September 22, 2018 - September 28, 2018
As Google turns 20, questions over whether it’s too powerful
Sept. 2, 2008 file photo, Google co-founders Sergey Brin, left, and
Larry Page talk during a news conference at Google Inc. headquarters in
Mountain View, Calif. (AP Photo/Paul Sakuma, File)
April 17, 2007, file photo exhibitors of the Google company work in
front of an illuminated sign at the industrial fair Hannover Messe in
Hanover, Germany. (AP Photo/Jens Meyer, File)
(AP) - Twenty years after Larry Page and
Sergey Brin set out to organize all of the internet’s information, the
search engine they named Google has morphed into a dominating force in
smartphones, online video, email, maps and much more.
success now has regulators and lawmakers around the world questioning
whether the company has become too powerful as its ubiquitous services
vacuum up sensitive information about billions of people hooked on its
engine remains entrenched as the internet’s main gateway, and its
digital advertising business is on pace to generate about $110 billion
in revenue this year. Much of that revenue now flows through Google’s
Android operating system, which powers 80 percent of the world’s
smartphones. Google also runs the biggest video site in YouTube, the
most popular web browser in Chrome, the top email service in Gmail and
the maps that most people use to get around.
Not bad for a
company that started 20 years ago Friday with an initial investment of
$100,000. Google and its sibling companies operating under the umbrella
of Alphabet Inc. are now worth $800 billion.
wouldn’t comment for this story, the company has repeatedly pointed out
that its mostly free products are so widely used because people like
often draws comparisons with Microsoft.
By 1998, the year
Google started, U.S. regulators had become so concerned about
Microsoft’s power through its Windows operating system that they had
begun to explore a forced breakup. Although Microsoft remained intact,
the multiyear battle with the U.S. government and other disputes with
European regulators hobbled and distracted Microsoft, helping to propel
the rise of Google and Apple.
Google is now
confronting the same potential fate.
“Google is in the
government’s crosshairs,” said Ken Auletta, who was given inside access
to the company while writing his 2009 book, “Googled: The End of the
World As We Know It.” ‘’This company once had a certain glow to it, but
it is losing its halo.”
Just this past
week, Google raised hackles in Congress by refusing to send Page or its
current CEO, Sundar Pichai, to a hearing on Russian manipulation of
internet services to sway U.S. elections. Congressional officials left
an empty chair while top executives from Facebook and Twitter appeared.
Offended lawmakers derided Google as “arrogant.”
Commission already has imposed fines totaling $7.8 billion after
concluding the company had unfairly used its search engine to highlight
its own services and illegally bundled together its products in Android.
Google has denied
any wrongdoing, but that hasn’t discouraged European regulators from
looking into other possible abuses. U.S. President Donald Trump and some
U.S. regulators are now raising the possibility of opening new
investigations into Google’s business and privacy practices five years
after the Federal Trade Commission decided the company was mostly
complying with the laws.
It all paints a
picture of a company that may spend the next decade fighting to protect
the empire it built during its first two decades.
September 15, 2018 - September 21, 2018
Facebook pulls security app from Apple store over privacy
file photo dated Tuesday, Aug. 21, 2018, a Facebook start page is shown
on a smartphone in Surfside, Fla. USA. The social media giant Facebook
said late Wednesday Aug. 22, 2018, it has banned a quiz app for refusing
to be audited and concerns that data on as many as 4 million users was
misused, after it found user information was shared with researchers and
companies. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee, FILE)
Kelvin Chan & Michael Liedtke
Facebook has pulled one of its own
products from Apple’s app store because it didn’t want to stop tracking
what people were doing on their iPhones. Facebook also banned a quiz app
from its social network for possible privacy intrusions on about 4
The twin developments come as
Facebook is under intense scrutiny over privacy following the Cambridge
Analytica scandal earlier this year. Allegations that the political
consultancy used personal information harvested from 87 million Facebook
accounts have dented Facebook’s reputation.
Since the scandal broke, Facebook
has investigated thousands of apps and suspended more than 400 of them
over data-sharing concerns.
The social media company said late
Wednesday that it took action against the myPersonality quiz app, saying
that its creators refused an inspection. But even as Facebook did that,
it found its own Onavo Protect security app at odds with Apple’s tighter
rules for applications.
Onavo Protect is a virtual-private
network service aimed at helping users secure their personal information
over public Wi-Fi networks. The app also alerts users when other apps
use too much data.
Since acquiring Onavo in 2013,
Facebook has used it to track what apps people were using on phones.
