‘Google for Jobs’ is here to make it a lot easier for companies and workers to find each other

Image: Shutterstock / Julia Tim

Google wants to play matchmaker, but for job seekers and talent hunters.

Google announced on Wednesday a new job-oriented search tool that will use the company’s advanced “machine learning” technology to provide personalized results.

It’s not just for people. Google teased the new tool as a good way for candidates to find jobs, but also for companies to find the right people.

The new tool will be integrated into Google’s existing search engine and is meant to use contextual details like location to help surface relevant job listings at the top of searches.

“Through a new initiative, Google for Jobs, we hope to connect companies with potential employees, and help job seekers find new opportunities,” Google CEO Sundar Pichai wrote in a blog post. “As part of this effort, we will be launching a new feature in Search in the coming weeks that helps people look for jobs across experience and wage levelsincluding jobs that have traditionally been much harder to search for and classify, like service and retail jobs.”

Pichai announced the new feature during Google’s I/O presentation, where it teased a variety of its newest tools.

“Google for Jobs,” as Google is calling it, isn’t available just yet but will be out in the coming weeks.

The tool would seem to be an immediate threat to job boards like Monster and professional networks like LinkedIn, which is now owned by Microsoft. That made it all the more surprising that LinkedIn and Monster worked with Google on the tool.

Pichai said that Google for Jobs is part of the company’s broader commitment in using its technology to help people. It’s also a familiar challenge, considering many people start their job hunt with a Google search.

Read more: http://mashable.com/2017/05/17/google-for-jobs-new-search-tool/


Simplify your email inbox (and life) with these easy tricks

"Oh hell yeah, an email from Bob!"
Image: Getty

We’ve all been there. Missing that one important email because your inbox is cluttered with garbage.

But it doesn’t have to be that way.

Thankfully, there are numerous tricks you can use to make sure that you see the emails you want to see, when you want to see them. While the specifics of your digital streamlining will vary depending on your email provider of choice, that’s OK! We’re here to break it all down for you, nice and easy like.


Google’s Gmail offers up numerous options to flag important incoming emails, and even employs one of them by default. The default flag is called an “importance marker,” and it’s slapped on an email after Google’s fancy algorithms have used a variety of factors to determine that it’s worth giving a damn about.

Those factors include, but are not limited to, practical considerations like “who you email, and how often you email them,” “which emails you open,” and “which emails you reply to.”

If Google does decide an email is worthy of an importance marker, you’ll see what looks like a little rightward-facing arrow in your inbox pointing to the message in question. If you only want to see emails marked in this way, search “is:important” in your inbox search bar.

But what if this default option isn’t a good fit? What if Gmail’s importance markers miss your actually important stuff and only serve to confuse you?

That’s totally cool, because there are more tools in the Gmail toolshed.

Such a special email.

Image: Stephen Lam/Getty Images

Your first step after deciding to ditch importance markers should be to disable the feature. You can do this by logging into your account (via browser) and clicking on the gear icon in the upper-right corner. Next, select “settings” and then click “inbox.” Scroll down to “importance markers” and select “no markers.”

That’s it. You’re free of Google deciding what emails you should read, and, conversely, what you should ignore.

The magic of filters

That means it’s time to set up your own filters. The obvious one it to mark specific people as being really important: Your boss, your partner, your best friend, or your lawyer are people whose emails you wouldn’t want to miss.

The steps to mark specific senders as important are relatively straightforward. First, type the person’s email address in your browser search bar. After you search for them, select the “more” drop-down menu then choose “create filter.” The next part looks tricky, but if you’ve made it this far into this story you can definitely manage. Make sure the important email address is in the “from” field, and then select “create filter with this search.”

The next screen gives you the option to have Gmail star future message from that sender, mark them as important, or to make sure those messages stay out of the spam folder. For truly important people, we recommend you check all three.

Image: mashable/gmail

Don’t forget to hit “create filter,” and you’re done.

Easy, right? Now you’ll never miss another vital email in your Gmail account (jk you totally still will every now and then, but that’s because you’re a human being).

Outlook Mail

Microsoft makes it easy to designate emails as deserving of special attention, and goes one step further by allowing you to automatically pin messages to the top of your inbox.

That’s right, whenever that email from your mom comes in it will stay front and center.

To turn on auto-pin, search for an email from said mom (she’s bound to have sent you at least one) and, once you have it open, click on the “more commands” ellipsis in the toolbar. Next, choose “create rule” and make sure the condition for “it was received from” is both selected and has your mom’s name in it. Then, remove any conditions that don’t apply and then click the “move the message to folder” drop-down menu. After selecting “pin the message,” don’t forget to hit “OK” in the upper-left hand corner.

You have now mastered the Outlook Mail pin.

To designate a specific sender as important you can follow the same pinning steps up until the last part, and instead of selecting “pin the message” just choose the “mark the message” “with importance” option.

Boom. Easy. Kinda.

Yahoo! Mail

The first, and perhaps most important step you should take when using Yahoo! Mail is to stop using Yahoo! Mail (we only sort of kid). If you like the interface for whatever reason, or just don’t want to give up that totally sick “yournamecool@yahoo.com” handle then there are some measures you can take to prioritize messages from the all stars in your life.

Run, don’t walk, away from your Yahoo! Mail account.

Image: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Start things off by creating a new folder in your inbox and titling it something like “Boss Baby.” Next, make sure emails from any important people are automatically sent to that folder.

It’s simple enough to do: Open an email from one of your very Boss Baby-like friends or colleagues and select the “more” drop-down menu.

Now, click on “filter emails like this.” The “from” field should include the address of your special person (you can add more than one address in the field), and, when you’ve added all the appropriate email addresses, choose your folder labeled “Boss Baby” from the “then move the message to this folder” drop-down tab. Lastly, click “save” and you’re good to go!

You still have a Yahoo! Mail account, but at least it’s modestly organized now.

The ugly truth

The reality of email these days is that even with the above steps, stuff you actually give a hoot about is still going to get lost in the mix. With that in mind, the best approach is might actually be to have multiple email accounts (I have five that I use regularly, and several other throwaways).

It sounds like a pain, but it’s not really. Almost everyone reading this likely has at least two different email accounts (work and personal) already. Try breaking out your personal accounts into themed groups. One account could be tied to all your social media accounts, a second tied to your friends, family, and banking, and yet another for any service or list that you need to sign up for. Then, within each account, go ahead and follow the steps outlined earlier in this piece.

This approach will take you a while to set up, but it is oh so sweet when you have it dialed in. And when you finally do, you can rest easy knowing that no notification from Facebook will ever again drown out that email from Grandma.

Read more: http://mashable.com/2017/05/07/email-tricks-simplify-inbox-utility/

Alphabets Verily offers a more serious take on health monitoring wearables with the Study Watch

Designed with long-term medical research in mind, the Study Watch has a vastly different set of hardware requirements than your standard smartwatch. The device was designed by Verily, the V in Googles Alphabet, which is devoted to serious medical studies like MS observation and contact lenses capable of monitoring wearers glucose level.

The Study Watch will likewise be tasked with some important research, gathering vital signs for ongoing work like the Personalized Parkinsons Project, which is investigating patterns in the diseases progression and identifyingthe building blocks for a potential cure.

The unassuming wearable will also be used for Baseline, a previously announced study dating back to 2014, which is designed to track the long-term vitals of 175 individuals, in an attempt to build the fullest picture of what a healthy human being should be.

