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  • Geebo 8:57 am on November 3, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , Colin Stretch, , Google, , , ,   

    Are cowardly CEOs afraid to face Congress over Russia probe? 

    Are cowardly CEOs afraid to face Congress over Russia probe?

    Not pictured: Jack Dorsey, Mark Zuckerberg, and Larry Page

    This week, Congress continued its probe into alleged Russian influencers purchasing ads on the internet’s three top platforms, Facebook, Google and Twitter. Rather than appearing themselves, the CEOs of each company sent their legal counsel in their stead. Yes, that’s not unheard of for businesses to send their legal representatives to Congress, but we’re talking about these companies taking money from foreign entities that might have influenced the outcome of the 2016 election.

    While Congress by and large can be tech-illiterate, at least one Senator seemed to hammer the point home that these companies probably knew who they were taking money from. Minnesota Senator Al Franken showed everyone just how unwilling these companies are to divulge the truth.

    Senator Franken put forth a poignant argument to Facebook’s legal Counsel, Colin Stretch…

    “People are buying ads on your platform with roubles. They’re political ads. You put billions of data points together all the time. That’s what I hear that these platforms do: they’re the most sophisticated things invented by man, ever. Google has all knowledge that man has ever developed. You can’t put together roubles with a political ad and go hmm, those two data points spell out something bad?”

    Stretch replied: “Senator, it’s a signal we should have been alert to and in hindsight–”

    But Franken cut him off, asking whether Facebook would pledge not to publish a political ad paid for in North Korean won. As Stretch demurred, Franken interjected fiercely: “Please answer yes or no, sir. You’re sophisticated. You’re the chief legal counsel for Facebook. Please answer yes or no.”

    Of course, Senator Franken did not get a straight answer out of Stretch. Instead the counselor hemmed and hawed his way through a non-committal answer.

    However, the question remains, why weren’t the CEOs there to answer questions directly? What exactly are they afraid of? Perjury perhaps? Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg didn’t comment on the hearings until the day after Stretch’s testimony on an earnings call.

    “I’m dead serious,” Zuckerberg said. “I’ve directed our team to invest so much in security on top of the other investments we’re making it will significantly impact our profitability going forward.” That investment will include hiring at least 10,000 new employees to focus on security and enforcement. CFO David Wehner later clarified that many of those new jobs won’t be full time but rather contract positions at partner companies.

    “Protecting our community is more important than maximizing our profits,” Zuckerberg said.

    Which doesn’t address the problem at hand at all. Zuckerberg was then said to have handed off the remainder of the call to Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg.

    Facebook was the biggest offender in this story having served up alleged Russian ads to at least 125 million American users. Considering the entire population of the US is 323 million, that’s not a small percentage of potential voters who saw these misleading ads. That’s more than enough people to sway an election one way or the other. If protecting the community is more important than profits, why take the foreign money at all for American political ads? Facebook can claim hindsight is 20/20 all they want, but there were accusations of Russian political meddling even before these ads appeared on Facebook. So how could accepting Russian currency for American political ads not throw up a red flag?

    If you don’t think the CEOs of this company aren’t cowards, please think of this for a moment. Even Backpage CEO Carl Ferrer eventually appeared before Congress. So when the CEO of a company that reportedly makes money from the sexual slave trade in this country appears before Congress and these other CEOs don’t, it goes a long way in showing just how scared of Congress they probably are.

     
  • Geebo 9:08 am on September 29, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , Family Link, Google,   

    Google’s new parental app for Android leaves a lot to be desired 

    Google's new parental app for Android leaves a lot to be desired

    Recently, Google announced the public release of their parenting app for android devices called Family Link. For a family of Android phone and tablet users this is a welcome announcement as Android has had no built-in child safety apps until now. Unfortunately, there are still some major kinks in the system which could make the app pointless.

    In theory, once you install the Family Link app on yours and your children’s Android devices you’ll be able to see what apps they’re using, restrict control to some apps and even set a time when the device is to be shut off at night. You’re able to basically monitor your children’s devices from your own device. However, that comes with several caveats.

