Tag: Google

Apple and Facebook spend a fortune lobbying Trump

Facebook and Apple set their record high for spending in a single quarter. Facebook spent $3.2 million lobbying the federal government in the first months of the Trump era.

During the same period last year, Facebook spent $2.8 million which sounds rather a lot but it is actually 15 percent less than it spent this year.

The company lobbied both chambers of Congress, the White House, and six federal agencies on issues including high-tech worker visas, network neutrality, internet privacy, encryption, and international taxation.

Facebook was the 12th-highest spender out of any company and second-highest in tech.

The Fruity cargo cult Apple spent $1.4 million, which is just $50,000 more than during the final months of the Obama presidency, when it set its previous record and the most it has ever spent in a single quarter.

Apple lobbied on issues including government requests for data, the regulation of mobile health apps, and self-driving cars.

Google, once again, outspent every other technology company. It was tenth overall, tallying $3.5 million.

While the search giant decreased its lobbying spending compared with this time last year, Amazon, Microsoft, and Uber all boosted their beltway budgets for the first three months of 2017.

Amazon spent $3 million on lobbying, behind only Facebook and Google, and was 17th out of all companies including ones outside of tech. Amazon met with government officials to discuss net neutrality, drone air cargo, drone privacy, and the flow of data across borders, among other issues. Microsoft claimed $2.3 million as the fourth-biggest spender in tech and 27th overall.

Google opens up Android in Russia

Google will open up Android  to Russian rival search engines as part of a deal to settle a two year dispute with Russian competition authorities.

The deal sets a new precedent for the tech giant, which faces multiple complaints worldwide that it is abusing its dominant position by imposing restrictions on manufacturers of Android-based devices in order to protect its share of the online search market.

Russia’s competition watchdog, FAS, ruled in 2015 that Google was breaking the law by requiring the pre-installation of applications, including its own search tool, on mobile devices using Android, following a complaint by Russia’s Yandex.

Google will no longer demand exclusivity of its applications on Android-based devices in Russia and will not restrict the pre-installation of rival search engines and other applications, as part of a deal with FAS, the regulator said on Monday.

It will also develop a tool allowing users to choose a default search engine on their Android devices.

“Users will be able to change settings at any time and choose the default search engine which suits their needs,” FAS said.

Google confirmed the deal, saying it met the interests of all parties. It also said it had reached a commercial agreement with Yandex that “provides new opportunities for Yandex to promote its search service within Chrome”.

The deal is for a term of six years and nine months and  Google will  have to pay $7.85 million in fines.

Woz predicts dystopian future with Apple still there

The founder of Apple is predicting a dystopian future where Jobs’ Mob, Google and Facebook rule a world which lives in deserts.

The theme of next weekend’s Silicon Valley Comic Con (SVCC), “The Future of Humanity: Where Will We Be in 2075?” Woz, who predicted the rise of portable laptops said that in 58 years, Apple will be still around.

“Apple will be around a long time, like IBM (which was founded in 1911). Look at Apple’s cash ($246.1 billion, as of the end of its last fiscal quarter). It can invest in anything. It would be ridiculous to not expect them to be around (in 2075). The same goes for Google and Facebook.”

Other areas will not be great either. There will be new cities in deserts which could be ideal locations for cities of the future, designed and built from scratch. People will shuttle among domed structures. Special wearable suits will allow people to venture outside, he said.

AI will be ubiquitous, Wozniak says. Like a scene straight from the movie Minority Report, consumers will interact with smart walls and other surfaces to shop, communicate and be entertained. Medical devices will enable self-diagnosis and doctor-free prescriptions, he says. “The question will be ethical, on whether we can eliminate the need for physicians,” he says.

Woz is convinced a colony will exist on the Red Planet. Echoing the sentiments of Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, whose Blue Origin start-up has designs on traveling to Mars, Wozniak envisions Earth zoned for residential use and Mars for heavy industry.

Wozniak says there is a “random chance” that Earthlings will communicate with another race. “It’s worth trying,” he says, “but I don’t have high hopes”.

Uber self-driving case takes a dark turn

The US judge overseeing the self-driving car technology case has said that Uber could face an injunction if a key Uber executive does not testify.

Google’s Waymo sued ride services company Uber last month, alleging that its former executive, Anthony Levandowski, downloaded over 14,000 confidential documents before leaving the company to join Uber.

Waymo is seeking a preliminary injunction from the court, which would temporarily stop Uber from using any of the allegedly stolen intellectual property.

Uber, which has said the allegations are baseless, has not yet responded to Waymo’s complaint in court, and has argued that the trade secrets issue should go to arbitration.

But Uber has fallen foul of District Court Judge William Alsup who told Levandowski’s lawyer that his client was in a mess.