Google was the target of some online criticism when it referred to that project as a moonshot, a term the company has traditionally reserved for wild-eyed projectslike self-driving cars and internet-delivering weather balloons. But while it doesnt possess the glitz of those undertakings, it does point to the broader mission statement of Verily, to collect and organize health data, then creating interventions and platforms that put insights derived from that health data to use for more holistic care management.

The Study Watch, accordingly, doesnt possess the pizzazz of Googles consumer electronics offerings, but from the sound of the companys rundown, its built to be a workhorse. And the fact that it looks and acts like a standard wristwatch goes a ways toward making the data collection process less obtrusive than more traditionalvital-gathering devices. And honestly, its not bad looking.

The device sports a heavy-lifting process designed for real-time algorithmic computations. Its also got a slew of sensors for collecting a lot more data that your standard heart-rate monitoring smartwatch.

Multiple physiological and environmental sensors are designed to measure relevant signals for studies spanning cardiovascular, movement disorders, and other areas, says Verily in a post announcing the device. Examples include electrocardiogram (ECG), heart rate, electrodermal activity, and inertial movements.

Battery life is also key here, as the device is meant to be worn for long stretches. Verilysays its able to get a week on the device, thanks to what looks to be an e-ink-style always-on display. Theres also lot of on-board storage, so users dont have to sync the device too often, which ought to help with the aforementioned unobtrusiveness.

The official announcement of the device is pretty perfectly timed, arriving a day after rumors surfaced suggesting that Apple is getting more seriously into healthcare with a secret project designed to monitor glucose levels in diabetic patients.

Read more: https://techcrunch.com/2017/04/14/verily-health-watch/

Googles parental control software Family Link hits iOS

In March, Google introduced its own parental control software for parents of kids with Android devices called Family Link but there was a bit of a catch. In order for the system to work, it required that both parent and child use Android. That has now changed, as the parents app for configuring and monitoring the childs device usage has just arrived on iOS devices.

That means mom or dad can be an iPhone user, but still manage their childs screen time, daily usage limits, set bedtimes and more, for their kids who useAndroid.

This launch expands the reach of Family Link dramatically, given that iOS has grown to capture 42 percent of the smartphone market here in the U.S., where Family Link is currently available.

The parental control platform is still in testing. When Google unveiled the software last month, it explained that parents would first have to request an invite to join the program. The idea is that Google wants to first work out the kinks and get feedback from early adopters before making Family Link more broadly available.

As for the software itself, Family Link lets parents set some basic limits on how their child can use their Android phone. It offers tools that allow parents to either block or approve app downloads similar totheiCloud Family Sharing Ask feature on Apple devices or block apps that are already installed.

In addition, parents can track how much time kids are spending in which apps through weekly and monthly activity reports, remotely lock the childs device on a set schedule (device bedtimes), and configure daily screen timelimits.

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The iOS version, released on Thursday, doesnt appear to have any new features compared with its Android counterpart it simply ports the parental control app to Apples platform.

There are a few other caveats to be aware of if you want to try Family Link, however. It still requires the child has an Android devicerunning Nougat (7.0) or higher, or has one of a handful of supported Marshmallow devices. (A listof those is availableon the Family Link FAQ page.)

Of course, you should also be aware that this is an early preview of the software, and there could still be bugs to contend with here.

Family Link for iOS works on devices running iOS 9 or higher and is a free download on the App Store.

Read more: https://techcrunch.com/2017/04/14/googles-parental-control-software-family-link-hits-ios/

Journalism faces a crisis worldwide we might be entering a new dark age | Margaret Simons

Almost anyone can use the worldwide web to be a media outlet, so how will we differentiate between truth, myth and lies?

Australias two largest legacy media organisations recently announced big cuts to their journalistic staff. Many editorial positions, perhaps up to 120, will disappear at Fairfax Media, publisher of The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald, and News Corporation announced the sacking of most of its photographers and editorial production staff.

Both announcements were accompanied by corporate spin voicing a continuing commitment to quality journalism. Nobody in the know believes it. This is the latest local lurch in a crisis that is engulfing journalism worldwide.

Now, partly thanks to Donald Trump, many more people are turning their mind to the future of news, including fake news and its opposite.

How, in the future, are we to know the difference between truth, myth and lies?

Almost too late, there is a new concern for the virtues of the traditional newsroom, and what good journalists do. That is, find things out, verify the facts and publish them in outlets which, despite famous stuff-ups, can generally be relied upon to provide the best available version of the truth.

As this weeks announcements make clear, the newsrooms that have traditionally provided most original journalism are radically shrinking.

News media for most of the last century appeared to be one relatively simple business. Gather an audience by providing content, including news. Sell the attention of the audience to advertisers.

The internet and its applications have brought that business undone. As any householder can attest, the audience no longer assembles in the same concentrations. The family no longer gathers around the news on television. Most homes have multiple screens and news is absorbed as it happens.

Appointment television is nearly dead, at least for those under 50.

At the same time, technology has torn apart the two businesses advertising and news that used to be bound together by the physical artefact of the newspaper. Once, those who wanted to find a house, a job or a car had to buy a newspaper to read the classifieds. Now, it is cheaper and more efficient to advertise and search online, without needing to pay a single journalist.

Publishers and broadcasters have moved online, but the advertising model fails. Ads on websites earn a fraction of the amount that used to be charged for the equivalent in a newspaper or during a program break.

All this is last centurys news but over the past five years the landscape has shifted again because of the dominance of Google (which also owns YouTube) and Facebook. These social media engines have quickly become the worlds most powerful publishers. Besides them, Murdoch looks puny. Yet Google and Facebook dont employ journalists. They serve advertisements and news to the audience members on the basis of what they know about their interests.

For advertisers, its all gravy. Why pay for a display ad in a newspaper when you can have your material delivered direct to the social media feeds of people who you know are likely to be interested in buying your product?

It is now estimated that of every dollar spent on advertising in the western world, 90 cents ends up in the pockets of Google and Facebook.

Today, just about anyone with an internet connection and a social media account has the capacity to publish news and views to the world. This is new in human history.

The last great innovation in communications technology, the printing press, helped bring about the enlightenment of the 1500s and 1600s.

The optimists among us thought the worldwide web and its applications might lead to a new enlightenment but as has become increasingly clear, the reverse is also possible. We might be entering a new dark age.

Fake news isnt new. The place of Barack Obamas birth was about as verifiable as a fact gets with the primary document, his birth certificate, published online. But the mere publication of a fact did not stop a large proportion of US citizens from believing the myth that he was born overseas.

It is very hard to say how many Australian journalists have left the profession over the last 10 years.

This is partly because the nature of journalistic work has changed. Many now work aggregating or producing digital content, never leaving their desks.

Institutions such as universities and NGOs are now producing journalistic content, published online, but the people employed to do this task rarely show up in the figures compiled by unions and the Australian Bureau of Statistics, because their employers are not classified as media organisations.

Nevertheless, the big newsrooms have shrunk beyond recognition. This weeks announcements were the latest in a 15-year trend. In 2013, industry commentators estimated that more than 3000 Australian journalists had lost their jobs in the previous five years. Since then, there have been further deep cuts, and last weeks announcements were merely the latest. In the US, it is estimated that 15 per cent of journalistic jobs disappeared between 2005 and 2009, and the cuts havent paused since then.

At the same time, and offsetting this, there are new participants in the Australian media. We now have online local versions of the British Daily Mail, the youth-oriented news and entertainment outlet Buzzfeed, the New York Times, (which has just launched) and the Huffington Post, which operates in partnership with Fairfax. Not least, there is this outlet an Australian edition of the Guardian.

