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Google employees protest secret work on censored search engine for China • The New York Times
Kate Conger and Daisuke Wakabayashi:
<p>Hundreds of Google employees, upset at the company’s decision to secretly build a censored version of its search engine for China, have signed a letter demanding more transparency to understand the ethical consequences of their work.

In the letter, which was obtained by The New York Times, employees wrote that the project and Google’s apparent willingness to abide by China’s censorship requirements “raise urgent moral and ethical issues.” They added, “Currently we do not have the information required to make ethically-informed decisions about our work, our projects, and our employment.”

The letter is circulating on Google’s internal communication systems and is signed by about 1,000 employees, according to two people familiar with the document, who were not authorized to speak publicly.

The protest presents another obstacle for Google’s potential return to China eight years after the company publicly withdrew from the country in protest of censorship and government hacking. China has the world’s largest internet audience but has frustrated American tech giants with content restrictions or outright blockages of services including Facebook and Instagram.</p>
google  china 
1 hour ago by charlesarthur
Google China censorship project named after co-founder Sergey Brin's luxury yacht? • Ryan Gallagher
Gallagher, who writes at The Intercept, with some "cutting-room details" from his other stories on Google's China project; it turns out that Sergey Brin has a 240ft, $80m yacht named "Dragonfly" - the same as the China project:
<p>After Google pulled its search engine out of China in 2010, Brin said of the Chinese government: “In some aspects of their policy, particularly with respect to censorship, with respect to surveillance of dissidents, I see the same earmarks of totalitarianism, and I find that personally quite troubling."

It’s clear Brin was at the time genuinely uncomfortable with the censorship – he didn't just say what he did for public relations reasons. I have heard this from several people inside the company who spent years working with him. He took a principled stand and had arguments with colleagues over the issue.

In recent years, Brin has taken a more hands-off role at Google. Since 2015, CEO Sundar Pichai has taken the helm, and he has steered the company’s policy on China. But Brin still serves on Google’s board of directors, and would surely have been briefed on the search engine plans, given their importance for Google both politically and strategically. So did Brin change his mind about the censorship? Was he simply outvoted by his colleagues on the issue?

More to the point at hand, why was the Chinese censorship project given the same name as Brin’s yacht? Is it possible somebody inside Google is trying to troll Brin, knowing that he has in the past spoken out against the Chinese government censorship? Or was Brin himself involved in giving the project this name, indicating that he has changed his views?</p>

I'd suspect it's a form of trolling; that it's people trying to annoy Brin, for whatever reason.
dragonfly  google  china 
1 hour ago by charlesarthur
SEO is back. Thank God • NYMag
Brian Feldman on how Facebook's shift away from the News Feed for pushing content ("social-optimised" content) means we're back to the good old days of SEO (search engine optimisation of links):
<p>The problem with social-optimized content is that its overt, eerie familiarity drapes a kind of lowest-common-denominator cynicism across the internet. Social media tends to favor positive sentiment over negative, and exaggeration over subtlety. When a writer claims to be “scrEAMING” at the newest Marvel trailer in the headline, are they saying that because they really are, or because they want the reader to think that they are so that the reader will share on Facebook? It’s not a crime to write an enthusiastic headline, but when every headline you see is yelling at you in one way or another — and making outsized claims about the emotional state of its author or readers — it becomes difficult to trust the claimed sentiments of writers. At the very least, it’s extremely annoying.

SEO content, on the other hand, dispenses with the emotional in favor of the mechanical. It can be stilted and awkward — but it’s more honest and transparent. When a writer pads their article for the trailer of the newest Marvel movie with search keywords — data like the cast and crew and opening date — they’re optimizing for the Google robots. But they’re also providing genuinely useful information. Social content was about manipulating people into clicking, sharing, and posting. SEO is about manipulating robots into treating your content as the best example of sought-after information.

