Tag: Google

Source: MyBroadband

Facebook has agreed to meet with South Africa’s Parliament over concerns around disinformation before South Africa’s 2021 local elections, the Communications and Digital Technologies Committee has said.

The meeting – which was requested by the Democratic Alliance – is set to take place on 25 May 2021.

“Facebook’s agreement to the meeting is historic and a source of pride for South Africa as a first in Africa, and one of a few countries in the world to successfully secure a meeting with Facebook,” said DA MP Phumzile van Damme, who had issued the invitation.

“We commend Facebook for agreeing to the meeting which we hope will be constructive.”

Van Damme said the reason for inviting Facebook was to establish what steps the tech giant would be taking to tackle harmful misinformation, particularly in light of the upcoming elections.

“Facebook often tailors plans for countries ahead of elections to guard against harmful misinformation,” Van Damme said. “We would like to see the same done for South Africa.”

In September 2020, the social media company implemented measuress which it said were intended to help secure the integrity of the US elections by encouraging voting, connecting people with authoritative information, and reducing the risks of post-election confusion.

These included updates related to misinformation, COVID-19 and voter suppression, and a ban on new electoral, political, or social issue ads.

Van Damme said the protection of private data of South African users on Facebook-owned platforms would also form part of the meeting.

The DA MP was likely referring to concerns around WhatsApp’s new privacy policy among South Africans.

The implementation of the policy was delayed following heavy backlash from users earlier in 2021.

“The aim of discussions with Facebook will be to ensure that the interests of the people of South Africa are protected as well as upholding the constitutional right to freedom of speech,” Van Damme said.

She added the meeting will also be the beginning of discussions regarding Facebook paying South African media houses for carrying their content as was recently successfully implemented in Australia.

The DA has sent similar invitations to other big tech giants – Google and Twitter.

By Kim Lyons for The Verge

Google has unveiled new tools to help people planning their first post-vaccination vacations, as COVID-19 restrictions and requirements still vary widely among domestic and international travel destinations.

A Google search for flights, hotels, or things to do will now also bring up results for any COVID-19-related travel advisories or restrictions at the searcher’s destination. Google has added additional travel restriction details, including whether quarantine is required or if you have to show proof of immunisation or a negative COVID-19 test. Users can choose to receive updates about when restrictions are lifted or added for a given destination. The updates are country-specific and state-specific within the US.

Under the “explore” tab on Google’s travel page, people can browse not just for flights but filter destinations by interests, like beaches or skiing. When you choose a destination, you’ll get the updated information on any travel advisories or restrictions as well.

After pandemic lockdowns and travel restrictions kept many people at home much of last year, Google isn’t the only company preparing for the return of travel. Expedia Group — which includes online travel agent (OTA) websites Expedia, Vrbo, Travelocity, Hotels.com, and others — created its Travel Advisor tool to help customers plan trips and follow any COVID-19 restrictions.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) still recommends Americans delay travel until they’ve been fully vaccinated, after which they can travel safely within the US. The agency has a map showing where travel may be especially risky due to the coronavirus.

And while Americans are still barred from travelling to many international destinations, a European Union official told The New York Times over the weekend that Americans fully vaccinated against the coronavirus should be able to visit the EU this summer.

 

Source: DW

Australia wants Google to pay for displaying local media content. In return, the tech giant has threatened to disable its search engine in the country. Could this confrontation set a precedent?

What’s happening in Australia?
Australia has proposed a bill that would oblige Google and Facebook to pay license fees to Australian media companies for sharing their journalistic content. Noncompliance would incur millions in fines. In response, Google has threatened to block Australian users from accessing its search engine should the bill become law.

Mel Silva, managing director of Google Australia and New Zealand, told an Australian senate committee her company had no other choice but to block access to Google’s search engine in Australia should the bill be adopted in its current form. Even though, she said, this was the last thing Google wanted.

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison in turn declared that his country would not be intimated, saying, “We don’t respond to threats.” He added that “Australia makes our rules for things you can do in Australia. That’s done in our Parliament.”

Why has the confrontation escalated?
Google has said it is willing to negotiate with publishers over paying license fees for content. The tech giant, however, argues Australia’s proposed law goes too far. It would oblige Google to pay not only when providing extensive previews of media content, but also when sharing links to the content. This, said Silva, would undermine the modus operandi of search engines.