There are also many small, specialist outlets that exist because the economics of online publishing beat the cost of buying broadcasting licences or printing on bits of dead tree, trucking the papers around the nation and throwing them over the fences.

For the same reasons, almost any large organisation can, if it chooses, use the worldwide web to be a media outlet though whether the output classes as journalism or public relations is another matter.

Most of the new entrants to the business employ only a few local journalists. The reputable ones struggle to perform miracles each hour with hardly any reporters.

So what does the future hold?

I think it is clear we will have many more smaller newsrooms in the future including new entrants, non-media organisations touting their wares and the wasted remains of the old businesses.

Some of these newsrooms will operate on the slippery slopes that lie between news, advocacy and advertising.

Some of them will be the fake news factories, devoted to earning an income from spreading clickable, outrageous lies.

If it were only the decline of businesses, we would not need to worry so much. It is rare in history for those who have profited from one technology to go on to dominate the next. Cobb and Co ran the stagecoaches, but not the steam trains.

The Fairfax Media building in Sydney. Big newsrooms everhywhere have shrunk beyond recognition. Photograph: Paul Miller/AAP

But it is more serious than the decline of private businesses.

The future is far from clear, but here are some things we can expect to see delivered more quickly than we might think.

First, social media companies will begin to invest in quality content, because otherwise they will lose their audiences.

This is not merely wishful thinking. In China, WeChat, owned by Tencent Corporation, is the dominant social media engine and has functionality that makes Facebook and Twitter look old-fashioned. If you want to know whats coming next in social media, look to China.

As I found on a recent research trip to China, WeChat is investing a lot of money in original journalism. Many of the most interesting journalists in China including some who have been jailed in the past for their work are now earning better salaries than those available on party media outlets by freelancing for Tencent, which actively supports and encourages them in multiple ways.

Its counterintuitive, given Chinas record on freedom of speech, but then the country is changing so fast and is so complex that preconceptions can only be challenged. China might have begun by copying the social media activity of the west, but it has long since outstripped it.

Not that the future dominance of Tencent-like operations is entirely reassuring. WeChat is also a cashless payment system, earning money from transactions. It knows absolutely everything about its users, to a much greater extent than Facebook and Google. It surpasses all previous means of citizen surveillance.

Second, governments will have to take some responsibility for news and information. In Europe and Canada, they are experimenting with methods of helping bolster journalism.

Meanwhile, international research confirms that countries blessed with a strong tradition of publicly funded media are more cohesive, better informed and less polarised. Our own ABC is one of the main reasons we can hope that the trajectory of our democracy will be better than that of the United States.

Lastly, there are citizens. The experience of the last decade tells us that citizen-journalism cannot replace the work done by properly resourced and trained professionals, but it will be a permanent part of the news ecology.

For the foreseeable future, we will be only a few minutes and clicks away from a citizen leaking information, publishing a bare account of a news event or providing a subversive point of view.

In fact, being a responsible consumer, funder and purveyor of news and information is now best understood as one of the many duties of good citizenship. If we can hold firm to that notion, we will come through the crisis.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/media/2017/apr/15/journalism-faces-a-crisis-worldwide-we-might-be-entering-a-new-dark-age

Googles AutoDraw uses machine learning to help you draw like a pro

Drawing isnt for everyone. I, for one, am definitely not very good at it. But with AutoDraw, Google is launching a new experiment today that uses machine learning algorithms to match your doodles with professional drawings to make you look like you know what youre doing.

You can use AutoDraw on your phone or desktop and the experience is pretty straightforward. You simply start drawing your best version of a pizza, or house, ordog, or birthday cake and the algorithms try to figure out what it is that youre trying to draw. It then tries to match your squiggles with drawings in its database, and if it finds any possible matches, itll show them in a list at the top of your virtual canvas. If you like one of those options, you simply click on it and AutoDraw replaces your amateurish creation with something a bit slicker.

Artists who want to donate their drawings to the project can do that here, by the way.

This project actually uses the same technology as Googles QuickDraw experiment.QuickDraw is more of a game, though, where youre trying to draw a given object and hope that the AI algorithms recognize it within 20 seconds. With AutoDraw, you getmore freedom to experiment, and, while you could read all about it here, its probably best you head over to AutoDraw.com and give it a try.

Read more: https://techcrunch.com/2017/04/11/googles-autodraw-uses-machine-learning-to-help-you-draw-like-a-pro/

Teenagers think Google is cool, study by Google finds

The company funded Its Lit: A guide to what teens think is cool, which found that it was more cool than Vice, Nike and Facebook

Todays teenagers think Google and Google brands are cool, research funded by Google has found.

Google published Its Lit: A guide to what teens think is cool, a magazine compiling the results of its research into Generation Z, characterised as those aged from 13 to 17.

The Google-funded research found Generation Z relied on brands to shape their world, and that Google was the third-most cool. Cool was defined by the researchers as unique, impressive, interesting, amazing, or awesome.

YouTube, which Google owns, came out at number one ahead of Netflix. Googles web browser Chrome placed tenth, in front of Nike.

Heraclitus (@DreamboatSlim)

This is good. Google has conducted a piece of research which concludes that teens consider a web browser cooler than Nike pic.twitter.com/ZtCH3Wl6gH

April 3, 2017

1,100 teenagers aged 13-17 were asked to rank 122 brands by coolness and awareness.

YouTube, Google and Netflix ranked highly by both.

Luke Bailey (@imbadatlife)

Also, fan of the fact about 40 teens looked someone straight in the eye and said, “Google? Never heard of it.” pic.twitter.com/JoYnyJSjnb

April 3, 2017

According to the surveyed teens, McDonalds, Yahoo and Facebook Messenger were high-profile but not cool.

Doritos and Oreo were cool.

Vice was not cool.

Overall, the least cool brands were TMZ, the Wall Street Journal, Sprint and Yahoo. Respondents were least aware of Uniqlo, Patagonia and Supreme.

Mike Bird (@Birdyword)

Of hundreds of brands Google asked teens about, they ranked the WSJ least cool. Well kids, the bond market doesn’t think you’re cool either pic.twitter.com/667VlxxK7K

April 3, 2017

But those surveyed for the Google study were united in their appreciation of Google, with Millennials describing it as serious and functional and Generation Z finding it more fun and functional.

A 17-year-old woman in suburban Florida was quoted as saying that Google was not only a powerful search engine, but great at everything it does, from email to documents.

Teens love learning and knowing was researchers conclusion.

The study stated that 42.2% of Generation Z respondents used its social network Google Plus, putting it ahead of Twitter (35.4%) and Pinterest (26.6%) and only a little over 10% behind Facebook.

But the finding betrays the fact that a Google Plus account comes part and parcel with use of its other services such as Gmail. An independent study in 2015 suggested fewer than 1% of Googles 2.2bn users were active on Google Plus.

Responding to the research on social media, many expressed scepticism as to its validity.

This study is a great piece of native advertising for Google services, tweeted one technology commentator.

Many write-ups of the report referenced Steve Buscemis appearance on 30 Rock, now a popular meme: How do you do, fellow kids?

Maya Kosoff (@mekosoff)

“how do you do, fellow kids?” – google https://t.co/OpKspXg9vH pic.twitter.com/o11ee59OG4

April 3, 2017

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2017/apr/04/teenagers-think-google-is-cool-study-by-google-finds

Google’s Mars data center and weather control system are just a couple of its best April Fools’ Day pranks

Image: google

April Fools’ Day is the only “fake news” day that’s almost welcome. Almost. And one of the longstanding masters of the tech prank, Google, is at it again with a fresh batch of trickery.