Apparently Levandowski is worried his client could face criminal action and would be asserting his Fifth Amendment rights against self-incrimination.

Uber said that it would like to put Levandowski on the stand, because “he has a good story to tell”,  but could not force him. But were the case sent to arbitration, Levandowski might choose to testify, because arbitration proceedings are not public.

“I’m sorry that Levandowski has got his — got himself in a fix. That’s what happens, I guess, when you download 14,000 documents and take them, if he did. But I do not hear anybody denying that,” Alsup said.

Uber’s strategy would be to convince the court that Uber was “not using any of these things” Waymo says he stole.

“That would be a legitimate point,” responded Alsup. “Maybe you can convince me of that.”

But Alsup warned Uber of its difficulty in dodging a preliminary injunction in light of Levandowski’s Fifth Amendment privilege.

“If you think for a moment that I’m going to stay my hand because your guy is taking the Fifth Amendment and not issue a preliminary injunction to shut down that … you’re wrong,” Alsup said.

Apple’s App store’s days of glory have passed

It was only a matter of time, but Apple’s App Store is no longer the mobile market leader it once was.

For years Jobs’ Mob has bragged that it has the most apps and makes the most money from its app store making it important that developers make sure their code is represented.  However analytics firm App Annie said that all that is slowing down.

The App Store will fall second to the amount of revenue generated by Android app distributors, predicts. In 2017, the App Store will generate $40 billion in revenue, which is not bad, but is being outclassed by Android app stores run by Google and other parties which will generate $41 billion.

The gap will widen in 2021, with Android app stores generating $78 billion in revenue and Apple’s App Store fall to $60 billion.

The surge in revenue for Android comes from a growing number of consumers in China who are buying Android phones and are willing to pay for apps. In 2021, App Annie expects there to be eight Android smartphone users to every single iPhone user in China.

 

Google and Facebook investigated by Israeli tax man

The Israeli Tax Authority has opened an inquiry into the local antics of tech giants Google and Facebook.

The taxmen have conducted meetings with clients of Google, asking detailed questions about the methods used by Google and Facebook to conduct local operations.

Questions put to clients centered around the degree of involvement that local representatives of Google and Facebook had in designing marketing campaigns, and setting budgets and targets for clients.

Basically the Israeli’s are unsure if the Israeli teams were acting independently, or if they were referring business matters to overseas headquarters and then merely implementing corporate decisions in the local market.

Should the investigation conclude with the determination that Google and Facebook Israel teams are independently responsible for activities in the local market, the tax authority may recommend that the companies pay a rather a large tax to the Israeli government for business conducted within the country.

Facebook and Google claim that they operate in Ireland, thereby avoiding paying direct or indirect taxes to the Israeli government.

Research shows that total online advertising expenditures topped $333 million in Israel in 2015, with online taking an ever-expanding segment of budgets from traditional advertising. Of that $333 million, over half was dedicated to spending on social media and search sites, two areas dominated by Facebook and Google.

In April 2016, the Israel Tax Authority unveiled a new set of guidelines regarding tax liability for foreign corporations operating in Israel. Under these rules, an international company would owe taxes if its services were produced in Israel. To prevent double taxation with countries that have international tax agreements with Israel, the foreign corporation must have a permanent establishment within Israel.

A permanent establishment was defined as a physical space used by the business to conduct operations, or a virtual space – including a website – where agents are empowered to conduct local business and enter into contracts on behalf of the corporation.

Judge nixes Google email scanning “settlement”

A federal judge  has thrown out a legal settlement which would have only paid lawyers but nothing to consumers who had the contents of their email scanned by Google without their knowledge or permission.

In a six page order, Judge Lucy Koh told Google and class action attorneys the proposed settlement was insufficient. Not just because it failed to clearly tell consumers what the search giant had done.

“This notice is difficult to understand and does not clearly disclose the fact that Google intercepts, scans and analyses the content of emails sent by non-Gmail users to Gmail users for the purpose of creating user profiles of the Gmail users to create targeted advertising for the Gmail users,” Koh wrote.

The case is mostly over whether Google’s email scanning practices amount to illegal wiretaps and a violation of California privacy laws. Google won a related lawsuit several years ago involving Gmail users.  This case is different, however, because it involves people who use other email providers—such as Microsoft, or Yahoo but whose messages are scanned without their permission when they send an email to a Gmail customer.

Google agreed to change the way it scans incoming messages so that it no longer reads emails while they are in transit, but only when they are in someone’s inbox. This is mostly a technicality but the company and the class action lawyers agree it puts Google in the clear as far as wiretap laws and they get a lot of money out it.