The bill would also establish an arbitration model under which an Australian judge would determine how much Google should pay if the company fails to reach an agreement with a publisher. This mechanism is dividing opinions, with Google arguing it produces an incalculable financial risk for the company.

What’s at stake?
“Search engines earn considerable money from media content, whereas publishers earn little,” said Christian Solmecke, a Cologne-based lawyer specialised in media and internet law. Google, however, argues that publishers benefit from the platform, as users are directed to media content when it is indexed on the Google Newsfeed and elsewhere.

But publishers want a bigger share of the pie by receiving licensing fees. “Billions are thus at stake for Google,” said Solmecke. He doubts the tech giant will follow through on its threat and disable the search engine in Australia. “After all, that search engine is an elementary part of the digital world.”

But the row in Australia highlights a global dilemma. Recently, Google temporarily blocked certain Australian media content to some users in the country. The company announced the move had merely been a test run, though it was widely interpreted as a show of force: Oppose Google and you risk disappearing from its search results, facing dire economic consequences. For this reason, Solmecke said, “denying Google the right to use your content will remain a purely theoretical option.”

Is the EU planning a similar law?
In the spring of 2019, the EU adopted an ancillary copyright directive. All members states must now translate the directive into national legislation and adopt national ancillary copyright laws. Akin to the proposed Australian media bill, the EU directive aims to ensure publishers gain a share of revenue earned by internet platforms like Google when sharing journalistic content. Tech companies like Google generate revenue by, for instance, placing ads next to search results.

However, the directive does not place as many demands on companies such as Google and Facebook. “European and German ancillary copyright law is and will remain more narrow than the Australian bill,” said Stephan Dirks, a lawyer specialized in copyright and media law in Hamburg. Unlike the Australian bill, the EU directive allows tech platforms to display short media snippets for free. And it does not establish an automated arbitration model, either.

European confrontation looming?
Even though EU ancillary copyright law is more limited than the planned Australian law, experts do not rule out EU member states clashing with Google. “This gives us an idea how Google will react to the implementation of EU ancillary copyright law,” said Dirks. He recalls how Germany already introduced an ancillary copyright law in 2013, which prompted Google to threaten it would remove all media content from its search results if the law went into force. “That will certainly also be in the offing when the copyright reform has been implemented,” he predicted.

Solmecke, too, said the EU should keep a close eye on the standoff between Australia and Google. “The reaction of big tech companies can be seen as pointers toward their future conduct in Europe,” he said.

France has already translated the 2019 EU ancillary copyright directive into national law. Google subsequently struck a deal with French publishers over license fees.

Most EU member states are yet to pass their own ancillary copyright laws. It thus cannot be ruled out that Google’s threats will have an impact on national lawmaking processes, said Dirks.

Google reveals trending searches of 2020

By Yasmine Jacobs for IOL

It goes without saying that 2020 has been pretty eventful – and that is putting it mildly. The world has shifted to a digital space as work and studies all went online.

The internet has become almost like a lifeline as we use it to keep in touch with loved ones and to answer questions such as ’how to make hand sanitiser’ or ’where to buy beer during lockdown?’

Google on Wednesday announced the results of its 2020 Year in Search, sharing what the world and South Africans, searched for, asked about, looked for, ate and dreamt of exploring in 2020.

“Just as Search helps people to explore and discover a world of information, there are many ways to explore the year through the lens of Google Search. From overall global stories to hundreds of top 10 lists of trending topics across pop culture and lifestyle, sports, music, news, and more from across almost 70 countries,” said Google in a statement.

In South Africa, Coronavirus was top of everyone’s minds this year and the pandemic’s impact is reflected in the Year in Search lists. There were also a few searches that were lockdown related as many tried to adapt to the new normal. South Africans’ love for sport, celebrity culture and politics was unwavering.

These are the top 10 trending searches:

  1. Coronavirus
  2. US elections update
  3. Sasol share price
  4. Level 3 lockdown South Africa
  5. Children’s Day
  6. Hantavirus
  7. Load shedding
  8. Cigarettes ban South Africa
  9. Teacher’s Day
  10. Leap Day

The top trending questions were:

  1. How to apply for an unemployment grant?
  2. Who won the election?
  3. What time is the President on tonight?
  4. What is coronavirus?
  5. What is 5G?
  6. Where does vanilla flavouring come from?
  7. Why were cornflakes invented?
  8. Where to buy beer during lockdown?
  9. Why were chainsaws invented?
  10. How to make hand sanitiser?