This year, the jokes are more obviously fake this time around in what appears to be an effort to avoid anyone actually thinking these products actually exist.

Nevertheless, some of these products would be kind of cool, despite how wildly impractical they are.

Here’s the running list of what Google’s “rolled out” today so far:

Google Gnome

Although the name rhymes with the very real Google Home, this imagined Google digital assistant is instead designed to sit outdoors and help you out with all matters related to weekend backyard lounging and the occasional bit of garden work.

Delivering information bits about weather, edible plant life and a surprisingly dark array of opinions, Google Gnome is what Google Home would be like if it showed up in an episode of Black Mirror helpful, but just a tad too ominous with its robot apocalypse leanings.

Haptic Helpers

The quickest way to get a tech-centric laugh nowadays is to show some idiot fumbling around while blinded by yet another new VR headset. But Google smartly goes in another direction and actually addresses an issue that has yet to be solved in virtual reality: haptics.

Haptic Helpers actually brings human Google workers into your home to assist you with your VR experience by providing you with all of the other sensory input that you can’t otherwise get on current VR Systems. From smell, to taste, and even touch, Haptic Helpers show us the next best solution for full VR immersion until we actually have holodeck-level sensory input.

Google Wind

Stepping up the April Fools’ Day game to a new level, Google’s team in the Netherlands came up with an imaginary system called Google Wind that links the country’s 1,170 windmills together using “machine learning [that] enables all the mills to collaborate.” Once those windmills are linked, they are able to literally blow clouds out of the sky to allow the country to have more sun-filled days.

Somehow, as ridiculous as this one looks, it’s reminiscent of the very real weather modification initiatives that have been documented in years past. Nevertheless, the special effects showing people being blown away by the power of the windmill mechanisms adds just the right amount of whimsy to let you know that Google is in fact just playing around with yet another wild “what if” idea.

Google Puchi Puchi Keyboard

Also getting in on the international prank fun is Google Japan, whose team came up with perhaps the most ingenious fake gadget in a keyboard made of bubble wrap. The Puchi Puchi keyboard (in Japanese, “puchi puchi” translates as bubble wrap), allows the user to simultaneously enjoy the feeling of popping those tiny plastic bubbles included in packing materials while typing out a message.

Once the message has been popped out, a Puchi Puchi reader rolls over the popped material to decipher the message. Yes, this is stupid. But for some reason, I actually want this. They even added a special version of the Puchi Puchi Keyboard that releases pleasant fragrances when you pop the bubbles, including air from places like Hawaii.

Someone please actually make this.

Google Cloud on Mars

Definitely one of the biggest pranks on the list is Google’s claim that it is launching a data center on Mars in 2018. The data center, named “Ziggy Stardust,” is designed as an off-world backup in case Earth experiences some sort of catastrophe.

Image: google

“By opening a dedicated extraterrestrial cloud region, we’re bringing the power of Googles compute, network, and storage to the rest of the solar system, unlocking a plethora of possibilities for astronomy research, exploration of Martian natural resources and interplanetary life sciences,” reads the very long and detailed blog post accompanying the April Fools’ gag.

They even went as far as creating a data center location on Google Maps that you can explore.

And while this may be a joke now, it’s not unrealistic to imagine a very real Google data center on Mars in the decades ahead as companies like SpaceX work to colonize the red planet.

Google Maps Ms. Pac-Man

Finally, Google updated an old Google maps twist from 2015 by re-introducing its Pac-Man Google Maps game. In the current updated version on Android and iOS, you play Ms. Pac-Man using a map from anywhere in the world.


It’s obvious why Google decided to rehash this one, it’s incredibly addictive and deserves another look. Find your own neighborhood and try playing “just one” game and putting it down.

So far, this looks like all the April Fools’ Day weirdness Google has up its collective sleeve, but well keep our eyes open out for any new ones and add them as we find them.

WATCH: 4 tech tips to epically prank your friends on April Fools’ Day

Read more: http://mashable.com/2017/04/01/google-april-fools-day-pranks/

Social media firms facing fresh political pressure after London terror attack

Yesterday U.K. government ministers once again called for social media companies to do more to combat terrorism. There should be no place for terrorists to hide, saidHome Secretary Amber Rudd, speaking on the BBCs Andrew Marr program.

Ruddscomments followed the terrorist attack in London last week, in which lone attacker Khalid Masood drove a car into pedestrians walking over Westminster bridge beforestabbinga policeman to death outside Parliament.

Pressreportsof the police investigation have suggested Masood used the WhatsApp messaging app minutes before commencing the attack last Wednesday.

We need to make sure that organisations like WhatsApp, and there are plenty of others like that, dont provide a secret place for terrorists to communicate with each other, Rudd told Marr.It used to be that people would steam open envelopes or just listen in on phones when they wanted to find out what people were doing, legally, through warranty.

But on this situation we need to make sure that our intelligence services have the ability to get into situations like encrypted WhatsApp.

Rudds comments echo an earlier statement,made in January 2015,by then Prime Minister David Cameron, who argued there should not be any means of communication that in extremis cannot be read by the intelligence agencies.

Cameronscomments followed theJanuary 2015 terror attacks in Paris in which Islamic extremist gunmen killedstaff oftheCharlie Hebdo satirical magazine and shoppersat a Jewish supermarket.

Safe to say, its become standard procedure for politicians to point the finger of blame at technology companies when a terror attack occurs most obviously as this allows governments to spread the blame for counterterrorismfailures.

Facebook, for instance, wascriticized aftera 2014 reportby the U.K. Intelligence and Security Committee into the 2013 killing of solider Lee Rigby by two extremists who had very much been on the intelligence services radar. Yet the Parliamentary ISC concluded the only decisive possibility for preventing the attack required the internet companyto have proactively identified and reported the threat a suggestion thateffectively outsources responsibility forcounterterrorism to the commercial sector.

Writing in a national newspaperyesterday, Ruddalso called for social media companies to do more totackle terrorism online.We need the help of social media companies: the Googles, the Twitters, the Facebooks, of this world, she wrote. And the smaller ones, too platforms like Telegram, WordPress and Justpaste.it.

Ruddalso saidGoogle, Facebook and Twitter hadbeen summoned to a meeting to discuss action over extremism, as well assuggesting the government is considering including new proposals to make internet giants take down hate videos quicker in a forthcoming counterterrorism strategy which would appear to mirror a push in Germany. The government there proposed a new law earlier this monthto requiresocial media firms to remove illegal hate speech faster.

So, whatever else it is, a terror attack isa politically opportune moment for governmentsto apply massivelyvisible public pressure onto a sector known for engineering workarounds to extant regulation as a power play totry to eke out greater cooperation going forward.

And U.S. tech platformgiantshave long been under the public counterterrorism cosh in the U.K. with the then-head of intelligence agency GCHQ arguing, back in 2014, that their platforms had become the command-and-control networks of choice for terrorists and criminals, andcalling for anew deal between democratic governments and the technology companies in the area of protecting our citizens.

They cannot get away with saying

As is typically the case when governments talk about encryption, Rudds comments to Marr are contradictory so on the one hand shes making the apparently timeless call for tech firms to break encryption and backdoor their services. Yet when pressed on the specifics she also appears to claim shes not calling for that at all, telling Marr: We dont want to open up, we dont want to go into the cloud and do all sorts of things like that, but we do want [technology companies] to recognise that they have a responsibility to engage with government, to engage with law enforcement agencies when there is a terroristsituation.

We would do it all through the carefully thought through, legally covered arrangements. But they cannot get away with saying we are in a different situation they are not.