Judge Koh said the settlement does not provide an adequate technical explanation of Google’s workaround, which involves scanning in-transit emails for security purposes, and then later parsing them for advertising data.

“It does not disclose that Google will scan the email of non-Gmail users while the emails are in transit for the “dual purpose” of creating user profiles and targeted advertising and for detecting spam and malware,” Koh wrote.

The judge also added that another settlement last year, involving Yahoo’s scanning of emails, did not reflect the facts of the Google case.

Koh wants the case to proceed further and for the class action lawyers to push Google for recent documents about how the email scanning process really works. As the judge notes, the current settlement relies on documents that are three to six years old.

Any future settlement will presumably also have to do more to inform email users about Google’s scanning practices and, possibly, direct some of the settlement money to consumers instead of only the lawyers. Under the deal Koh rejected, Google would have paid $2.2 million to the attorneys, plus up to $140,000 in online ads to publicise the agreement.

Koh’s concerns reflect a sore point among many, including judges, who feel a long string of privacy settlements with big tech companies have done little to compensate consumers or improve privacy.

Danish watchdog growls at Alphabet

A Danish consumer watchdog has reported Alphabet to the Danish Data Protection Agency for potentially breaking privacy laws.

What has got the Danes’ goat is that Alphabet was not capping the amount of time personal data is stored on Google’s servers.

Google and Facebook face increased scrutiny over how and where they store location and search history data from users of smartphones and mail accounts.

“The consumer council Taenk would like the Data Protection Agency to assess whether Google’s indefinite data collection complies with consumer’s basic right to privacy,” the watchdog snarled.

Google apparently has nearly a decade of data on users with a Google account,  the report claims.

Alphabet sues Uber over self-driving car tech

Old carsAlphabet’s Waymo self-driving car unit sued Uber’s autonomous trucking subsidiary Otto over claims that it stole confidential and proprietary sensor technology.

Waymo claims Uber and Otto nicked confidential information on Waymo’s Lidar sensor technology to help speed its own efforts in autonomous technology.

Waymo’s complaint in the Northern District of California said that Uber’s LiDAR technology is actually Waymo’s LiDAR technology.

Uber said that it is considering the allegations.

Lidar, which uses light pulses reflected off objects to gauge their position on or near the road, is a crucial component of autonomous driving systems.

Previous systems have been prohibitively expensive and Waymo sought to design one over 90 percent cheaper, making its Lidar technology among the company’s “most valuable assets,” Waymo said.

Waymo is seeking an unspecified amount of damages and a court order preventing Uber from using its proprietary information.

Otto launched in May, due in part to the high profile of one of its co-founders, Anthony Levandowski, who had been an executive on Google’s self-driving project.

Waymo said that before Levandowski’s resignation in January 2016 from Google he downloaded over 14,000 confidential files, including Lidar circuit board designs, thereby allowing Uber and Otto to fast-track its self-driving technology.

Waymo accused Levandowski of attempting to “erase any forensic fingerprints” by reformatting  his laptop.

“While Waymo developed its custom LiDAR systems with sustained effort over many years, defendants leveraged stolen information to shortcut the process and purportedly build a comparable LiDAR system in only nine months,” the complaint said.

 

Seven-year-old asks Google for a job

An “entrepreneurial” Hereford seven year old wrote to Google for a job and the outfit’s CEO replied.

Apparently, it was Chloe Bridgewater’s second letter, the first was to Father Christmas, and it was addressed to “dear Google boss”.

Much to everyone’s surprise, CEO Sundar Pichai wrote back and was not a dick about it.

After all he could have said Google only hires Chinese men at the moment, or that she lacked the five years’ programming experience before she could even considered.

Instead he told Chloe to work hard and follow her dreams.

Her dad Andy said the family was gobsmacked.

” I don’t think Chloe could understand the magnitude of the reaction she’d got afterwards,” he said.

“She’s got a great entrepreneurial spirit. Ever since nursery, she’s always been told in school reports she’s bright, hard-working and polite – we’re very proud of her and her younger sister [Hollie, five] is similar,” he said.

Pichai  wrote:

“Thank you so much for your letter. I’m glad that you like computers and robots, and hope that you will continue to learn about technology.

“I think if you keep working hard and following your dreams, you can accomplish everything you set your mind to – from working at Google to swimming at the Olympics.

“I look forward to receiving your job application when you are finished with school! 🙂

“All the best to you and your family.”

The inspiration for Chloe’s letter had been her internet research showing Google’s offices including bean bags, go karts and slides but she also highlighted a keen interest in computers which we thought would have been handy.

Chloe also admitted to an interest in a job in a chocolate factory or as a swimmer at the Olympics in the letter so it could go anyway.