This surveillance helped Facebook detect trendy services, tipping off
the company to startups it might want to buy and areas it might want to
work on for upcoming features.
Facebook said in a statement that
it has “always been clear when people download Onavo about the
information that is collected and how it is used.”
But Onavo fell out of compliance
with Apple’s app-store guidelines after they were tightened two months
ago to protect the reservoir of personal information that people keep on
their iPhones and iPads.
Apple’s revised guidelines require
apps to get users’ express consent before recording and logging their
activity on a device. According to Apple, the new rules also “made it
explicitly clear that apps should not collect information about which
other apps are installed on a user’s device for the purposes of
analytics or advertising/marketing.”
Facebook will still be able to
deploy Onavo on devices powered by Google’s Android software.
Onavo’s ouster from Apple’s app
store widens the rift between two of the world’s most popular companies.
Apple CEO Tim Cook has been
outspoken in his belief that Facebook does a shoddy job of protecting
its 2.2 billion users’ privacy - something that he has framed as “a
fundamental human right.”
Cook sharpened his criticism
following the Cambridge Analytica scandal. He emphasized that Apple
would never be caught in the same situation as Facebook because it
doesn’t collect information about its customers to sell advertising.
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg fired back in a separate interview and
called Cook’s remarks “extremely glib.” Zuckerberg implied that Apple
caters primarily to rich people with a line of products that includes
the $1,000 iPhone X.
Late Wednesday, Facebook said it
moved to ban the myPersonality app after it found user information was
shared with researchers and companies “with only limited protections in
place.” The company said it would notify the app’s users that their data
may have been misused.
It said myPersonality was “mainly
active” prior to 2012. Though Facebook has tightened its rules since
then, it is only now reviewing those older apps following the Cambridge
The app was created in 2007 by
researcher David Stillwell and allowed users to take a personality
questionnaire and get feedback on the results.
“There was no misuse of personal
data,” Stillwell said in a statement, adding that “this ban appears to
be purely cosmetic.” Stillwell said users gave their consent and the
app’s data was fully anonymized before it was used for academic
research. He also rejected Facebook’s assertion that he refused to
submit to an audit. (AP)
September 8, 2018 - September 14, 2018
Samsung’s $1,000 Note 9 is great - but so is the cheaper S9
The Samsung Galaxy
Note 9 is shown in New York. For $1,000, the Galaxy Note 9 is a superb
phone that’s the best Samsung has to offer. But for a few hundred
dollars less, the Galaxy S9 offers many of the features the Note 9 is
now getting, including zippy speeds and camera improvements. (AP
Photo/Richard Drew, File)
New York (AP) - For $1,000,
the premium Galaxy Note 9 is a superb phone that showcases the best
Samsung has to offer.
It’s also the phone most of you
won’t need. That’s because you can get many of the same features in
Samsung’s Galaxy S9 for a few hundred dollars less.
The Note 9, available Friday, is
the Android smartphone for those who want the latest and the greatest.
There’s a larger battery, with a 21 percent boost over last year’s Note
8 model. The Note 9 gets 128 gigabytes of storage, double what’s in the
S9 and Apple’s iPhones. And of course, a large screen.
But there’s not much “wow” beyond
that. Smartphone innovation has slowed down in recent years. It’s more
noticeable with Samsung because the company spreads out those
innovations between two major smartphones each year. One phone
inevitably plays catch up with the other every six months.
So now we find that the Note 9 is
getting the zippy processor and cellular speeds the S9 phones first
offered earlier this year. It’s also getting the S9’s dual-aperture
camera for better low-light shots as well as its gimmicky, but
super-fun, ability to take video with super-slow motion.
And the S9 starts at just $720
through T-Mobile, and about $800 through Verizon, AT&T and Sprint. A
Plus version that’s closer in size to the Note 9 costs $840 to $930.
True, the Note 9 offers a little
more wowness. Its camera uses artificial intelligence to optimize colors
and lighting for what you’re trying to shoot, be it food, a sunset or
flowers. Many low-light shots were even better than what the S9
produced, even though both share the second aperture designed to let in
more light when needed.
Of course, you’re likely to see
this feature in the S10 in about six months.
That brings us to one of the Note’s
remaining distinctive features, its stylus. It’s useful for handwriting
notes and signing documents on the screen. Now, it can control digital
slideshows and music playback, too. The new stylus gets Bluetooth to
double as a remote control. Selfies won’t look as awkward when you don’t
have to reach for the on-screen button; just press the pen to snap the
Unfortunately, there isn’t a lot
the remote feature can do yet. It’s a promising feature - but could
remain mostly a promise if app developers don’t take advantage of it.