    The first hurdle is your children’s devices will need to be running Android Nought (7.0) or higher. That’s fairly recent and many budget Android devices are not currently running Nougat. The second and most glaring problem is that Family Link can only be set up on new Google accounts and not preexisting ones. Depending on the age of your child, this could be a deal breaker considering the email address they’ve been using for a while may be tied into that account.

    Google has valiantly tried to bring parental control to Android with this app, unfortunately it’s fallen short of its goal.

     
  • Geebo 9:00 am on September 8, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , Google,   

    When it comes to ‘Don’t be evil’, Google gives Backpage a pass 

    When it comes to 'Don't be evil', Google gives Backpage a pass

    Nicholas Kristof, of the New York Times, is one of the few nationally known journalists who has continually reported on the transgressions of Backpage when it comes to Backpage’s part in the sex trade. In one of his recent columns, Kristoff goes after an even bigger fish in the polluted waters of internet sex trafficking, Google. The Mountain View, California, search king opposes the proposed amendments to the Communications Decency Act that would remove the protections from prosecution that sites like Backpage have been hiding behind, otherwise known as the Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act.

    Kristoff claims that Google has an unfounded fear when it comes to their argument of a slippery slope with Google claiming the new amendment to the CDA could open them up to frivolous lawsuits. However, a spokesperson for the National Center for Missing and Exploited children points out the new legislation is crafted in such a way that it only applies to those sites which are directly receiving money from traffickers.

    “This bill only impacts bad-actor websites,” notes Yiota Souras, general counsel at the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children. “You don’t inadvertently traffic a child.”

    Yet the majority of Silicon Valley is opposing the Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act mostly out of fear that it will somehow affect their right to free speech, which couldn’t be further from the truth. There is no slippery slope here. There is no downside. I think what the mostly insular tech community forgets is there are actual people being trafficked and sold into sexual slavery on sites like Backpage and aren’t just faceless pixels.

    Instead of worrying about Backpage’s ‘freedom of speech’ these tech companies should be more worried about the fact that many of the women and girls being trafficked on Backpage have no freedom at all in a country that prides itself on liberty.

     
  • Geebo 10:19 am on June 30, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: antitrust, EU, Google, monopolies   

    What the EU’s fine of Google could mean for the US 

    What the EU's fine of Google could mean for the US

    Google has become a victim of its own success. Its name is so synonymous with web search that its brand has become a verb. When someone has a question you don’t say “Why don’t you Bing that?”. Just on search alone, Google possesses close to 80% of the global search engine market share. Google also boasts the most popular webmail client on the internet with their GMail. It has four times as many users as its next closest competitor, Yahoo Mail. While Google has some minor competition to its popular services, for all intents and purposes it is a virtual monopoly. So when the European Union handed down a $2.7 billion fine for violating EU antitrust regulations, you might think it was just because Google is so much bigger than everyone else and that’s sort of true. What lies deeper than that is it appears Google wants to remain the size they are, at the expense of anyone who may get in their way, no matter how small that anyone might be.

    Google is often chided for having the corporate motto of “Don’t be evil” as it has gobbled up competitive services and shut them down. Now, the EU says Google has committed another evil in trying to favor their own services over the services of other companies. Since its inception the EU has had a hardline stance against large corporations that engage in antitrust practices. They famously fined Microsoft for not offering a competing browser and media player with the Windows platform. At the heart of the matter is the belief Google gave top priority to Google Shopping in search results over competitors offering a similar price comparing service. Yet while promoting its own services Google would also allegedly remove the links of competing services claiming they violated Google’s SEO rules, the same SEO rules that are often vague and can change at a whim. Some might even say they change to however it suits Google and not the sites it indexes.

