Google Assistant Can Read Your Kids a Bedtime Story

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If you have Google Assistant and the latest version of Google Play Books on your iOS device, it can now read your kids a bedtime story.

Ahead of National Tell a Story Day taking place on Saturday, youngsters now have more ways to hear a bedtime tale. As of today, the feature will be available on iOS and Android phones in English in the US, UK, Canada, Australia and India.

Sounds like a great feature. When I asked Siri to read me a bedtime story, she said: “Next you’ll be asking me for a glass of milk. And a dark matter cookie.” Damnit Siri, that doesn’t even make sense.

For Years, Google Sabotaged Firefox

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In the latest news of anticompetitive corporate behavior, a former Mozilla executive said Google sabotaged Firefox for years.

“When Chrome launched things got complicated, but not in the way you might expect. They had a competing product now, but they didn’t cut ties, break our search deal – nothing like that. In fact, the story we kept hearing was, ‘We’re on the same side. We want the same things’,” the former Mozilla exec said.

I encourage everyone to read the Twitter thread.

iPhones Aren’t Safe From Google’s Sensorvault Database

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Google has a database called Sensorvault. It contains location data of users and shares it with law enforcement—if they have a warrant, of course. Apple honors lawful requests as well. But Jennifer Valentino-DeVries wonders whether the database is too broad.

Google would not provide details on Sensorvault, but Aaron Edens, an intelligence analyst with the sheriff’s office in San Mateo County, Calif., who has examined data from hundreds of phones, said most Android devices and some iPhones he had seen had this data available from Google…

“It shows the whole pattern of life,” said Mark Bruley, the deputy police chief in Brooklyn Park, Minn., where investigators have been using the technique since this fall. “That’s the game changer for law enforcement.”

Google Duplex Rolling Out to Google Assistant on iOS

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Google Duplex is a feature that lets the Google Assistant make reservations on your behalf. The company is starting to roll out the feature to iPhones and other non-Pixel phones.

The support site for Duplex lists the iPhone as being part of this rollout, with Android phones simply requiring Android 5.0 or higher to use the automated calling service. iOS users simply need to have the Google Assistant installed to get started.

Google Stadia and Apple AR Gaming, Good Data Collection, with Andrew Orr - ACM 506

· · Apple Context Machine Podcast

Apple Context Machine Logo

Google Stadia looks likely to shake up the gaming world, but there’s more than one way to skin a gaming cat, and Apple is focused on AR. Bryan Chaffin is joined by guest cohost Andrew Orr to discuss how those different tracts might fare. They also talk about the good sides of corporate data surveillance, and yes, they will both forgive you if you are surprised either would entertain such a notion.

Google Hit With $1.69 billion EU Anti-Trust Fine Over Adsense Restrictions

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LONDON – Google was hit by its third anti-trust fine from EU regulators Wednesday. EU competition commissioner, Margrethe Vestager, said the company had stifled competition in the online advertising market and had to pay €1.49 billion ($1.69 billion), CNBC reported. Google’s rivals had claimed that the company placed Adsense ads on websites on the proviso that other advertising systems were not present not the same page.

Google’s Adsense pushes ads triggered by search engines embedded websites. Rival firms to Google had claimed the product was placed on websites with the understanding that no other systems could be on the same page. The Alphabet company has previously defended its use of the technology, claiming it has been in place since 2006, is now superseded, and is a minor product. In the fourth quarter of 2018, Google’s core advertising business saw revenue increase 20 percent from the previous quarter to $32.6 billion — the same rate of growth as the last quarter.

Apple Acquires Machine Learning Startup Laserlike

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Apple has acquired Laserlike, a young startup founded by three former Google engineers. It’s a machine learning startup that could help Apple improve its recommendation algorithms in News, TV, Apple Music, etc (paywall).

An Apple spokesperson confirmed the acquisition of the four-year-old startup, which was founded by three former Google engineers, Anand Shukla, Srinivasan Venkatachary and Steven Baker, and had raised more than $24 million from Redpoint Ventures and Sutter Hill Ventures, according to CrunchBase. Terms of the deal could not be learned.

I look forward to getting better recommendations.

This Google Nest Device Has a Secret Microphone

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The Nest Secure smart home hub has had a secret microphone this whole time. But poor Google just plain forgot to tell us.

On Tuesday, a Google spokesperson told Business Insider the company had made an “error.” “The on-device microphone was never intended to be a secret and should have been listed in the tech specs. That was an error on our part,” the spokesperson said.

Silly Google, tricks are for kids. Also, get a HomePod.

Apple Outspent by Rivals in Record Year of Tech Lobbying

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U.S. Capitol Building

Tech firms spent a record amount lobbying the U.S. Government in 2018. Re/Code reported that Apple spent $6.6 million, slightly down from $7.2 million the year before. Although significant, Apple’s outlay was lower than that of the other major tech firms. For example, Google spent $21 million, while Amazon spent $14.2 million, and Facebook spent $12.6 million. Microsoft too outspent Apple, spending $9.5 million. In total, the firms invested $48 million in lobbying in 2018, up 13% from the year before.

Lobbying growth among the tech giants — especially companies that leverage user data for advertising revenue — comes as they are falling under increased government scrutiny. Facebook in particular faces a record Federal Trade Commission fine over apparent violations of data privacy practices in the Cambridge Analytica scandal that was revealed last year.