Tthe op trending “near me” searches were:

  1. Restaurant near me
  2. Grocery stores near me
  3. Builders near me
  4. Midas near me
  5. Virgin Active near me
  6. Hardware near me
  7. Mexican food delivery near me
  8. Massage spa near me
  9. Game stores near me
  10. Hiking near me

The top trending personalities were:

  1. Kobe Bryant
  2. Mshoza
  3. Genius ‘Ginimbi’ Kadungure
  4. Bob Mabena
  5. Naya Rivera
  6. George Floyd
  7. Chadwick Boseman
  8. Zinzi Mandela
  9. Thandeka Mdeliswa
  10. Mary Twala

Top trending South African personalities included:

  1. Katlego Maboe
  2. Nikita Murray
  3. Edwin Sodi
  4. Lerato Kganyago
  5. Menzi Ngubane
  6. Jackie Phamotse
  7. Tino Chinyani
  8. Sophie Ndaba
  9. Nomcebo Zikode
  10. Monique Muller

Top trending political figures

  1. Joe Biden
  2. Kim Jong Un
  3. Kamala Harris
  4. Boris Johnson
  5. Angie Motshekga
  6. Ace Magashule
  7. Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams
  8. Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma
  9. Andile Lungisa
  10. Bheki Cele

Top trending sports searches were:

  1. Premier League
  2. England vs South Africa
  3. PSL standings
  4. IPL
  5. Champions League
  6. South Africa vs Australia
  7. La Liga
  8. Serie A
  9. Europa League
  10. Kaizer Chiefs vs Mamelodi Sundowns

Top trending recipes included:

  1. Pizza dough recipe
  2. Doughnut recipe
  3. Pineapple beer recipe
  4. Banana loaf recipe
  5. Pancakes recipe
  6. Magwinya recipe
  7. Lemon meringue recipe
  8. Cinnabon recipe
  9. Naan bread recipe
  10. Pornstar martini recipe

Top trending travel searches were:

  1. Trip to Mauritius
  2. Trip to Durban
  3. Trip to Thailand
  4. Trip to Mozambique
  5. Trip to Hawaii
  6. Trip to Mars
  7. Trip to Singapore
  8. Trip to Bali
  9. Trip to Jamaica
  10. Trip to Zanzibar

Google suffers global outage

By Jagmeet Singh for Gadgets 360

Gmail, Google Drive, Google Docs and other Google services are currently down. The issue seems to have impacted users globally. Several users on social media are reporting problems sending emails through Gmail and uploading files on Google Drive. Additionally, some users are facing connectivity issues while working with Google Docs and Google Meet. The problem seems to have emerged this morning. However, Google is still investigating the outage and is yet to provide any concrete details.

As per user reports on Twitter, several users across the world aren’t able to access their emails on Gmail. Some users have also reported that they are facing issues while uploading attachments to their emails. Moreover, the hashtag #Gmail has been trending on Twitter worldwide.

Downtime tracking website DownDetector shows mass reports about the Gmail outage emerged at around 9:30am IST today. The map available on the DownDetector site shows that the issues aren’t limited to some countries, instead impacting users in many parts of the world. The G Suite Status Dashboard has also been updated to reflect issues affecting Gmail. This suggests that there could be an issue in Google Cloud.

Google is yet to provide a statement on the problems being faced by the masses, apart from the messages on the G Suite Status page.

 

Source: NBC

Google was sued on Tuesday in a proposed class action accusing the internet search company of illegally invading the privacy of millions of users by pervasively tracking their internet use through browsers set in “private” mode.

The lawsuit seeks at least $5-billion, accusing the Alphabet Inc unit of surreptitiously collecting information about what people view online and where they browse, despite their using what Google calls Incognito mode.

According to the complaint filed in the federal court in San Jose, California, Google gathers data through Google Analytics, Google Ad Manager and other applications and website plug-ins, including smartphone apps, regardless of whether users click on Google-supported ads.

This helps Google learn about users’ friends, hobbies, favourite foods, shopping habits, and even the “most intimate and potentially embarrassing things” they search for online, the complaint said.