    While the EU has a reputation of combating antitrust practices, the US does not have the same viewpoint that the EU does. In the US Google is in the catbird’s seat. The US hasn’t broken up a major monopoly since it broke up AT&T into the ‘Baby Bells’ back in the 1980s. Since then the Baby Bells have all since merged back into two separate companies in Verizon and AT&T. Cable companies and Internet service providers, which are often one and the same, often have regional monopolies with no real choice for consumers, yet nothing is ever done about that. While the Federal Trade Commission has prevented some mergers from taking place in order to avoid one company having too much of the market, it hasn’t done much in the way of promoting competition, while a company like Google has basically muscled their way into a monopoly.

    We’re not saying Google doesn’t have a right to do business, it should just do business equitably. Think about it for a moment. If Google came up with a version of your business and promoted their version over your business, how long would it be before your business started feeling the pinch? With the vast resources at Google’s command, that could happen to any number of businesses and industries. Just like the banks in the 2008 financial crisis were deemed ‘too big to fail’, Google is too big to succeed without sacrificing a large number of worthy competitors.

     
  • Geebo 9:15 am on April 28, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , Google,   

    Google’s new data center aims to make internet a better experience for Cubans 

    Google's new data center aims to make internet a better experience for Cubans

    Google recently announced they have opened a data center in Cuba, being the first American company to do so. Cuba’s internet is incredibly slow compared to other Western nations. Cuba receives its internet through an underground cable provided by the government of Venezuela. The distance between the countries is roughly 1300 miles. This would roughly be the equivalent of someone living in New York having an internet service provider whose only servers were in Dallas. While Google’s new data center won’t speed up current Cuban internet, it will make some content easier to access.

    Google’s servers in Cuba will fetch information through the existing Venezuelan cable but will then store it on their servers. This will make it much easier and a little faster for Cuban internet users to access popular or viral content.

    What hasn’t been discussed is how Google is going to get along with the Cuban government. While advances in freedom have been made in Cuba in recent years, it’s still not the most democratic country in the world. Cuba’s internet is still heavily regulated by the government. Google pulled out of China after the Chinese government made incessant censorship demands. Will the Cuban government ask the same of Google and if so, will Google abandon their Cuban project if the Cuban government pressures them into acting against the people?

     
  • Geebo 10:01 am on March 23, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , AT&T, Google, ,   

    Google loses major advertisers amid hate speech controversy 

    Google loses major advertisers amid hate speech controversy

    Whether you want to admit it or not, the internet runs on advertising. Most of the sites we use that we consider free are actually built on advertising revenue from Facebook all the way down to your local news site. That’s why even an internet mammoth like Google stands up and takes notice when it loses major advertisers. In the wake of YouTube’s recent hate speech controversy where advertisers complained about their ads showing up on or near hate speech videos, both Verizon and AT&T have pulled their advertising dollars away from Google.

    While this move will cost Google hundreds of millions of dollars, AT&T and Verizon’s decision to withdraw their advertising dollars may have less to do with hate speech and may have more to do with business. Many tech insiders have speculated that this move may mean that Verizon and AT&T are looking to launch their own YouTube competitors. One could also assume that each company would give traffic priority to their own respective platforms over YouTube.

    While there are many video streaming sites and apps out there, none have captured the global imagination more than YouTube. They were the first and have remained the king of the mountain since. However, not every king stays king forever and while YouTube has shown some major flaws in recent days are Verizon and AT&T big enough names to take on YouTube as they’re basically two Davids against YouTube’s Goliath? Probably not, so even with all their flaws expect YouTube to continue to thrive.

     
  • Geebo 10:37 am on February 10, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , Google, , ,   

    Google ad for Amazon was actually link to scam site 

    Google ad for Amazon was actually link to scam site

    Many tech news sites are reporting that there was a false ad for Amazon this past week when you searched for the retail giant on Google. The ad, that would come first in the search results, did not take you to Amazon, but instead took to you to a site that tried to perpetrate a tech support scam.

    If you went to the site on a Windows computer the site would emulate the infamous blue screen of death and advise you to call a tech support number. If you were in an Apple computer you’d receive a warning that your machine had been infected by ransomware and again be given a number to call. As long as you didn’t call the number your machine would be relatively ok.

