UK regulators are investigating Amazon and Google for possibly breaking consumer protection laws for not handling fake product reviews properly.
This is just one probe in a line of investigations piling up against both the tech giants. Around the world officials have been examining claims of anti-competitive behavior. These investigations could lead to large fines and more pressure on companies like Facebook and Apple to change how they do business.
The UK Competition and Markets Authority stated that its inquiry could force Amazon and Google to change they way they deal with fake reviews or result in court action.
The CMA is worried that millions of online shoppers are being misled by fake product reviews and spending money based on those recommendations. They stated it isn’t fair business practice that some companies can fake five star reviews while lawful citizens lose out.
An investigation by UK consumer group Which? found a large industry of businesses making money by manipulating reviews on Amazon Marketplace. One company was selling single reviews for $18 or bulk packages that cost over $800 for 50 reviews.
Google and Amazon stated the would cooperate with the CMA.
It is just about 20 years since Apple opened its first retail store. Google is now giving it a go as well.
The company announced that it will be opening its first physical retail store. It’ll be called simply, Google Store. It’ll open this summer in New York City. Located in the Chelsea neighborhood under its offices there. This is the same location that employs many of the 11,000 NYC Google employees.
Pixlebooks, Nest products, Fitbit products and Pixel phones will be on sale in the new retail store.
Just like Apple’s “Geniuses” concept, Google will have “experts” available to help customers troubleshoot device issues, fixe cracked screens or help with installations. A blog post by Google called this “an important next step in our hardware journey.”
Google stated that customers will want to experience their hardware before they purchase it. What it looks like, feels like and sounds like.
Google calls its hardware a “multi-billion dollar business” and has previously opened pop-up shops to premiere new products or for workshops.
While Google Maps as already vastly simplified travel now it is allowing users even more ease by letting them pay for parking or public transit straight from the app.
Now, Google Maps accounts can be linked with Google Pay wallets so that users can make transportation related payments with out exiting the app. Since users are bypassing traditional payment methods like parking meters or ticket machines people can save time. Also, many will appreciate a touchless transaction during the pandemic.
These new features are just part of a set of recent updates to Google Maps which is more and more becoming a place to do more than just get directions. Recently, verified businesses can message customers inside the app. In September the app also added a feature that measures the prevalence of Covid-19 in a particular area.
Google partnered with Passport and ParkMobile to give Google Maps users access to parking meters through the app. When people navigate to a location they will be prompted to pay for parking directly in the app.
Google Maps has rolled out some new features on its app that are focus on community engagement. This is all intended as part of Maps evolution from how-get-there app to a question-and-answer engine for businesses and customers.
Firs they’ve added a live feed that will so users recent reviews, photos and posts added to maps by people they follow and Goolge selected “experts.” Kind of like Yelp, but all inside Maps.
Messaging for Maps is the next new feature which will allow customers and businesses to contact each other directly inside of maps instead of relying on second-party messaging or a phone call.
Maps will now provide performance insights for businesses. While limited in scope, the feature will measure what kinds of interactions the business is getting inside the Maps app with customers and provide that data to the business.
As a final update users can now add their own street view images from their phones.
The app version of Google Maps was released in 2005.
Google has added new functionality to its Maps app, it now displays an icon when there is a traffic light at an intersection. This is available only for some US cities.
Without fanfare Google Maps added a highly requested feature last month; users can now see intersections that have traffic lights. Though the feature is only available for some US cities.
According to Google the change was mode “to help people stay better informed on the road.” The icons appear at intersections inside the app on some US cities. The feature is present on both iOS and Android platforms.
This came along with a color mapping algorithm that helps users see different terrain types like beaches and forest. The updated also included better coloration of sidewalks and pedestrian islands.
Google stated that the traffic light/intersection view had been available in Japan for years and was a top requested feature in the United States for some time.
Google started testing the feature earlier this year in a few US cities.
Google Lens seems to be a item to have. It is available through other Google apps, such as Google Assistant, Google Photos, some camera apps, Android devices, in Google Photos on iOS and in the Google app on iOS. The apps it is on will show it as four rounded corners with a dot in the middle. So let’s see exactly what it does.
Say you are out taking a walk and see a plant you and you dont know what it is. If you take a picture of it, it will find it and bring up web results so you can see it. Same with animals. On iOS, if I open the Google app, click on the lens icon in the search bar, I can see it has accessed my camera (I had given previous permissions) and some dots appear. If I click on one of the dots, it will find the item I have clicked on.
If you hover over text that is in another language, you can touch the Google Translate button and it will translate to English for you.
