Archive for Google

Google Being Served With A $5 Billion Lawsuit That Accuses Them Of Tracking Chrome Users In Incognito Mode

Posted in Commentary with tags on June 3, 2020 by itnerd

Google is facing a massive lawsuit accusing them of tracking users in incognito mode. According to Reuters, the class action argues that Google was collecting information about what people view online and where they browse when they use Chrome’s Incognito mode. In effect, Google has been intentionally deceiving customers into believing that they have control over the information they share with the company.

Now Google says it will defend itself “vigorously’ against the claims. But they served up an interesting response:

“As we clearly state each time you open a new incognito tab, websites might be able to collect information about your browsing activity,”

This is something that I am not sure that most Google Chrome users are aware of. As in Incognito mode doesn’t fully allow you to browse with no repercussions. This Google support document speaks to what Incognito mode does and doesn’t do. If you are a Google Chrome user, I would suggest that you read this document so that you are aware that Incognito mode doesn’t keep you from having your sketchy activities discovered by anyone. And that likely includes Google itself.

BREAKING: Google Backed Sidewalk Labs Is Abandoning Plans To Build A Smart Neighborhood In Toronto

Posted in Commentary with tags on May 7, 2020 by itnerd

You might recall that a Google backed company named Sidewalk Labs was planning to build a smart neighborhood in Toronto called Quayside. Which in turn set off all sorts of privacy related alarm bells. Including from yours truly. Well, news is breaking that this project is now being abandoned:

For the last two-and-a-half years, we have been passionate about making Quayside happen — indeed, we have invested time, people, and resources in Toronto, including opening a 30-person office on the waterfront. But as unprecedented economic uncertainty has set in around the world and in the Toronto real estate market, it has become too difficult to make the 12-acre project financially viable without sacrificing core parts of the plan we had developed together with Waterfront Toronto to build a truly inclusive, sustainable community. And so, after a great deal of deliberation, we concluded that it no longer made sense to proceed with the Quayside project, and let Waterfront Toronto know yesterday.

While we won’t be pursuing this particular project, the current health emergency makes us feel even more strongly about the importance of reimagining cities for the future. I believe that the ideas we have developed over the last two-and-a-half years will represent a meaningful contribution to the work of tackling big urban problems, particularly in the areas of affordability and sustainability. This is a vital societal endeavor, and Sidewalk Labs will continue our work to contribute to it.

Now there’s no mention of any of the privacy related issues that have dogged this project. But you have to think that this factors into the decision to deep six this project. I am sure that all the facts will come out in the hours and days ahead. And when they do, you’ll see it here. But I for one am happy that this project is not proceeding as I simply don’t trust Google to manage the data that this project would generate.

PayPal/Google Pay Bug Exploited By Hackers Last Week

Posted in Commentary with tags , on February 25, 2020 by itnerd

Some potential bad news if you have a PayPal account. Hackers have found a bug in PayPal’s Google Pay integration and are now using it to carry out unauthorized transactions via PayPal accounts:

Since last Friday, users have reported seeing mysterious transactions pop up in their PayPal history as originating from their Google Pay account. Issues have been reported on numerous platforms, such as PayPal’s forums, Reddit, Twitter, and Google Pay’s Russian and German support forums. Victims reported that hackers abused Google Pay accounts to buy products using linked PayPal accounts. According to screenshots and various testimonies, most of the illegal transactions are taking place at US stores, and especially at Target stores across New York. Most of the victims appear to be German users.

Now the good news is that this was fixed over the weekend. But it illustrates the dangers of having an app or service connected to another app or service. Thus my advice is to always double and triple check every financial app or service that you use to ensure that there isn’t any sort of fraud taking place, and only link apps or services that you absolutely need to link. That way you minimize the risk being a victim of something like that.

Google Might Have Shared Your Videos With Strangers Last Year…. Yikes!

Posted in Commentary with tags on February 4, 2020 by itnerd

If you used Google Takeout to download an archive of your Google Photos content, there’s a chance that someone else may have ended up with your videos. Details via Betanews:

The company has admitted that for a few days in November last year, “some videos in Google Photos were exported to unrelated users’ archives.” This means that not only could your videos have ended up on a stranger’s computer, but also that you may have received random videos belonging to someone else. Google is not making much of the “technical issue” which it says has now been resolved. But the company apologizes for the “inconvenience” that may have been caused for people downloading their Google Photos archive between November 21 and 25, 2019.

I guess that this is a case study of the following maxim. It is safe to assume that if something is stored via a third party, especially if it is a free service, that there is a considerable risk that it becomes pubic at some point. You might want to bear that in mind if you choose to use one of these services.