    This scam has been around for about as long as the internet has. Fictitious sites would inundate you with pop ups telling you that your computer had been infected with some kind of malware and if you call an ‘official’ tech support number your computer will be fixed. When you call the number usually a ‘technician’ would gain access to your computer remotely with your permission and would use that opportunity to root around your computer for any information worth stealing.

    The problem with this particular scam is that it was perpetrated through Google, possibly the most perceived legitimate site on the internet. Google says that the problem has fixed but still leaves users concerned since this fake ad made it through their screening purpose. In the future users may want to not click on ads on Google’s search page and instead click on the listings instead, at least for now.

     
  • Geebo 9:18 am on November 8, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , Google, , , ,   

    Get out and vote! 

    Get out and vote!

    It’s finally here. Today is election day in what is possibly the most important and controversial election in decades. While we’re not here to tell you who to vote for, we do have some information to help you along with the voting process.

    NBC News has a guide to some helpful tech tips for the election including some helpful apps and how to find your voting place with your smart phone. Speaking of technical tips, Google is claiming that they will have election results as soon as the respective polls are closed.

    In case you need a ride to the polls, ride sharing services like Uber and Lyft are offering either free or discounted rides.

    If you’re thinking about foregoing voting today because you’re afraid the election will be hacked, you can put that thought out of your head. Not only is the government on high alert for such an attack, the real threat to hacking the election is good old-fashioned misinformation and misdirection.

    Lastly, please don’t forget that if you’re in line to vote when the polls close they still have to let you vote.

    Now you have no excuses, get out and vote as every vote really does count, especially in this crucial election.

     
  • Geebo 10:08 am on October 20, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , Google, ,   

    Google to launch its own streaming service 

    Google to launch its own streaming service

    Google announced recently that they will be launching their own video streaming service in 2017 to compete with services like Netflix. Reports say that Google is already in talks with Disney, FOX, and CBS to feature their content. This is both good news and bad news for consumers.

    The good news is that Netflix could use some real competition. Once the darling of the cord-cutting movement Netflix has recently been shown not to have access to all the movies that users feel they should. So, if Google offers an alternative to Netflix, this could cause Netflix to step up its game. Competition and choice is usually good for consumers.

    On the other hand however, Google is entering into an already crowded industry and if Google has the same issues obtaining properties like Netflix does it could just be another service that cord-cutters may have to sign up for. Since not all the services have all the movies or TV shows, this could cause some cord-cutters to subscribe to Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Video, Sling TV, HBO Go and now the new Google service. Since these services cost anywhere from $9.95 to $19.95 a month, the charges for these services start to add up and start to resemble the cable bill that cord-cutters were trying to escape in the first place.

    If any one can beat Netflix at its own game it’s Google with their branding and cache. Maybe we can see a time where Google and Netflix actually become complimentary with each other so we won’t see the return of outrageous bills for our entertainment.

     
  • Geebo 9:52 am on October 14, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: fact checking, Google, Google News,   

    Google to bring fact checking to News 

    Google to bring fact checking to News

    With the advent of fake news sites, wild Facebook claims and slanted political sites, Google has decided to enter the fray. Google has added the tag ‘Fact Check’ to Google News along with the already active tags of ‘highly cited’ and ‘opinion’. Google says that they have strict guidelines in place to be considered a fact checking source. It’s almost guaranteed that someone will try to game the system however, Google has a better reputation for content moderation than someone like Facebook.

    Will it be a successful feature though? With the 2016 Presidential Election being what it is, never before have we seen more people clutch to their confirmation bias. Even if a controversial story has been vetted by Google’s fact checking process there will still be a large enough group of people who will refuse to believe the evidence to make the fact check tag irrelevant or they will accuse Google of having a bias.

    People who do actually try to fact check a story generally tend to be like-minded, not necessarily politically aligned, but having the same sense of wanting to know the truth. This group tends not to engage the groups with confirmation bias so there will still be a rather large rift between the two. That’s not to say that the fact check tag isn’t completely useless. As long as someone in our society is striving to find the impartial truth then maybe there is hope for civil discourse after all.

     
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