Zachary McCoy, a restaurant worker in Florida, received a surprising email from Google. Google’s legal support team was letting him know that the local police department demanded some of his Google account data. Unless he tried to block it in court, they would release the data in seven days.
Not knowing what he had done, but noticing a case number, he began to search for the information. He found there was a burglary of a woman’s home within a mile of his and his roommates’ house. Knowing he had nothing to do with this, he contacted his parents who in turn hired a lawyer for him.
Their lawyer found out that they were looking for a “geofence warrant,” which just sweeps up all Google data from all GPS, Bluetooth, Wi-Fi connections nearby.
It turns out that McCoy uses an app on his phone called RunKeeper to record his bike rides. He found he passed by the victim’s home a few times within one hour, which is actually part of his normal frequent loops he makes all the time.
Even if you are innocently using your apps with GPS that keep track of your activities, you may be in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Read the full article
So apparently Fitbit will belong to Google. Google was looking to expand their wearables division. Google has already been in this space with Google Wear OS and Google Fit. This will help bring together Fitbit’s technology with Google’s. The deal will cost Google about $2.1 billion. The deal is expected to be finished in 2020.
Fitbit, a pioneer in the fitness tracking industry, had already devised wearable smartwatches with their fitness tracker built in. The Versa2 Smartwatch has Alexa built in, as well as Spotify, a sleep tracker, heart-rate tracker, Fitbit pay, and various other apps. We can only speculate whether or not that will change in the future, especially about Alexa vs the Google assistant. It starts at $199.95.
The Fitbit Versa Lite Edition Smartwatch has heart-rate tracking, sleep tracking, apps and notifications and starts at $159.95. The Fitbit Ionic Smartwatch has personal coaching, built-in GPS, can store music, track heart-rate. It runs $249.95.
Other products are trackers: Charge 3 costs $149.95; Inspire starts at $69.95; Ace 2 for kids starts at $69.95 and is for ages 6+. In addition they also have Aria scales (Aria Air and Aria 2). Aria 2 will costs $129.95 while Aria Air is $49.95. They connect through apps to the fitness trackers as well. You can also accessorize your trackers and watches with a variety of different bands.
If you had a chance to log onto Google yesterday, Memorial Day 2019, you will have noticed something different about Google. Instead of the primary color logo, Google went gray for the day. They even had a light gray background at 3:00 pm. They asked for you to join them at 3:00 pm wherever you were to observe a National Moment of Remembrance. You could play taps with the link they provided.
Clicking on the folded flag under the search input would take you to this blog post.
Once upon a time back in the beginning of HTML and website coding, there was blinking code and marquee code and a lot of other things that have gone by the wayside and become obsolete.
At one time you would just put
around the code you wanted to show blinking and blink away it would.
There is a little “easter egg” in google search that can bring a little bit of it back in the search results. Just type in “blink html” in the search box and you will see all result words “html” and “blink” actually blinking.
We were curious of what other “easter eggs” we could find. One said to type “askew” in the search box. We found a link to https://elgoog.im/tilt/ which showed a tilted google page. When we entered a search term, it showed a mirror image of google results with it going from right to left.
Another said to type in “recursion” and the only thing we found is “Did you mean: recursion” which I guess in itself is a recursion. If you type “anagram” it will say “Did you mean nag a ram”.
This link shows the Google page backwards: https://elgoog.im/
This one does a barrel roll: https://elgoog.im/doabarrelroll/
This is a zerg rush that shows little circles erasing the page and then shaping two G’s. You are supposed to click on the little circles before it destroys the whole page. https://elgoog.im/zergrush/
Zip apart the Google page: https://elgoog.im/zipper/
Some of us may have purchased a Chromebook. It may have been out of curiosity or maybe you just wanted a lightweight “laptop” to just scan your email and surf the Internet. There really isn’t much more you can do with it. If you are “techie” you can install a flavor of Linux to run along with the Chrome OS. The thing about a Chromebook is that the OS is Chromium.
When you do anything on a Chromebook, it is all in the cloud – nothing is on the computer. Now, when it updates, you just get a little message that says to push a button to restart and it comes right back, you log into Chrome again and it’s updated very quickly.
There are limitations on what you can do with them. For instance, I can stream Netflix through the Chrome browser on it, but Prime Video won’t play. The only place you can save files is in your Google Drive.
Google has an Auto Update Policy about their updates. As technology advances and hardware becomes old or outdated, they cannot guarantee the software updates will run any longer. With that in mind, they have set a time limit on updates for Chromebooks. If you have a Chromebook, you can check the date here. It has a list by Manufacturer then Model. I happen to have an HP Chromebook 14, which looks like I cannot get updates past June this year. If it still runs, then that’s fine. If not, I can always install Linux over it and see if that will run.
