Google CEO and Congress Held An Eye-to-Eye Discussion

Speculation hovering around the bias pertaining in the core of Google’s operation activities have been steered clear by CEO Sundar Pichai in his audacious encounter with the Congress party on Tuesday. Contemporaneously, Pichai also cleansed the air around the company’s privacy approach, data collection vis-à-vis stressing its American roots.

Pichai’s testimony was overshadowed by the memory of his empty chair from a September hearing he skipped. It caps a year filled with setbacks and stumbles that chilled relations between tech giants and Capitol Hill. “It was necessary to convene this hearing because of the widening gap of distrust between technology companies and the American people,” House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy said, citing China, antitrust and anti-conservative bias as concerns.

Concerns about Google’s plans to re-enter China, codenamed “Dragonfly,” have upset some employees of company and members of Congress. Pichai has insisted the initiative is an experiment.

“Right now, we have no plans to launch in China,” Pichai said on Tuesday. “We don’t have a search product there. Our core mission is to provide information to users. Getting access to information is an important human right.” Google stopped providing its search engine in China in 2008 after the government demanded results be censored. But the world’s largest internet market is attractive to any global company, and a return could signal Google is prioritizing its business over human rights.

In several exchanges, Pichai described Dragonfly as an “internal effort” and said the number of employees working on it was “limited.” However, he declined to answer direct questions on whether Google staff have stopped working on the project or if he would commit to not launch a product that could be used as a surveillance tool by China.

“As an American company, we cherish the values and freedoms that have allowed us to grow and serve so many users,” Pichai said in opening remarks released by the committee on Monday. “I am proud to say we do work, and we will continue to work, with the government to keep our country safe and secure.”

He also reiterated Google’s support for a national privacy law, which could gain momentum next year, in part because diverse business groups have backed plans that would preempt California’s stringent new privacy law. Such a law would represent yet more regulation of the tech sector, after Google lost a battle earlier in the year to stop Congress from increasing internet platforms’ liability for online sex trafficking.

Pichai isn’t the first tech titan to undergo a grilling on Capital Hill. Two of his fellow CEO’s, Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook Inc and Twitter’s Dorsey already endured hours of often-hostile testimony even as trade tensions, European antitrust probes and angry tweets from President Donald Trump accusing the social media companies of silencing conservatives rattled markets.

Google’s Parent Alphabet has a plan to Eliminate Mosquitoes Worldwide

Google parent company Alphabet has its life sciences division focused on forcing a mass mosquito extinction. In the California city of Fresno, researchers are breeding and setting loose sterilized mosquitos that could help wipe out the larger population, according to a new report on the early testing of the program.

Like the buzz of an obnoxious fly, it’s a headline that’s hard to ignore, if only because it seems so strange. And sure, mosquitos are annoying. But this isn’t overkill. The bloodsucking insects are a public health issue as disease-carrying, infection-spreading pests responsible for disseminating serious and sometimes deadly illnesses such the Zika virus, malaria, and the dengue virus.

Alphabet has been moving into health and life sciences for a while, with an eye toward partnerships in wearables with companies like Fitbit but also with Verily, which it rebranded from a moonshot to a full division within Alphabet, when Google divided a number of departments amidst its 2015 rebranding.

There’s still at least one unknown in this plan: the exact role mosquitos play in the global ecosystem. It’s not a topic that’s ever been studied in great enough detail. But one thing no one will miss, in addition to those itchy bites, is the threat of a global mosquito-borne epidemic. We can do without those just fine.

Apple Eulogized Google as the Safer Haven for Data Loggers

Praising the safer platform of the Google, Apple CEO Tim Cook said that Google search engine on Sunday night, defending its billion-dollar deal with Google, underscored the humungus efforts put in by Google for safeguarding the Safari data and cloud data of the customer.

Apple that keeps Google Search a default search platform on its devices. “I think their search engine is the best. But two, look at what we’ve done with the controls. We have private web browsing, we have intelligent tracking prevention. “What we’ve tried to do is come up with ways to help our users through their course of the day. It’s not a perfect thing, but it goes a long way in helping,” Cook told the Axios technology correspondent.