 

How To Check If The New Car That You Want Has Apple CarPlay AND Android Auto Included

Posted in Commentary with tags , on January 2, 2020 by itnerd

I had a client of mine tell me a story about their hunt for a new car. In short, they went to the dealer, got the specs, test drove the car, and liked it. Then they asked if it came with Apple CarPlay. The dealer said no. They then got up and walked out of the dealership. In their case, Apple CarPlay was a critical item for them. Thus if a car didn’t have it, they weren’t interested in that car. Then they had a question for me, how can they tell up front what cars come with Apple CarPlay.

Now their reaction isn’t unique. Having Apple CarPlay and/or Android Auto is a major selling point for car buyers. And any car company that doesn’t have one, the other, or both may lose a sale. Fortunately for car buyers, this is easy to research before you go to the dealership. Both Apple and Google maintain compatibility lists which you can see via the links below:

Now if I were you, I would be looking to have both Android Auto and Apple CarPlay in your next new vehicle. Here’s why. At some point down the road (excuse the pun) you may want to go from Team Android to Team iPhone or vice versa for your next new smartphone. Thus a car that supports both is one that will cause you way less frustration as Android Auto and Apple CarPlay are far easier to use than most if not all car makers built in systems. Thus checking to see if the car that you’re interested in has both is a worthwhile investment in your time as there are car companies that only support one of these systems. Porsche for example only supports Apple CarPlay for reasons that you can read about here. No Lexus vehicle that I am aware of supports Android Auto, and only some 2019 model year vehicles support Apple CarPlay. My last example comes from sister brand Toyota. A small number of 2019 model year vehicles and a larger number of model year 2020 vehicles support CarPlay. But only a small number of 2020 Toyota vehicles support Android Auto. Thus you need to do your homework before going to the dealer.

Finally, one last piece of advice that I would have is once you choose your vehicle, which is to make sure the dealer sets up your phone and walks you through how everything works. This is something that I strongly feel that this should be a given when you buy a car these days. But I hate to say that it isn’t. In many cases they do nothing other than pair your phone via Bluetooth and that’s it. So if that happens to you, you do have another option. Both Apple and Google have tutorials that can get you started with either of their systems. I’d peruse those to help you use both these systems in your shiny new car.

Google Bought Fitbit For $2.1 Billion…. Here’s Why

Posted in Commentary with tags , on November 1, 2019 by itnerd

A few minutes ago, it was announced that Google had bought struggling wearables maker Fitbit for $2.1 billion.

Now this is great for Fitbit because they were bleeding cash like a drive by shooting victim in Compton CA. So it is clear why they would agree to be bought by Google. But why would Google buy them? I see a couple of reasons:

  • Google wants the data that Fitbit has: Fitbit was first to the wearables market and has a pile of data that Google would be very, VERY interested in. A lot of that data was acquired via deals with insurance companies to bundle Fitbit products in with customer health offerings. That’s something that Google can easily monetize.
  • Google needs help with Android Wear: Let’s face it, Android Wear is an afterthought. If you want proof of that, just go to any shopping mall or subway station and count the number of people wearing Apple Watches. Then count the number of Samsung wearables. Followed by the number of Fitbit products and finally Android Wear products. I suspect that you’ll see that Apple Watches will dominate what you see by a country mile, followed by Fitbit products. Samsung products may pop up now and again, and you MAY see a Google product. But likely not. If Google wants to make Android Wear a player in the wearables space, they need Fitbit to do it as clearly if Google could have done this in house, they would have done it already. Thus buying Fitbit makes sense as their expertise could help them immeasurably.

I am going to go out on a limb guess that a bunch of execs at 1 Apple Park are sending emails to their staff as we speak as they may actually have to deal with competition in the wearables market for the first time.

This should be fun.

 

So What Did Google Announce Today?

Posted in Commentary with tags on October 15, 2019 by itnerd

Google had an event called Made by Google event in New York today and they made a bunch of announcements. Here’s the highlights:

Pixel 4The new Pixel 4 and 4 XL were announced today. You can pre-order a Pixel 4 for $799 USD and Pixel 4 XL for $899 USD, and phones will ship on October 24, globally. The Pixel 4 and Pixel 4 XL feature 5.7- and 6.3-inch OLED 90Hz “Smooth Displays.” The Pixel 4 comes with a 2,800mAh battery while the 4 XL has a 3,700mAh capacity. They use the Snapdragon 855 processors, have 6GB or RAM, and have 64 or 128GB storage. They support face unlocking. And it has a new Motion Sense feature that uses a miniature radar sensor to detect movement around the phone to turn off alarms and the like.

Pixel Buds 2The latest attempt in terms of coming up with an AirPods killer comes in the form of the Pixel Buds 2. They are truly wireless unlike the first Pixel Buds and they’ll supposedly going to fit well and securely in most ears. Pixel Buds will be available for $179 USD in spring 2020 in four colors.