Many past Samsung features failed
to gain traction because app developers couldn’t be bothered to make the
tweaks needed. For instance, Air View was supposed to offer pop-up
previews just by pointing to an email and calendar entry, but it mostly
worked only with Samsung’s home-grown apps.
More recently, there’s Bixby,
Samsung’s own digital assistant. While Samsung has worked directly with
some services, including Uber and Spotify, on integrations, developers
have largely prioritized Amazon’s Alexa and the Google Assistant. It
comes down to a chicken-or-egg problem: People need to see compelling
capabilities to use a feature; developers need to see a strong base of
users to spend the time developing compelling capabilities.
The stylus remains the Note’s
signature feature, with or without extensive remote capabilities. No
doubt the new edition will appeal to die-hard Samsung fans, hard-core
gamers and on-the-go executives who are on their phones constantly and
need the battery and storage boost. Though the Note 9 uses the same
processor as the S9, it has a new cooling system designed to let you use
those faster speeds longer.
But if you’re not someone who needs
all that power, you ought to take a second look at the cheaper,
September 1, 2018 - September 7, 2018
US regulators target Facebook on discriminatory housing ads
regulators are alleging that Facebook’s advertising tools allow
landlords and real estate brokers to engage in housing discrimination.
(AP Photo/Richard Drew, File)
New York (AP) -
Federal regulators are alleging that Facebook’s advertising tools allow
landlords and real estate brokers to engage in housing discrimination.
The U.S. Department
of Housing and Urban Development said in an administrative complaint
this week that Facebook violated the Fair Housing Act because its
targeting systems allow advertisers to exclude certain audiences, such
as families with young children or disabled people, from seeing housing
“When Facebook uses
the vast amount of personal data it collects to help advertisers to
discriminate, it’s the same as slamming the door in someone’s face,” HUD
Assistant Secretary Anna Marķa Farias said in a statement Friday.
such as Facebook typically aren’t liable for the actions of their users.
In a separate, civil lawsuit filed by housing advocates, the Justice
Department says Facebook doesn’t fall under that category because it
mines user data, some of which users have to provide, and customizes ads
for specific audiences. The government says that counts as being a
content creator, rather than merely a transmitter of user content.
Facebook said the
company doesn’t allow discrimination and has strengthened its systems
over the past year to prevent misuse. The company added that it is
working directly with HUD to address its concerns. Facebook has an
opportunity to respond to the HUD complaint before the agency determines
whether to file formal charges.
The HUD action is
separate from the federal lawsuit, filed in March in New York by the
National Fair Housing Alliance and other organizations. The lawsuit says
investigations by fair housing supporters in New York, Washington, D.C.,
Miami and San Antonio, Texas, show that Facebook continues to let
advertisers discriminate even though civil rights and housing groups
have notified the company since 2016 that it is violating the federal
Fair Housing Act. It seeks unspecified damages and a court order to end
Department’s position came in a filing in that case. Facebook said it
plans to respond in court.
Privacy group tells FTC Google tracking violated 2011 order
A mobile phone displays a
user’s travels in New York. The Electronic Privacy Information Center says
in the letter to the FTC that Google’s recording of time-stamped location
data - even after users have turned off a setting called Location History -
“clearly violates” a 2011 settlement. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig, File)
Washington D.C. (AP) -
A privacy group said in a letter sent to the Federal Trade
Commission on Friday that Google has violated the terms of a 2011 settlement
because of practices exposed in an Associated Press report this week.
The Electronic Privacy
Information Center said in the letter to the FTC that Google’s recording of
time-stamped location data - even after users have turned off a setting
called Location History - “clearly violates” the 2011 settlement.
The center lobbied the
FTC to take action on Google nearly a decade ago. That helped lead to the
settlement in which Google agreed to a 20-year monitoring regime and vowed
to not misrepresent the degree to which users have control over private
Three days after the AP
story was published Monday, Google altered a help page explanation but
didn’t change its tracking.
The AP investigation
found that even with Location History turned off, Google stores user
location when, for instance, the Google Maps app is opened, or when users
conduct Google searches that aren’t related to location. Automated searches
of the local weather on some Android phones also store the phone’s
Critics say Google’s
insistence on tracking its users’ locations stems from its drive to boost
advertising revenue. It can charge advertisers more if they want to narrow
ad delivery to people who’ve visited certain locations.