Google will reportedly pay Apple a whopping $9 billion in 2018 to remain the default search engine for iPhone’s Safari browser on iOS. According to Goldman Sachs analyst Rod Hall (via Business Insider), this number would only continue to grow, potentially leading to a payment of $12 billion in 2019. Cook has opposed privacy practices of some big tech companies, like Facebook, in the past, calling them a form of “surveillance”.

When it comes to regulating the tech companies, Cook said while he is “not a big fan of regulation,” but there comes time to “admit when the free market is not working”. “I think it’s inevitable that there will be some level of regulation. I think Congress and the administration at some point will pass something,” Cook said. “This is not a matter of privacy versus profits, or privacy versus technical innovation. That’s a false choice.

“Your device has incredible intelligence about you, but as a company I don’t have to have that,” the Apple CEO added. On a question on diversity at workplace, Cook said the Silicon Valley has been open and accepting to many different people from different walks of life. “But I agree 100 per cent from a gender point of view, that the valley has missed it and tech in general has missed it,” he said.

Google changes sexual harassment policies, a week after the protest

Alphabet Inc’s Google said on Thursday it would change the way it handles sexual harassment claims, a week after 20,000 of its workers around the world walked off their jobs to protest its response to such issues.

Arbitration will become optional for individual sexual harassment and sexual assault claims, Google said, enabling lawsuits on those matters. It also said employees who fail to complete mandatory sexual harassment training will be docked in performance reviews.

“We recognise that we have not always gotten everything right in the past and we are sincerely sorry for that,” Chief Executive Officer Sundar Pichai said in a note addressed to employees. “It’s clear we need to make some changes.”

Pichai’s actions respond to a couple of the five major requests made by employees during last week’s protests. They had called on Alphabet to add an employee to its board and share gender-related pay data, neither of which Pichai addressed.

Walkout organizers applauded the progress on sexual harassment but said they would not let up on the other issues.

“They all have the same root cause, which is a concentration of power and a lack of accountability at the top, organizer and Google employee Stephanie Parker said in a press release.

“We demand a truly equitable culture,” Parker said.

Google noted its chief diversity officer would continue to lead monthly discussions with Pichai on topics of diversity and equity. The company also said it would publicly release its harassment, discrimination and retaliation policies.

Employees who organised last week’s demonstrations estimated that 20,000 workers participated across Alphabet offices in five continents. A New York Times report spurred the protests after it revealed that Google gave a $90 million exit package to a top executive in 2014 after he was accused of sexual harassment.

Pichai said on Thursday that Google would provide more details about the outcome of sexual harassment investigations, as well as improve handling of cases by allowing victims to be accompanied by a support person.

Google will investigate complaints made by its contractors against employees and require that suppliers investigate complaints against contractors, the company said.

Employees now must do sexual harassment training annually, instead of every two years currently.

In addition, the company will expect its leaders to create environments in which excessive alcohol consumption is “strongly” discouraged. “Perpetrators” had been drinking in about 20 percent of the harassment cases at Google, it said.

Google described two-drink limits or drink ticket systems as potential solutions.

“We will impose more onerous actions if problems persist,” Google said.

Google’s fight against Piracy- Progress details inside

Google revealed it is making strides in helping internet users legitimately get songs, films and apps while choking off revenue to websites with stolen digital content. A 64-page report released by Google claimed progress in the war on piracy, but also noted a new battlefront in the form of “add-on” software that can be installed on legitimate open-source media players such as the Kodi box to illicitly stream copyrighted content.

“Combating illegal streaming on open-source media players like the Kodi box shows both the challenge and the importance of a balanced approach in the fight against piracy,” Google said in the report. “Pirates have created add-ons to enable Kodi boxes to access infringing works.”

Set-top boxes with suspicious add-ons are removed from Google Shopping, while apps with pre-installed “Kodi add-ons” giving access to pirate sites are removed from the Play Store, according to the internet firm. The report cited a 2018 global study released by The Institute for Information Law that found the percentage of internet users who engage in piracy has been falling, while spending on legal content is rising.