Google “cannot continue to engage in the covert and unauthorised data collection from virtually every American with a computer or phone,” the complaint said.

Jose Castaneda, a Google spokesman, said the Mountain View, California-based company will defend itself vigorously against the claims.

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

While users may view private browsing as a safe haven from watchful eyes, computer security researchers have long raised concern that Google and rivals might augment user profiles by tracking people’s identities across different browsing modes, combining data from private and ordinary internet surfing.

The complaint said the proposed class likely includes “millions” of Google users who since June 1, 2016 browsed the internet in “private” mode.

It seeks at least $5,000 of damages per user for violations of federal wiretapping and California privacy laws.

Boies Schiller & Flexner represents the plaintiffs Chasom Brown, Maria Nguyen and William Byatt.

The case is Brown et al v Google LLC et al, U.S. District Court, Northern District of California, No. 20-03664.

Thousands affected as Google SA goes down

By Anita Froneman for CapeTown Etc

People across the country working from home during the coronavirus lockdown were affected as Google South Africa experienced technical issues on Monday, causing various applications including Gmail, Google Docs, Hangouts and Maps to be inaccessible.

“Our engineers have observed an intermittent issue accessing various Google apps including Gmail, Google Maps, etc. The issue is 3rd party (Google) related and is affecting various ISP’s in South Africa. Further updates to follow,” RSAWEB said on Twitter.

It was unsure at the time exactly what the problem was.

The issue was reported to the Google Network Operations Centre and they were investigating, according to MyBroadband. Internet Service Providers will be updated as they figure out the issue.

Source: KrebsOnSecurity 

A new email-based extortion scheme apparently is making the rounds, targeting Web site owners serving banner ads through Google’s AdSense program. In this scam, the fraudsters demand bitcoin in exchange for a promise not to flood the publisher’s ads with so much bot and junk traffic that Google’s automated anti-fraud systems suspend the user’s AdSense account for suspicious traffic.

Earlier this month, KrebsOnSecurity heard from a reader who maintains several sites that receive a fair amount of traffic. The message this reader shared began by quoting from an automated email Google’s systems might send if they detect your site is seeking to benefit from automated clicks. The message continues:

“Very soon the warning notice from above will appear at the dashboard of your AdSense account undoubtedly! This will happen due to the fact that we’re about to flood your site with huge amount of direct bot generated web traffic with 100% bounce ratio and thousands of IP’s in rotation — a nightmare for every AdSense publisher. More also we’ll adjust our sophisticated bots to open, in endless cycle with different time duration, every AdSense banner which runs on your site.”

The message goes on to warn that while the targeted site’s ad revenue will be briefly increased, “AdSense traffic assessment algorithms will detect very fast such a web traffic pattern as fraudulent.”

“Next an ad serving limit will be placed on your publisher account and all the revenue will be refunded to advertisers. This means that the main source of profit for your site will be temporarily suspended. It will take some time, usually a month, for the AdSense to lift your ad ban, but if this happens we will have all the resources needed to flood your site again with bad quality web traffic which will lead to second AdSense ban that could be permanent!”

The message demands $5,000 worth of bitcoin to forestall the attack. In this scam, the extortionists are likely betting that some publishers may see paying up as a cheaper alternative to having their main source of advertising revenue evaporate.

The reader who shared this email said while he considered the message likely to be a baseless threat, a review of his recent AdSense traffic statistics showed that detections in his “AdSense invalid traffic report” from the past month had increased substantially.

The reader, who asked not to be identified in this story, also pointed to articles about a recent AdSense crackdown in which Google announced it was enhancing its defenses by improving the systems that identify potentially invalid traffic or high risk activities before ads are served.

Google defines invalid traffic as “clicks or impressions generated by publishers clicking their own live ads,” as well as “automated clicking tools or traffic sources.”

“Pretty concerning, thought it seems this group is only saying they’re planning their attack,” the reader wrote.

Google declined to discuss this reader’s account, saying its contracts prevent the company from commenting publicly on a specific partner’s status or enforcement actions. But in a statement shared with KrebsOnSecurity, the company said the message appears to be a classic threat of sabotage, wherein an actor attempts to trigger an enforcement action against a publisher by sending invalid traffic to their inventory.

