. Scroll down to see all the various sources of data you’ll be downloading. It’s worth going slowly the first time and checking if you want everything — remember, the more that you ask to be downloaded, the longer it will take and the larger the file(s). You will also get format choices for many of the categories, and it’s worth checking those as well. You can, if you want, just download specific types of data, like your Gmail. Some categories will have a button reading All XX data included (“XX” being the name of the app). Click on that button to see if there are any categories that you don’t want to download — for example, you may not want a backup of all your promotional emails. You can choose to only download specific mail categories. Scroll down and click Next step. To decide how you want to receive your data, click the small arrow underneath Delivery method to see your options, including emailing a download link or adding the data to your Google Drive, Dropbox, OneDrive, or Box. (Note: if you’re concerned about losing access to your Google data, saving it to your Drive may not be the best solution.) You can also choose whether to export your data just this one time or every two months (for up to a year). You can choose the type of compression to use (.zip or .tgz) and the maximum file size. (If the file size is larger than your maximum, it will be separated into multiple files; and any files larger than 2GB will use the zip64 compression format.) After you’re done making your selections, click Create export. Here you’ll find the options for exporting your data. Your export will start, and its progress will be noted at the bottom of the Takeout page. Be prepared to wait; it might take days to finish. You can also click Cancel export or Create another export. Your export will be monitored at the bottom of the Takeout page. Update August 23rd, 2022, 4:30PM ET: This article was originally published on July 15th, 2020. The introduction, along with some of the directions and screenshots, has been updated. How to back up your Google account
  24. A Google Cloud Armor customer was hit with a distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attack over the HTTPS protocol that reached 46 million requests per second (RPS), making it the largest ever recorded of its kind. In just two minutes, the attack escalated from 100,000 RPS to a record-breaking 46 million RPS, almost 80% more than the previous record, an HTTPS DDoS of 26 million RPS that Cloudflare mitigated in June. Assault lasted 69 minutes The attack started on the morning of June 1, at 09:45 Pacific Time, and targeted the victim’s HTTP/S Load Balancer initially with just 10,000 RPS. In eight minutes, the attack intensified to 100,000 RPS and Google’s Cloud Armor Protection kicked in by generating an alert and signatures based on certain data pulled from traffic analysis. Two minutes later, the attack peaked at 46 million requests per second: HTTPS DDoS attack peaks at 46 million requests per secondsource: Google To put into perspective how massive the attack was at its peak, Google says that it was the equivalent of getting all the daily requests to Wikipedia in just 10 seconds. Luckily, the customer had already deployed the recommended rule from Cloud Armor allowing operations to run normally. The assault ended 69 minutes after it started. “Presumably the attacker likely determined they were not having the desired impact while incurring significant expenses to execute the attack,” reads a report from Google’s Emil Kiner (Senior Product Manager) and Satya Konduru (Technical Lead) The malware behind the attack has yet to be determined but the geographic distribution of the services used points to a Mēris, a botnet responsible for DDoS attacks peaking at 17.2 million RPS and 21.8 million RPS, both record-breaking at their time. Mēris is known for using unsecured proxies to send out bad traffic, in an attempt to hide the origin of the attack. Google researchers say that the attack traffic came from just 5,256 IP addresses spread in 132 countries and leveraged encrypted requests (HTTPS), indicating that the devices sending the requests have rather strong computing resources. “Although terminating the encryption was necessary to inspect the traffic and effectively mitigate the attack, the use of HTTP Pipelining required Google to complete relatively few TLS handshakes.” Another characteristic of the attack is the use of Tor exit nodes to deliver the traffic. Although close to 22% or 1,169 of the sources channeled the requests through the Tor network, they accounted for just 3% of the attack traffic. Despite this, Google researchers believe that Tor exit nodes could be used to deliver “a significant amount of unwelcome traffic to web applications and services.” Starting last year, an era of record-breaking volumetric DDoS attacks started with a few botnets leveraging a small number of powerful devices to hit various targets. In September 2021, Mēris botnet hammered Russian internet giant Yandex with an attack peaking at 21.8 million requests per second. Previously, the same botnet pushed 17.2 million RPS against a Cloudflare customer. Last November, Microsoft's Azure DDoS protection platform mitigated a massive 3.47 terabits per second attack with a packet rate of 340 million packets per second (pps) for a custmer in Asia. Another Cloudflare customer was hit with DDoS reaching 26 million RPS. Google blocks largest HTTPS DDoS attack 'reported to date'
  25. Australia's watchdog, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC), is well-known for going after companies who mislead customers or engaging in anti-competitive practices. Most recently, it fined Samsung $14 million for inaccurate claims about the waterproof nature of its Galaxy devices, filed a lawsuit against Uber for misleading fares, and also sued Meta for fraudulent crypto ads on Facebook. Today, it has slapped Google with a $60 million fine for misleading Australian customers about data collection practices. The case has been going on since October 2019, with the ACCC alleging that Google is not being sufficiently clear about its data collection practices. It highlighted that Google could still access and retain location data even if location history was disabled. This is due to location data still being collected if the "Web & App Activity" toggle is left on and then a user utilizes a Google app. In essence, both toggles had to be disabled for Google to stop collecting your location data, and the ACCC emphasized that this wasn't made clear to the end-user. Although Google had already fixed the problem in December 2018, the ACCC saw fit to retrospectively fine the company for misleading customers during the period of 2017-2018. In April 2021, the court ruled against Google saying that it did "partially" mislead its customers. Today, after much back and forth, Google and the ACCC have agreed to a $60 million penalty. ACCC Chairperson Gina Cass-Gottlieb noted that: This significant penalty imposed by the Court today sends a strong message to digital platforms and other businesses, large and small, that they must not mislead consumers about how their data is being collected and used. [...] Personal location data is sensitive and important to some consumers, and some of the users who saw the representations may have made different choices about the collection, storage and use of their location data if the misleading representations had not been made by Google. Both parties have agreed that $60 million is a "fair and reasonable" fine, and the court has agreed that the amount is also suitable to deter any future breaches in this space. Source: ACCC via The Guardian Google slapped with $60 million fine for misleading customers about data collection
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