So, really, the core of her demandis closerco-operation between tech firms and government. And the not so subtle subtext is: wed prefer you didnt useend-to-end encryption by default.

After all, what better way to workaround e2e encryption than to pressure companies not to proactively push its use in the first place (So even if one potential targets messages are robustlyencrypted, the agencies could hope to find one of their contacts whose messages are still accessible.)

A keyfactor informing this political power playis undoubtedly the huge popularity of some of the technology services being targeted. Messaging app WhatsApp has more than a billion active users, for example.

Banning popular tech services would not only likely betechnically futile, but any attempt to outlaw mainstream networks would be tantamount to political suicide hence governments feeling the need to wage a hearts and minds PR war every time theres another terrorist outrage. The mission is to try to puttech firmson the back foot by turning public opinion againstthem. (Oftentimes, a goalaided and abetted by sections of the mainstream U.K. media, it must be said.)

In recent years, some tech companies with very large user-bases have also been shown to make high-profile stances championing user privacy which inexorable sets them on a collisioncourse with governments national security priorities.

Consider how Apple and WhatsApp have recently challenged law enforcement authorities demands to weaken their security system and/or access encrypteddata, for instance.

Apple most visibly in the case of the San Bernardino terrorists locked iPhone where the Cupertino company resisted a demand by the FBI that it write a new version of its OS to weaken the security of the device so it could be unlocked. (In the event, the FBI paid a third-party organization for a hacking tool that apparently enabled it to unlock the device.)

WhileWhatsApp aside from the fact the messaging gianthas rolled out end-to-end encryption across its entire platform, thereby vastly lowering the barrier to entry to the tech for mainstream consumers has continued resisting police demands for encrypted data, such as in Brazil, where the service has been blocked several times as a result, on judges orders.

Meanwhile, in the U.K., the legislative push in recent years has been to expand the investigatorycapabilities of domesticintelligence agencies with counterterrorism the broad-brush justification for this push tonormalize mass surveillance.

The current government rubber-stampedthe hugely controversial Investigatory Powers Act at the back end of last year which puts intrusive powers that had been used previously, without necessarily being avowed to Parliament and authorized via an antiquated legislative patchwork, on a firmer legal footing including cementing a series of so-called bulk (i.e. non-targeted) powers at the heart of the U.K. surveillance state, such asthe ability to hack into multiple devices/services under a singlewarrant.

So the really big irony of Rudds comments is that the government has already afforded itself swingeing investigatorypowers evenincluding the ability to require companies to decrypt data, limit the use of end-to-end encryption and backdoor serviceson warranted request. (And that before you even consider how muchintel can profitably be gleaned by intelligence agencies looking atmetadata which end-to-end encryption does not lock behind an impenetrable wall.)

Which begs the question why Rudd isseeminglyasking tech companies for something her government has already legislated to be able to demand.

stop this stuff even being put up

Part of this mightbe down tointelligence agencies being worried thatits getting harder (and/or more resource intensive) for them to prioritizesubjects of interestbecause the more widespread use of end-to-end encryption means they cant aseasily access and read messages of potential suspects. Instead they might have to directly hack an individuals device, for instance, which they have legal powers to do should they obtain the necessary warrant.

And its undoubtedly true that agenciesuse of bulk collection methods means they are systematically amassing more and more data, which needs to be sifted through to identify possible targets.

So the U.K. government mightbe testing the waterto make a fresh case on the agencies behalf to push forquashing the rise ofe2e encryption. (And its clear that at least some sections of the Conservative party do not have the faintest idea of howencryption works.) But, well, good luck with that!

Either way, this is certainlya PR war. And perhaps most likely one in which the U.K. government isjockeying for position toslapsocial media companies with additional extremist-countering measures, as Rudd has hinted are in the works.

Something that, while controversial,is likely to be less sothan trying to ban certain popular apps outright, or forcibly outlaw the use ofend-to-end encryption.

On taking action against extremist content online, Ruddtold Marrthe best people to solve the problem arethose who understand the technology, who understand the necessary hashtags to stop this stuff even being put up. Which suggests the government is considering asking for more preemptive screening and blocking of content. Ergo,some form of keyword censoring.

One possiblescenario might be that when a usertriesto post a tweet containinga blacklisted keyword theyareblocked from doing so until theoffending keyword is removed.

Security researcher, and former Facebook employee, Alec Muffettwasted no time branding thishashtag concept chilling censorship

Butmainstream users might well be a lot more supportive of proactive and visible action to try to suppress the spread of extremist material online (however misguided such an approach might be). The fact Rudd is even talking in these terms suggests the government thinks its a PR battle theycould win.

We reached out to Google, Facebook and Twitter to ask for a response to Ruddscomments. Google declined to comment, and Twitter had not responded to ourquestionsat the time of writing.

Facebook provided a WhatsApp statement, in whicha spokesperson saidthecompanyis horrified by the attack carried out in London earlier this week and are cooperating with law enforcement as they continue their investigations. But they did not immediatelyprovide a Facebook-specific response to being summoned by the U.K. government for discussions about tackling online extremism.

The companyhas recently been facing renewedcriticism in the U.K. for how it handles complaints relating to child safety,as well asongoing concerns in multiple countries about how fake news spreads across its platform. On the latter issue,its been working with third-party fact-checking organizations to flag disputed content in certain regions. While on the issue of illegal hate speech in Germany, Facebookhas said it is increasing the number of people working on reviewing content in the country, andclaims to be committed to working with the government and our partners to address this societal issue.

It seems highlylikely the social media giantwill soon have a fresh set of political demandson its plate. And that humanitarian manifestoFacebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg penned in February, in which he publicly grappledwith some of the societal concernsthe platform is sparking, is already looking in need of an update.

Read more: https://techcrunch.com/2017/03/27/social-media-firms-facing-fresh-political-pressure-after-london-terror-attack/

12 ways to hack-proof your smartphone

Protect your privacy, data and peace of mind with this guide to beating thieves, whether theyre online or on the street

As weve recently seen from leaked CIA documents, no one is immune to hacking attacks. Heres how to protect yourself against them, whether they come from opportunist thieves or state-sponsored spies.

1. Keep up to date and dont open up holes yourself

When it comes to protecting yourself against hackers, step one is always to install software updates as soon as they become available: thats as true on smartphones as it is on computers. Yes, updating can be a tiresome and intrusive process, and it sometimes brings annoying changes to the interface that youre used to. All the same, a huge proportion of successfulhacks exploit vulnerabilities that have already been patched; exposing yourself unnecessarily is justdaft.

Id also strongly advise against using unofficial tools to root your phone (known as jailbreaking on iOS), unless you know exactly what youre doing. On a rooted phone, technical safeguards can be defeated, allowing apps to perform all sorts of actions that are normally prohibited and that can include snooping on your personaldata.

2. Be careful of what you install

When you install a smartphone app, you may be asked to grant it various permissions, including the ability to read your files, access your camera or listen in to your microphone. There are legitimate uses for these capabilities, but theyre potentially open to abuse: think before you approve the request. That applies especially to Android users, as Googles app-vetting process isnt as strict as Apples, and there have been reports of malicious apps spending months on the Play Store before being spotted and taken down.

Android also lets you install apps from third-party sources: this allows services such as Amazons competing Appstore to operate, but it also provides an easy way for rogue apps to get onto your phone. Id strongly advise against installing anything from an unfamiliar website.