“We hear a lot about the potential for sabotage, it’s extremely rare in practice, and we have built some safeguards in place to prevent sabotage from succeeding,” the statement explained. “For example, we have detection mechanisms in place to proactively detect potential sabotage and take it into account in our enforcement systems.”

Google said it has extensive tools and processes to protect against invalid traffic across its products, and that most invalid traffic is filtered from its systems before advertisers and publishers are ever impacted.

“We have a help center on our website with tips for AdSense publishers on sabotage,” the statement continues. “There’s also a form we provide for publishers to contact us if they believe they are the victims of sabotage. We encourage publishers to disengage from any communication or further action with parties that signal that they will drive invalid traffic to their web properties. If there are concerns about invalid traffic, they should communicate that to us, and our Ad Traffic Quality team will monitor and evaluate their accounts as needed.”

By Cornelia Le Roux for The South African 

The search engine giant’s free WiFi service was launched in 125 locations across Langa, Khayelitsha, Gugulethu, Delft, Elsies River, and Philippi, in Cape Town in November 2019.

During its Cape Flats launch announcement on 7 November 2019, Google’s Next Billion Users Initiative head of partnerships Adama Diallo said: “Google Station is here to connect the unconnected in SA.”

However, only three months into its WiFi hotspot programme, Google Station, the search engine has changed its tune, saying it will discontinue its service aimed at making the internet more accessible to low-income communities.

Think WiFi to handle SA operations
According to Google Station, it will hand over all South African operations to its partner Think WiFi through 2020.

“We are transferring our Google Station operations in South Africa to Think WiFi who will now carry out the project independently,” a spokesperson told Business Insider SA.

Its foray into providing free internet access to the Cape Flats, formed part of its global initiative to offer fast, free, open access internet to people affected by high unemployment and crime rates in countries, such as Mexico, India and the Philippines.

Google said that it had to re-evaluate its plans due to “complex and varying technical requirements across countries and partners”.

“Since we first started, the ecosystem has evolved and combined with complex and varying technical requirements across countries and partners, we have been re-evaluating our plans and have decided to wind down Station through 2020,” said Google South Africa.

“We’ll work with Think WiFi on a plan to transition the service to them, and continue to support them until the end of 2020. We remain committed to looking for ways to make the internet more accessible to users around the world.”

According to MyBroadband, Think WiFi said the service will continue to operate as users have become accustomed to, while plans are in the pipeline to roll the service out to more areas in the coming months.

“The launch of the free Wi-Fi initiative in the Western Cape has been more successful than anticipated and plans are already underway to roll free WiFi out to the Eastern Cape, Gauteng, and some areas in Mpumalanga,” said Think WiFi CEO Janine Rebelo.

“We endeavour to work with the private and public sector to bring connectivity to the unconnected.”

According to Think WiFi, Google Station has already reached more than a million people in South Africa, and the internet service provider (ISP) sees a gap in the market to become the new preferred service provider for free WiFi.

Google Maps turns 15

By Chaim Gartenberg for The Verge

Google Maps is turning 15 years old, and to celebrate, Google is rolling out a new icon for the service along with a slightly redesigned app and a couple of new features.

The biggest change here might be the icon itself — gone is the classic map intersection icon in favor of a new Google-hued pin on a white background, which more closely matches Google’s other application branding.

The Google Maps app itself is also getting a slight change, with two added tabs at the bottom: the update adds “contribute” and “updates” tabs, and replaces the “for you” tab with a more focused “saved” tab.

The motivation behind the redesign is rooted in the more recent functionality that Google has added to Maps, like the increased focus on user-submitted content and the ability to follow other users. With the new tabs, more of those features are put front and centre for users instead of having them buried deep in a side menu.

The five main tabs on the new Google Maps
Google is also announcing a couple new features to Maps, although they won’t arrive until sometime in March. The first is increased crowdsourced information for public transit. Before, Google Maps could only tell you whether a train or bus was expected to be crowded, but the new update allows users to submit other details like temperature, wheelchair accessibility, or whether there’s a women-only carriage or onboard security.

The other update is coming to Google’s augmented-reality Live View feature, which is getting a more lightweight mode that will simply show the location of your destination without launching into the full-fledged 3D turn-by-turn navigation mode that’s currently available.

The new icon and tab interface will roll out today on both iOS and Android devices; the new transit information and Live View mode will arrive in a future update sometime next month.

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