SEO is far from a perfect assignment editor for the web. Scammers and charlatans have been trying to abuse it for years, and it can create spectacles as ghoulish and cynical as social-optimized posts when news happens. A particularly gross instance happened in the hours after news of Anthony Bourdain’s suicide broke, when Newsweek pumped out individual Google-optimized posts about each of his family members and former partners. Tasteless? Absolutely. But it is also fulfilling a direct reader request with dispassionate information instead of hyperbole. The mechanics of SEO are clear, far more than the mechanics of human emotions.</p>
google  facebook  socialwarming 
2 hours ago by charlesarthur
Daring Fireball: AP: Google Tracks Your Location Even When You Disable 'Location History'

> Google is saying, with a straight face, that it’s perfectly clear that disabling the feature named “Location History” does not prevent Google from tracking your location history. There’s nothing surprising about this, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t shameful.
privacy  google 
2 hours ago by mkalmes
Google Staff Tell Bosses China Censorship is “Moral and Ethical” Crisis
In the latest development in the controversy surrounding Google's planned Chinese censor-friendly search engine, employees of the tech giant are circulating a letter "calling for Google’s leadership to recognize that there is a 'code yellow' situation – a kind of internal alert that signifies a crisis is unfolding," Ryan Gallagher writes for The Intercept. In the letter, employees express the need for "more transparency, a seat at the table, and a commitment to clear and open processes: Google employees need to know what we’re building."

Gallagher writes: "The letter suggests that the Dragonfly initiative violates an internal Google artificial intelligence ethical code, which says that the company will not build or deploy technologies 'whose purpose contravenes widely accepted principles of international law and human rights'...The letter goes on to demand 'an ethics review that includes rank and file employee representatives,' the appointment of an ombudsperson to oversee the process, a plan for more transparency to be instituted across the company so that employees can make ethical choices about what they choose to work on, and 'ethical test cases' assessing the Chinese censorship plans...Google’s leadership has still not spoken to employees about Dragonfly, according to the sources...The silence from Google bosses appears to have fueled anger within the company. Discussion has raged among Google employees, with some questioning their managers, only to be told that details about Dragonfly cannot be shared."

- The letter is signed by "about 1,000 employees," according to the New York Times.

- Other China-related news: Reuters reports (citing government procurement documents) on how China's Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region acts as a "laboratory" of surveillance technology, which then spreads east into the country's biggest, most populous cities. "The data Reuters analyzed includes requests [for 'hand-held devices allow police to quickly check the content of phones on the street'] from 171 police stations across 32 out of 33 official mainland provinces, regions and municipalities, and appears to show only a portion of total spending."
otf  china  google  xinjiang  uyghur  censorship  access  asia  gfw  search 
2 hours ago by dmcdev
Study: Amazon's share of smart speaker shipments fell to 41% from 76% last year | Mobile Marketer
Amazon's global share of smart speaker shipments fell to 41% in Q2 2018 from 76% a year earlier, while Google boosted its share to 28% from 16% during the same periods, according to researcher Strategy Analytics. The firm estimated that device makers shipped nearly 12 million smart speakers in Q2 2018, about 8 million more than a year ago.​
Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba came in third place with a 7% share for its smart speakers after introducing the Tmall Genie last year. Its AliGenie digital assistant powers the device with voice commands for news, music and other apps. Apple had a 5.9% share for its HomePod, which shipped in February after delays around the holidays.
echo  hardware  voice  google  amazon  stats 
3 hours ago by dancall
New Google AI Assistant Helps Users Stay Fit |
According to Venture Beat, there are rumors the company is set to launch Google Coach, which would deliver health and fitness insights proactively, using calendar appointments, reminders, and logged activities. For example, if you skip a scheduled gym day, it might remind you to find another time. And if you’re not meeting a fitness goal, it could offer up workouts and routines that would help you get closer to achieving it.

Google Coach will also keep track of your eating habits, as well as other signals (like location) to make recommendations when you’re dining out or shopping at the grocery store. Google Coach’s suggestions will come in the form of notifications and messages.
google  health  ai  bots 
3 hours ago by dancall
"Distroless" Docker Images
"Distroless" images contain only your application and its runtime dependencies. They do not contain package managers, shells or any other programs you would expect to find in a standard Linux distribution.
k8s  docker  google  oss 
4 hours ago by mmalone

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