3. Review whats already on your phone

Even if the apps on your phone seemed simple and safe when you installed them, subsequent updates could have turned them into something more sinister. Take two minutes to review all the apps on your smartphone, and see which permissions theyre using: on iOS, youll find lots of relevant information under Settings > Privacy.

On Android, its harder to get an overview of which apps have which permissions, but there are plenty of security apps that help here, including free packages from Avast and McAfee. These tools can also jump in and alert you if youre trying to install an app thats known to be malicious, and warn you if a phishing attack is trying to trick you into entering a password into an untrusted app orwebpage.

4. Make it hard for intruders to get in

If a thief gets physical access to your phone, they can cause all sorts of trouble. For a start, your email app probably contains a trove of personal information. Make sure your phone is locked when not in use: both Android and iOS can be set to require a six-digit passcode. Your device may offer other options too, like fingerprints or facial recognition. Such methods arent perfect a really determined hacker could copy your fingerprints from a drinking glass, or trick a camera with a photograph of you but theyre a lot better than nothing.

And be wary of smart unlock features, which automatically unlock your phone when youre at home, or when your smartwatch is near; these could let a thief bypass your unlock code altogether.

5. Be prepared to track and lock your phone

Plan ahead, so even if your phone is stolen, you know your data is safe. One option is to set your phone to automatically erase itself after a certain number of incorrect attempts to enter the passcode.

If that seems a bit drastic, dont forget that both Apple and Google operate find my device services that can locate your phone on a map, and remotely lock or erase it. For Apple users, this is accessed through the iCloud website you can check its enabled on the phone in Settings > iCloud > Find My iPhone. Android users can access Googles service at google.co.uk/android/devicemanager. You can also make a missing phone ring helpful for drawing attention to the thief, or tracking down a handsetthatsbeen merely mislaid.

6. Dont leave online services unlocked

Auto-login is a very convenient feature, especially since a virtual keyboard can make typing passwords a chore. Its also a huge liability: an intruder simply needs to open your browser to gain access to all your online accounts.

Ideally, therefore, you shouldnt use auto-login features at all. If you must, use a password manager app that requires you to regularly re-enter a master password. And dont use the same password for more than one app or service: if that one password gets found out, it can be used to access a whole range of private information. This applies even if youre perfectly scrupulous about keeping your smartphone secure: hackers regularly break into online services to steal user credentials, which they then try out on other sites.

7. Adopt an alter ego

If youve followed this advice so far, it should be very difficult for anyone to get into your phone. However, some major hacks have been pulled off without any access to the victim at all. If someone can find out (for example) your date of birth, home town and mothers maiden name all stuff that can be easily picked up from a site like Facebook thats often all they need to reset a password and start breaking into your accounts. You can see off such attacks by fictionalising your past with details that are unlikely to be guessed; perhaps, for the purposes of security, you were born in 1999 to MrsVictoriaBeckham, ne Adams.Just remember what you claimed, or you could end up locking yourself out.

Personal information can easily be gleaned from sites such as Facebook.

8. Beware open wifi

We all know theres a risk involved in using an open wireless network. But you may not realise how severe it is: anyone in the vicinity can snoop on what youre doing online. This sort of attack demands specialist software and skills, so its unlikely to be a hazard in your local cafe, but its not a danger that can be ignored.

If youre at all doubtful about a wireless network, dont connect stick with your phones mobile internet connection. Or use a VPN tool such as CyberGhost or TunnelBear (both available free for Android and iOS). These tools route your traffic through a private encrypted channel, so even if someone is monitoring your traffic they wont be able to see what youre up to.

9. Dont let lockscreen notifications give the game away

Lots of apps pop up messages and notifications on your phones lockscreen. Its worth thinking about what these notifications may reveal. If you work for a big banking company, for example, a visible email from a work colleague or a meeting remindertells a thief that this might be a particularly interesting phone tosteal.

On iOS, also consider disabling access to Siri from the lockscreen. Siri isnt supposed to give away personal information before you enter your passcode to unlock the iPhone, but past hacks have let intruders use Siri to unlock the device, access details of contacts and view photos. Its safest to shut the feature off entirely: youll find the option under Settings > Touch ID & Passcode > Disable Siri on theLockscreen.

10. Lock individual apps

A strong passcode helps keep thieves out of your phone, but what if a stranger snatches your phone while youre using it? Or asks to borrow it to check a website, then bolts off down the street?

On Android, as a second line of defence, you can lock individual apps, so even if someone can get past your lockscreen, they cant open your email or banking app without a second password. This capability isnt built into the OS, but there are plenty of free apps that provide it, such as AVG AntiVirus Free. iOS users cant directly lock individual apps, but check out Folder Lock free on the App Store which can password-protect your documents and folders, reducing the amount of information a thief canaccess.

11. Get a warning when your phone goes walkies

If youre on the fence about investing in a smartwatch, heres a little-known feature that could swing it: Apple Watch and Android Wear devices can warn you immediately if they lose Bluetooth contact with your phone. If you get this notification while youre in a public place, theres a good chance someones just picked your pocket, and is currently making off with yourphone.

The device will normally be less than 50 metres away when the connection drops, so the warning gives you a chance to ring the phone right away, hopefully drawing attention to the thief and prompting them to jettison it. Failing that, you can lock it before the culprit has a chance to starttryingtobreak in and steal yourdata.

12. Keep an eye on things behind the scenes

No matter how cautious you are, you cant completely eradicate the danger of your phone being hacked not unless you refuse to install any apps or visit any websites. What you can do is supplement your on-device security measures with an online service. LogDog available for both Android and iOS is an app that monitors your identity on sites such as Gmail, Dropbox and Facebook. It alerts you to suspicious activity, such as logins from unfamiliar places, giving you a chance to step in and change your credentials before serious harm can be done. As a bonus, LogDog will also scan your email and highlight messages containing sensitive data such as credit card details and passwords, which you can then purge to ensure they dont fall into the wrong hands.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2017/mar/26/12-ways-to-hack-proof-your-smartphone-privacy-data-thieves

Hopping rockets and flying washing machines in Google’s wacky race to moon

Five competitors remain in a $20m Google contest to land a probe on the lunar surface by the end of the year, but all their craft are untested, rudimentary, or look like R2-D2

By the end of the year, space engineers hope to fulfil one of their greatest dreams. They plan to land a privately funded probe on the moon and send a small robot craft trundling over the lunar surface. If they succeed they will open up the exploitation of the moon for mining and ultimately human colonisation and earn $20m prize money as winners of the Google Lunar XPrize.

Out of the 29 companies that originally entered the competition, only five remain in contention. Each has until the end of 2017, the XPrize deadline, to launch its robot mission.

It is an extraordinarily ambitious task. To date, not a single piece of any competitors hardware has flown outside Earths atmosphere, while two of the rockets earmarked to send craft to the moon have still to undergo test launches. As a result, many observers now wonder if anyone will win the Google XPrize given its tight timetable.

Naveen Jain, co-founder of Moon Express one of the five remaining competitors is bullish, however. We have tested our lander. We have tried out all our hardware and software and we have raised all the money we need to complete the mission. We are very confident.

The rules for the Google XPrize are straightforward. The winning robot craft must be the first to land on the moon and must then travel 500 metres over the lunar surface while sending back high-resolution images to Earth. At the same time, at least 90% of the mission must be commercially funded.

The first team to succeed in this undertaking will win $20m, with further bonuses on offer. For example, a spacecraft that not only lands successfully but also survives a lunar night which lasts for two Earth weeks when temperatures drop to minus 173 degrees will win an extra prize of several million dollars.