“Successfully decreasing incidents of copyright infringement has required providing more and better legitimate alternatives to infringing content, as well as more effective tools for combating piracy,” Google said. Google boasted that it has been generating more money for those who create or own digital content while strengthening its arsenal and efforts to fight piracy.

A YouTube “Content ID” tool creates digital fingerprints of sorts of copyrighted content and then automatically detects it online, allowing owners to have it removed or monetized.

– Stopping ‘rogue’ operators –

Websites involved in piracy are “demoted” in search results and cut off from Google’s online ad platform, according to the report. “One of the most effective ways to combat rogue sites that specialize in online piracy is to cut off their money supply,” Google said.

Since 2012, Google has terminated more than 13,000 AdSense accounts and ejected more than 100,000 sites from its AdSense program for violations of policy on copyrighted material, according to the report. Meanwhile, a “Google Play” online shop for digital content bans apps that “infringe copyright, encourage illegal streaming, or attempt to deceive users by impersonating other apps.”

Google also told of taking aim at copyright-infringing ads with “considerable” resources. The California-based tech giant said that last year it rejected more than 10 million ads suspected of infringing copyrights or linking to websites that did.

According to the report, Google-owned YouTube paid more than $1.8 billion to the music industry from October 2017 to September 2018. Digital video revenues are expected to soar from $64 billion last year to $119 billion by the year 2022, while global music streaming revenues more than doubled from 2015 to 2017, according to the report.

“Don’t Barge Data for Mercenary Gains”-Microsoft Gripes over Facebook-Google Data Default

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella retorted Facebook and Google for the dismal appropriation of data by these two social media giants. Nadella notified on Monday that the company doesn’t use customers’ personal data for profit unlike some other firms.

Mr. Nadella said the company “had chosen not to squeeze the last drop of revenue from the troves of user data on its Bing search engine and the Linkedin social network, which it bought in 2016”.

LinkedIn, which Microsoft bought for $26 billion, has over 560 million users and Bing is the number 3 search engine globally.

“We don’t want to overmonetise. If anything, one of the things we’ve done is to is to make sure that the utility is maximised for the users,” Mr Nadella was quoted as saying.

Mr Nadella’s comments “draw a sharp divide between Microsoft and other large American technology companies, which have been criticised for abusing the personal information of their users”.

At a Microsoft event in London last week, Mr Nadella called on technology companies to defend users’ privacy as human right, urging firms and governments to collectively work together to protect the most vulnerable section in society.

Mr Nadella applauded the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) as first step towards securing data privacy.

“All of us will have to think about the digital experiences we create to treat privacy as a human right,” Mr Nadella was quoted as saying.

“GDPR as a piece of legislation, a piece of regulation is a great start and we’ve done a lot of hard work to become compliant with GDPR.”

Amid increasing data breaches, tech giants are busy deliberating on how to ensure privacy and security for the users.

“Customers must be in control of their data. It is our collective responsibility to keep the data safe,” the Microsoft CEO had emphasized in May.

“We have the responsibility to ensure that the new-age technology is empowering everyone, creating equitable growth for all while creating employment on the global scale.”

Location Access in Launcher- Google Rolls Out New Update

Google has launched an unprecedented update which will enable your launcher to access location notification through a strange bug, developed by Google.

The latest update of the Google app has brought along a weird bug related to location notification. Apparently, after the update of Google app to the latest version 8.39.6.21, the smartphone constantly starts showing that the location is being accessed in launcher.

This issue is reportedly affecting most launchers out there and rolling back to the previous version is a temporary fix. Even the latest beta user is reporting of the same issue, which means that Google is either not aware of the issue, or hasn’t figured out a fix yet.

After updating the Google app, several Android users have taken to Reddit to complain about the weird bug. Android Police was the first to report on the issue, and it looks like the bug affects most launchers out there. The publication ran tests on many launchers, and all of them start producing a location icon in the status bar when you tap the home button.

They tested this issue on the Nokia 7.1, OnePlus 6T ₹ 37,999, and the Pixel 3 ₹ 71,000, and found out that the similar issue persists on all of them. Users on the Pixel Launcher, stock Android One home screen, Nova, and Rootless Pixel Launcher seem to be affected. Some devices that have Android system notifications enabled also see an alert that indicates that Play Services is using your location.