If you have a gmail account, did you know that your email address can also have dots in it and you’ll still get it? For example, if your address firstname.lastname@example.org, it won’t matter if you send to email@example.com. You can even send it to firstname.lastname@example.org and still get it. Most mail systems do not allow this. Apparently this has been like this for some time.
We found out recently when we saw an article from ZDNet about how scammers are exploiting this by registering for different websites under your email but adding the dots. It may be sites like Netflix, Amazon.com, or eBay. They would see the dotted account email as a different one.
One group has used a variation to obtain credit cards. They have filed tax returns, registered for trial accounts, USPS change address requests, collecting Social Security benefits, apply for unemployment benefits, and apply for FEMA disaster relief.
The article brought out two other things that could be exploited. First, Google allows + signs – you can send email to email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org will get it. Second, before gmail.com it was googlemail.com and if you use email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org will still get it. Yes this has been tested and confirmed.
You’ve gotten those emails asking to click on something. It could be to learn how to make more money, or maybe someone has your information, or something that really looks legitimate. They prey on people hoping to get more of your personal information.
Google’s Jigsaw unit has a phishing quiz. The Victor crew suggests you take it to see if you can spot some phishing emails/sites. It is only 8 questions long but it may help you be on the ball. You start out by making up a name and email for the quiz. Some are phishing and some are legitimate. See if you can spot the imposters:
Take the quiz
Source: Google Blog
Last week we posted about some different browsers out there. It seems Microsoft has been actively trying to embrace the open source software community. They recently bought GitHub, a repository used for years by people to store their open source projects.
Last month, they decided to adopt the Chromium open source project to re-develop their Microsoft Edge browser. Many browsers are already built on Chromium, such as Chrome, Opera, Brave, Vivaldi, and Yandex just to name a few.
Some of their reasons make sense. One is web compatibility. When developing websites, developers have to check their sites in at least four browsers to make sure they look right in all of them. This will make it easier by removing one that is often difficult.
Google recently had it’s 20 year anniversary. We found this interesting video of where it got its start. It was uploaded by Google’s sixth employee, Harry. It shows the garage where they got their start in 1998. At the end you will see Larry Page, one of the founders.
Larry Page is no longer CEO of Google as he has become CEO of Alphabet, the parent company of Google.
As of version 69, the Chrome browser will log you in and sync when you visit any Google site like Gmail, YouTube, Google Docs, Google Maps, etc. For whatever reason, you may not want to be logged in, or you may not want them to keep track of everything you do. They are not giving you that choice anymore.
There was a discussion on Twitter about it with Adrienne Porter Felt, a Chrome engineer and manager.
Apparently after these discussions and feedback, Google is going to back down and make some changes come version 70 coming out in mid-October. They will allow sign-in without syncing. If you want to sync between devices, you will need to turn sync on. Signing into a Google owned website will not sign them into Chrome at the same time.
Google services on Android or iPhones can store your location data, even when you try to prevent it through your device settings.
Google Maps can make a timeline of your movements, for example. It works so well that last year a warrant was served by police in North Carolina to Google to find devices near a murder scene. You can turn off your location history so the places you go will not be stored.
If you are logged into Google, go to https://www.google.com/maps/timeline?pb to see your timeline or whether it is even on. You can turn the tracking of your history on or off here: https://myaccount.google.com/activitycontrols/location?hl=en&gl=US
This may not keep Google from tracking your movements through nearby towers but it is something more you can do to make it a little more difficult for them.
Did you know there are a lot more settings and pages to your Google Chrome browser than you find just in your settings? To find them just type into your address bar “chrome://about” (without the quote marks) and you will find a list of pages you can access.
You will find you are actually on the first page: chrome://about. If you click it there won’t be a change. chrome://chrome will give you the update page. Some of the other pages may or may not look familiar. I clicked on chrome://dino to see what that was – it’s the dinosaur you see when you don’t have an internet connection.
The chrome://flags page will allow you to access some experimental items; chrome://bookmarks will let you see all your bookmarks. Just use caution if you make any changes to the browser.
Gmail rolled out the new Gmail recently. We thought we’d give it a try. It didn’t really look any different once we set it up. Until we wanted to check in our contacts. We no longer could just click on the name Gmail on the top left to get to our contacts. This meant a Google search to try to find it.
Here is where it is – on the top right is the app grid. Find contacts in there. You may need to move it up to the top so you can access them quickly. If Contacts icon doesn’t show, click More at the bottom of the first page and you should see it on the second. You can simply grab it and move it to the top.