The aim of the exercise is to incentivise space entrepreneurs to create a new era of affordable access to the moon and beyond, say the organisers. It was set up 10 years ago, attracting considerable interest from aerospace investors. Most would-be competitors have since dropped out as the technical hurdles of the mission have proved too onerous. The five now left are:

TeamIndus of India. Set up by dotcom entrepreneur Rahul Narayan, this outfit is backed by a several major Indian businesses.

Hakuto of Japan, which has developed its own four-wheel rover for trundling over the lunar surface

Israels SpaceIL. It has received substantial backing from American casino magnate Sheldon Adelson and it wants to create an Apollo moment when it lands, thus inspiring the young to pursue careers in science and engineering.

Synergy Moon, an international concern with individuals from 15 countries, which will use a Neptune 8 rocket, built and launched by Interorbital Systems, to carry a lander and at least one rover to the moon.

Moon Express. Funded by Naveen Jain, the founder of dotcom search giant InfoSpace, it has set its sights on mining the moon for minerals and is the only competitor yet to receive permission from the US Federal Aviation Administration to land a craft on the lunar surface.

Most of the challengers have invested sums up to $60m to develop their technology though several have to finalise this funding. The benefits of taking part in the competition were nevertheless clear, said the Astronomer Royal, Martin Rees. Challenge prizes like these are very good ideas. They have played major roles in developing driverless cars and the development of private launch systems like Richard Bransons Virgin Galactic and they could do the same for roboticised space missions.

In future, said Rees, humanity would depend more and more on robot craft to assemble telescopes and to build orbiting solar power plants and to operate mines on asteroids. Such operations are not likely to be in use for many decades, but challenges like these definitely help to get things moving.

It remains to be seen if any of the missions make it to the moon by the end of the year. All are rudimentary in concept, are largely untested and employ a wide variety of technologies. Moon Express will not use a rover to cross the lunar surface, for example. It will employ the crafts rocket engines to hop across it. Similarly, its craft will be launched on a Rocket Lab electron launcher, from New Zealand, while Synergy Moons rocket will blast off from an ocean launch pad. This wide variety of approaches has left some bemused observers viewing the competition as a lunar Wacky Races.

For his part, Moon Expresss chief executive Bob Richards acknowledged that its lander did look a bit like a flying washing machine. Actually it looks more like R2-D2. But it will work, he insisted.

However, one awkward task that faced past lunar efforts returning to Earth will not be a problem that will affect these competitors. Yes, they will have to overcome the headaches of launching a spacecraft from Earth and they will have to land it gently on the moon, a world that lacks atmosphere and thus precludes the use of parachutes. However, there is no requirement in the Google XPrize regulations for competitors to bring their craft back to Earth. They will be left on the lunar surface as possible visiting sights for future tourists.

That does make things a little easier, said Rees. Returning to Earth was the real nail-biting part of the Apollo missions. At least competitors wont have to worry about that.

As to follow-up missions, competitors are also divided. SpaceIL says that if it wins the XPrize, the money will be invested not on further space missions but into educational grants. By contrast, Moon Express has pledged that regardless of winning the prize or not it intends to embark on a long-term strategy of mining on the moon. This effort is just the start, said Richards. We see a real future up there.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/science/2017/mar/26/google-xprize-wacky-race-to-the-moon

‘I cant trust YouTube any more’: creators speak out in Google advertising row

Inconsistencies behind the companys ability to police advertising on controversial content are coming to light

Googles decision-making process over which YouTube videos are deemed advertiser friendly faces scrutiny from both brands and creators, highlighting once again the challenge of large-scale moderation.

The company last week pledged to change its advertising policies after several big brands pulled their budgets from YouTube following an investigation that revealed their ads were shown alongside extremist content, such as videos promoting terrorism or antisemitism.

Havas, the worlds sixth largest advertising and marketing company, pulled all of its UK clients ads, including O2, BBC and Dominos Pizza, from Google and YouTube on Friday, following similar moves from the UK government, the Guardian, Transport for London and LOreal.

Google responded with a blog post promising to update its ad policies, stating that with 400 hours of video uploaded to YouTube each minute we dont always get it right.

However, the inconsistencies behind the companys ability to police advertising on controversial content are coming to light and its not just advertisers who are complaining. Some YouTube creators argue their videos are being unfairly and inconsistently demonetized by the platform, cutting off their source of income that comes from the revenue share on ads placed on videos.

Matan Uziel runs a YouTube channel called Real Women, Real Stories that features interviews with women about hardship, including sex trafficking, abuse and racism. The videos are not graphic, and Uziel relied on the advertising revenue to fund their production. However, after a year, Google has pulled the plug.

Its a nightmare, he said. I cant trust YouTube any more.

Its staggering because YouTube has a CEO [Susan Wojcicki] who is a feminist and a big champion for gender equality, he said, pointing out that there were other far more extreme videos such as those promoting anorexia and self-harm that continued to be monetized. He also referenced PewDiePies videos featuring antisemitic jokes that were allowed on the platform for months.

Its bad that YouTube attempts to censor this very important topic and is not putting its efforts into censoring white supremacy, antisemitism, Islamophobia, racism, jihadists and stuff like that, Uziel said.

He wants Google to be more open about how exactly they moderate content. I want them to be transparent about what they think to be advertiser friendly, he said.

Google currently uses a mixture of automated screening and human moderation to police its video sharing platform and to ensure that ads are only placed against appropriate content. Videos considered not advertiser-friendly include those that are sexually suggestive, violent, contain foul language, promote drug use or deal with controversial topics such as war, political conflict and natural disasters.

Transgender activist Quinby Stewart agrees there needs to be more transparency. He complained after YouTube demonetized a video about disordered eating habits. I definitely dont think the video was even close to the least advertiser-friendly content Ive posted, he said.

QueerBean (@QuinbyStewart)

lmao of course the first video i had marked as not advertiser-friendly was the one about my disordered eating habits pic.twitter.com/UObYPe4fmM

March 20, 2017

He complained to the platform and the company has since approved the video for monetization.

YouTubes policy is just very vague, which makes sense because I think demonetization needs to be handled on a case-by-case basis. Their policies seem more reasonable when you ask a human to check it, but the algorithm that catches videos originally is really unfair, he said.

Sarah T Roberts, an information studies professor from UCLA who studies large-scale moderation of online platforms, said that large technology companies need to be more honest about their shortcomings when it comes to policing content.

Im not sure they fully apprehend the extent to which this is a social issue and not just a technical one, she said.

Companies such as Google and Facebook need to carefully think through their cultural values and then make sure they are applied consistently, taking into account local laws and social norms. Roberts said the drive to blame either humans or algorithms for decisions was based on a false dichotomy as human values are embedded into the algorithms. The truth is they are both engaged in almost every case, she said.

The fact that it is now hitting Googles bottom line should be a wake-up call. Now its financial and is going to hit them where it hurts. That should create some kind of impetus.

The Guardian asked Google for more clarification over how the moderation process works, but the company did not respond.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2017/mar/21/youtube-google-advertising-policies-controversial-content

Google’s bad week: YouTube loses millions as advertising row reaches US

Major brands including Verizon and Walmart pulled their ads after they were found to be appearing next to videos promoting extremist views or hate speech

Its been a bad week for Google, with major brands pulling millions of dollars in advertising amid rows over extremist content on YouTube.

In the US, the telecom companies AT&T and Verizon, as well as the pharmaceutical company GSK, Pepsi, Walmart, Johnson & Johnson and the car rental firm Enterprise, have all pulled advertising from Googles video-sharing platform, a contagion spreading from Europe, where a number of high-profile advertisers pulled out of YouTube following an investigation by the Times.