The workaround for now is to roll back to the previous version, and wait for Google to roll out a fix before updating to the latest version of the Google app. Even the latest beta version 8.44.2.21 has the same issue, and some users suggest turning off location access for the Google app till the tech giant rolls out a fix. Given the software nature of the bug, the annoying issue should get fixed with an update by Google soon.

Google: Employees walkout of offices in protest against Workplace Harassment

Mass employee walkouts. Leaks about an effort to get back into China. Successful demands to stop building artificial intelligence for the Pentagon. These days, Google workers are exerting an unusual level of control over their company. But Chief Executive Officer Sundar Pichai signaled on Thursday that he’s still in charge and won’t be constantly swayed by staff uprisings.

“We don’t run the company by referendum,” Pichai said at a conference in New York on Thursday. “There are many good things about giving employees a lot of voice, out of that we have done well.”

The internal dynamics may appear chaotic to outsiders, but they’re not as intense as some have characterized them to be, he added.

Google employs more than 50,000 full-time staff, but has maintained a more transparent culture than other corporate behemoths. Employees openly debate on internal forums, and are free to speak their minds at weekly all-hands meetings where executives take questions.

On Thursday, thousands of Google employees walked out of their offices worldwide to protest the company’s handling of alleged misconduct by some executives. Last week, the newspaper reported Android creator Andy Rubin received a $90 million pay out after leaving because of a sexual harassment accusation by an employee. Google, a unit of Alphabet Inc., says it doesn’t offer payouts to people it fires for sexual harassment anymore.

The company has also gotten heat from US politicians for ending an AI contract with the US military. Pichai said Thursday that the company still works with the military on many other projects.

Google Buttresses #MeToo; Fired 48 Employees for Sexual Harassment

Google chief executive Sundar Pichai notified the media with a poker’s face that the planetary search engine is sternly taking up the issue of sexual harassment against the women employees.

The search giant has given pink slip to as many as 48 employees including 13 senior managers till now in the wake of #MeToo movement.

“None of these individuals received an exit package,” he wrote in the memo, which was co-signed by Eileen Naughton, vice president of people operations.

Auld lang syne Google had strictly dealt with the allegations of sexual misconduct against Andy Rubin, the creator of the Android mobile operating system, whom the company had awarded $90 million after he was fired in 2014.

Pichai conceded that the revelation is the latest blow to a company – and an industry – that has come under deep public scrutiny for its workplace culture.

For years, critics have argued that Silicon Valley startups are dominated by whites and males, and that the demographic dynamic subtly influences everything from minor office interactions to major product decisions.

Tech companies acknowledge that women and minorities are underrepresented in the industry: In its own diversity report, Google said this year that men account for 75 percent of the company’s leadership ranks and that roughly 93 percent are whites and Asians.

The ubiquity of men in the tech industry has given rise to a “bro-grammer” stereotype that infamously exploded into public view in 2017, when a former Uber employee said she had suffered sexual harassment on the job while the firm routinely ignored her complaints. The misconduct allegations touched off months of investigations, policy shifts and even the departure of its chief executive, Travis Kalanick.

Unlike Uber, Google now faces questions not only about a coverup, but also about why the search giant seemingly rewarded those who engaged in inappropriate behavior.

Google on Thursday reported mixed earnings, missing analysts’ revenue estimates despite beating earnings expectations. The company reported revenues of $33.7 billion for the quarter – sending the company’s stock down 5 percent after hours. The lower-than-expected revenue was due to higher costs associated with putting its search engine and other services on third-party platforms such as Apple’s iPhone, the company said.

On an analyst conference call, Pichai told investors that Google expects to roll out its technical solution in the “next few weeks” addressing European antitrust concerns over Android. Regulators had taken the company to task over Google’s practice of bundling its mobile search engine and browser with its Android app store, alleging that doing so stifled competition. Google’s solution, unveiled this month, was to allow smartphone makers to pre-install the app store separately from other apps, charging a licensing fee for each.

But despite peppering executives with numerous questions on the scrutiny Google faces internationally and at home, none of the financial analysts on Thursday’s call asked about Rubin or the company’s workplace harassment policies.