The first image shows the grid without the Contacts app. The second image shows it on the second page under More. The third shows the Contacts app on the top right.
Another difference we found is that Labs was missing. Labs were experimental addons you could enable to try different things.
It’s a few years old now, but if you haven’t had the chance to see it, The Internship is quite entertaining. It costars Owen Wilson and Vince Vaughn as two washed up salesmen, who lost their jobs to the digital world, trying to figure out a new career path. They decide to try for an internship at Google.
So here are two guys in their mid-forties trying to land an internship against a bunch of 20-somethings. To them it was like having their dads with them. What makes it even more interesting is their lack of tech-savviness against the younger generation but they do bring their life experiences. You will see some Google products in the credits such as Google Drive, Translate, Google+, and more.
It is important to keep all software you use up to date. There are updates for a reason – most likely some of the code used was found to be vulnerable to attacks.
This past week, a popular extension was hijacked. The developer of the Web Developer for Chrome extension had his own account hijacked. The hijackers phished his Google account, then modified the code in his account and pushed it out to users. The version of Web Developer for Chrome that was pushed out is 0.4.9. You need to make sure you have the updated version 0.5 installed NOW!
The version the hijackers uploaded can force ads on pages, capture passwords, or other unreported problems. Consider changing passwords to pages visited during the time of the compromise. The date was August 2. The developer himself admits he fell for a phishing attack that started this. This effected over one million users.
The developer details the events in his blog. The bottom line is anyone can click on a bad link and it is important to have two-factor verification in place.
There are a lot of ways these days to listen to music these days. There are many streaming services these days. Most people stream or use their mp3 players. There are also home devices like Amazon Echo, Google Home, or coming soon, the Apple HomePod.
The Victor crew even knows someone who still orders CDs to play in their car? But what will happen when he buys a newer car? Many newer cars are starting to abandon them. It has been predicted that up to 46% of new cars will not have CD players by 2021.
You can use a lot of data if you stream from your car (if you don’t have a Wi-Fi service) so you’ll have to rely on your mp3 player, satellite radio, or built-in radio. If you insist on a CD player, you can purchase a portable one that could plug in with your auxilliary cable. Perhaps you can purchase a new car kit with a CD player.
We sure have come a long way from just AM radio. Next came FM. Remember the 8-track players of the 70s? Then they went away to make way for the cassette. Then the piles of cassettes were replaced by piles of plastic discs. Life is getting simpler where you don’t have to store all the discs, cassettes, or 8-tracks anymore.
Don’t you just love it when you go to a website and you have all these things pop up, music blaring, or you’re reading something and along comes an annoying ad blocking you. There are two sides to this. Some people make their living from these ads. But for the user, it’s no picnic.
Google has joined the Coalition for Better Ads. This coalition has guidelines that should be followed when designing ads for a website. They plan on building a new Chrome browser with this ad-blocking built in. It won’t block all ads and you may only get the most annoying ads from showing.
The up side: maybe you will see fewer annoying ads.
The down side: someone will be making money from this. On the Google post, they mention Funding Choices where publishers can show a customized messages to people who are using ad blockers on their browsers. They can either enable ads or pay for removing the ads on that site through a new Google Contributor program.
So how does Google Contributor work? You buy a $5 pass for a particular website. The site has a per-page fee of their choosing (some are $0.01 per page, some $0.03 per page.) Every time you visit a page without ads, it deducts from the pass. You can add or remove sites from your pass at any time. This is still in beta at this time. They plan the rollout some time in 2018.
Google Post about Ad Blocking
This past Saturday was April Fools Day. The Internet wasn’t short of pranks. The Victor crew enjoyed putting together this list of some of them.
Stack Overflow had fun making this video of their Dance Dance Authentication protocol:
In case you don’t know, Stack Overflow is a site that is used by developers as a forum.
Google had fun with Google Gnome, something to make your backyard smart:
Amazon brought us Petlexa
Honda has Horn Emojis
If you use Gmail, like many others, the Victor crew wants you to be aware of a new phishing attack going around. This one is even fooling tech-savvy and security conscious people. They are trying to steal usernames and passwords for Gmail.
It starts as an email that appears to come from someone you know and may even have an image of an attachment you might think is from the sender. If you click on it, it will give a preview, like Gmail normally does but instead, a new tab will open and want you sign in to your Gmail account again. Make sure you look at the address bar and see only https://accounts.google.com… If you see “data:text/html,” before it, (data:text/html,https://accounts.google.com/ServiceLogin?service=mail), DO NOT ENTER YOUR LOGIN!
If you think you may have already fallen for this attack, change your Google password.