Pixelbook Go: Google’s latest ChromeBook comes in the form of the Pixelbook Go. It has a 13″ screen, 8th-generation Intel Core processors, up to 16GB RAM, up to 256GB flash storage, up to 12 hours of battery life, a backlight keyboard with soft typing, two USB-C ports, and a headphone jack. It’s 13mm thick and weighs just over two pounds. Expect to fork out $879 USD and up for one. You can preorder today in North America.

Stadia: Google also gave a firm launch date of November 19 for its Stadia gaming service.

Nest Mini and Nest Wifi: Finally Google unveiled the Nest Mini. Key features include stronger bass and faster response times. There’s also the Nest Wifi router with two times the speed and up to 25 percent better coverage. You can pick up the Nest Mini for $49 USD. As for the Nest WiFi, you can get a two pack with one router and one point for $269 USD or a three pack with one router and two points for $349 USD. 

If you want to watch the full announcement, here’s the video: 

 

Google Under Antitrust Investigation By All 50 US States

Posted in Commentary with tags on September 9, 2019 by itnerd

US States rarely agree on anything. But they apparently agree on an antitrust investigation of Google. For those of you keeping score at home, that’s a higher number of states investigating Google versus the number investigating Facebook. Here’s the details from CNBC:

Fifty attorneys general are joining an investigation into Google over possible antitrust violations, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, the initiative’s leader, announced Monday.

The news confirms reports last week about the bipartisan investigation into Google’s practices. The probe includes attorneys general from 48 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico. California and Alabama are not involved in the probe, Paxton said at a press conference.

Other attorneys general at the media conference emphasized Google’s dominance in the ad market and use of consumer data.

“When there is no longer a free market or competition, this increases prices, even when something is marketed as free, and harms consumers,” said Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody, a Republican. “Is something really free if we are increasingly giving over our privacy information? Is something really free if online ad prices go up based on one company’s control?”

This is a big problem for Google as an investigation that is this big involving this many states has to mean that it’s not if but when they find something to hang Google on. I guess  we’ll find out soon if that’s true or not.

Apple Calls Out Google’s Project Zero Claims Regarding Security Vulnerabilities in iOS [UPDATED]

Posted in Commentary with tags , on September 6, 2019 by itnerd

Back in the day, Steve Jobs declared “thermonuclear war” on Google. It now seems that we may be headed back to those days. I say that because you might recall that Google’s Project Zero put out a statement on zero day attacks that targeted iOS that they found. I then posted a story that said that not only were the attacks aimed at the Uighur minority in China, and likely done by China, but Google failed to mention that the attacks covered Android and Windows as well.

Now Apple has decided to return fire as only Apple can. The company issued a press release that says among other things this:

First, the sophisticated attack was narrowly focused, not a broad-based exploit of iPhones “en masse” as described. The attack affected fewer than a dozen websites that focus on content related to the Uighur community. Regardless of the scale of the attack, we take the safety and security of all users extremely seriously.

Google’s post, issued six months after iOS patches were released, creates the false impression of “mass exploitation” to “monitor the private activities of entire populations in real time,” stoking fear among all iPhone users that their devices had been compromised. This was never the case.

Second, all evidence indicates that these website attacks were only operational for a brief period, roughly two months, not “two years” as Google implies. We fixed the vulnerabilities in question in February — working extremely quickly to resolve the issue just 10 days after we learned about it. When Google approached us, we were already in the process of fixing the exploited bugs.

The more that this story goes on, the worse that Google looks. It will be interesting to see if Google responds to this as they’ve pretty much been called out and if they don’t respond, the reputation of Project Zero will be in tatters and un-repairable.

Over to you Google.

UPDATE: Google shot back via The Verge saying that it stands by its statement. Game on Apple.

More Trouble For Google As US States Team Up To Investigate It Over Possible Antitrust Violations

Posted in Commentary with tags on September 4, 2019 by itnerd

It seems that more than half the states in the USA are about to team up to launch an antitrust investigation. At least that’s what the Washington Post is reporting:

More than half of the nation’s state attorneys general are readying an investigation into Google for potential antitrust violations, scheduled to be announced next week, marking a major escalation in U.S. regulators’ efforts to probe Silicon Valley’s largest companies.

A smaller group of these state officials, representing the broader coalition, is expected to unveil the investigation at a Monday news conference in Washington, according to three people familiar with the matter who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss a law enforcement proceeding on the record, cautioning the plans could change.

It is unclear whether some or all of the attorneys general also plan to open or announce additional probes into other tech giants, including Amazon and Facebook, which have faced similar U.S. antitrust scrutiny. The states’ effort is expected to be bipartisan and could include more than 30 attorneys general, one of the people said.

This is big trouble for Google as if they are deemed to be doing bad things on the antitrust front, things will get ugly. Just ask Microsoft when they ran into issues on the antitrust front. You have bet that there’s a bunch of execs at Google who are sweating buckets right now as this is far from a trivial development for the company.