Major brands content was found to be appearing next to videos promoting extremist views or hate speech, with a cut of the advertising spend going to the creators.

Verizons ads were featured alongside videos made by Egyptian cleric Wagdi Ghoneim, who was banned from the US over extremism, and the hate preacher Hanif Qureshi, whose preachings were said to have inspired the murder of a politician in Pakistan.

We are deeply concerned that our ads may have appeared alongside YouTube content promoting terrorism and hate, an AT&T spokesman said in a statement. Until Google can ensure this wont happen again, we are removing our ads from Googles non-search platforms.

Following the exodus of some of its high-profile advertisers, Google has publicly apologized and pledged to give brands more control over where their ads appear.

This marks a turning point for YouTube. For the first time, its dealing not only with reputation damage but revenue damage, said Alex Krasodomski-Jones, a researcher at the thinktank Demos.

YouTube might purport to be a video-sharing service, but as with Googles search engine and Facebooks social network, the platform is really about one thing: advertising. So when theres a problem with advertising like this, its a big problem, Krasodomski-Jones said.

The row highlights an uncomfortable fact about advertising in a digital age: most brands dont know exactly where their online advertising is running. Black box machines are now largely responsible for the placement of ads online, using complex trading systems that try to get the right message in front of the right person at the right time for the the cheapest possible price. This process is called programmatic advertising. When an ad appears against a piece of content, its not always clear whether its been shown based on a persons previous browsing behavior, interests, or demographic data or because the brand is affiliated with a particular content creator, such as a YouTube star.

There has always been good placements of ads and bad placements of ads and media buying companies have always prided themselves on trying to get the context right, said Charlie Crowe, chairman of the media and marketing publisher C Squared. The difference in the online world is that its all done by an algorithm. The human element is taken out of the equation, so there are problems.

Programmatic advertising has been largely fraudulent since its inception, and there are many companies in the marketplace including Google to have made vast profits out of the naivety of the advertisers, who havent really known what theyve been buying.

The dispute adds weight to demands for companies such as Google to take more responsibility for what is on their websites, as Facebook was forced to do in the wake of the fake news scandal.

YouTube already provides brand safety controls for advertisers, allowing them to pick what types of videos they are happy to be associated with based on keywords. The platform also advises creators about the types of videos not considered advertiser friendly, including content thats sexually suggestive, violent or dealing with a controversial subject matter. However, with 400 hours of video uploaded to the platform each minute, its a challenge to keep unpalatable content completely quarantined from paying customers.

Fifteen minutes of browsing YouTube by the Guardian was enough to find T-Mobile ads on videos about abortion, Minecraft banners on videos about snorting cocaine and pre-roll ads for Novartis heart medication running on clips titled Feminism is cancer.

They need to get better at the management of what is brand-safe and what isnt, said Gabe Winslow, of the digital marketing agency Ansira.

Advertisers and agencies also have a responsibility to audit their campaigns to ensure that their ads appear in the desired location, he said.

This squabble is indicative of growing tensions between the advertising industry and technology companies such as Google and Facebook, which have become indispensable partners and, in some cases, competitors.

Silicon Valley technology companies completely dominate the online advertising market. According to a 2016 study, Facebook and Google accounted for 90% of the growth in the online advertising industry. All other online media companies are competing for the scraps.

The more powerful they become at the expense of traditional media companies, the harder it has become for advertisers to negotiate favourable terms. The current YouTube boycott offers some leverage for demanding better, independently verified data and controls.

Theres increasing resentment among agencies and publishers [towards Google] thats difficult to talk about given its sheer power, Crowe said. This issue has given them a sense of schadenfreude.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2017/mar/25/google-youtube-advertising-extremist-content-att-verizon

Google Maps lets you record your parking location, time left at the meter

Google Maps has just added a handy feature that will help users remember where they parked. This appears as a new menu option when you tap the blue dot, and will place a P icon on the map so you can find your way back to your spot. While remembering your parking locationis something Apple Maps has done since the launch of iOS 10, Googles implementation is a bit more robust.

With iOS 10, Apple Maps will mark the location of your car with a pin when you disconnect your iPhone from Bluetooth or CarPlay. You also can edit the location of the vehicle in the map and add a note or a photo through Apples Parked Location feature.

Inthe case that your phone is not connected via CarPlay or Bluetooth, you could use ApplesMark Location feature instead.

Google, meanwhile, had already introduced its own proactive parking saving feature via Google Now, but it hadworked by tapping into your phones sensors and making a determination that you had most likely parked at a given spot.

Sometimes, you might see this information appear when it was unwarranted, however like if you got off a bus or exited a taxi, Google says.

The new feature in Google Maps requires a manual entry, but this is actually a bit of an advantage over the guessing done by Google Now, because it allows you to input more information about your spot.

Like Apple Maps, you can add notes about where you parked something thats helpful for jotting down cross streets or which floor of a garage youre on, for example. But Google Maps also supports adding multiple photos of your parkinglocation a common way people oftennote theparking space number in the garage, and then, via a separate shot, the floor, row, aisle and/or color code for the garage level itself.

In addition, Googles parking location saverwill let you enter inhow much time you have left at the spot. This is handy if youre in a temporary parking area (e.g. two-hour parking),or at a metered space. The time left is displayed on the map, and when its due to expire, Google Maps will alert you via push notification.

The addition to Maps was spotted earlier by Android Police.Its especially helpful in urban areas, or when you know youre leaving your car parked for a long time and might forget like at the airport.

Google didnt make a formal announcement about the parking saver, perhaps because the parking spot saverhas not yet made its way to iOS. But the company did confirm with us it is indeed new.

The feature is currently available on Google Maps on Android (v. 9.49).

Read more: https://techcrunch.com/2017/03/20/google-maps-lets-you-record-your-parking-location-time-left-at-the-meter/

Police can access Google search history with this warrant

A man walks past a building on the Google campus in Mountain View, California.

Image: Jeff Chiu/AP/REX/Shutterstock

Police in Minnesota want to solve a crime by combing through Google search history.

Officers in Edina, a city of around 50,000 people, got a warrant compelling Google to divulge information about people who searched for the name of a financial fraud victim between Dec. 1, 2016 and Jan. 7, 2017.

Someone convinced a credit union to wire $28,500 from an Edina man’s account by creating a fake passport using the man’s name alongside a photo of someone else.

In their warrant application, police stated that the fake photo came up by googling the victim’s name, but didn’t come up in other search engines. The warrant for the five-week period compels Google to hand over information regarding anyone who searched the victim’s name, including email addresses, social security numbers, birthdates, IP addresses and “information related to the content the user is viewing/using.”

Google, however, is not into coughing up user data.

“We will continue to object to this overreaching request for user data, and if needed, will fight it in court,” a Google spokesperson said in an email. “We always push back when we receive excessively broad requests for data about our users.”

They may have a point about the breadth of the warrant. The Fourth Amendment forces those seeking a warrant to be specific about what they’re looking for.

Journalist Tony Webster, who first discovered the warrant signed on Feb. 1, questioned whether such warrants could be used to abuse governmental power.

“If Google were to provide personal information on anyone who Googled the victims name, would Edina Police raid theirhomes, or would they first dofurther investigative work?” Webster wrote. “The question is: what comes next? If you bought a pressure cooker on Amazon a month before the Boston bombing, dopolice get to know aboutit?”

Maybe we’ll find out in court.

Read more: http://mashable.com/2017/03/20/google-search-history-fraud-crime-minnesota/