Google: Give us all your photos… we’ll use our invasive facial recognition tech to pick the best ones!
As we have long predicted, Google is starting to roll out facial recognition technology.
They obviously don’t want to hype its deployment. Instead, they’re tucking it into something larger, apparently in the hopes it won’t draw much of an outcry.
The “something larger” is a new suite of photo management tools for Google Plus, the Monster of Mountain View’s social network, which promise to automate the process of choosing selects. (Selects are photography-speak for “pictures I want to keep and share”).
The automatic photo selection is done by calling upon Google’s knowledge of the elements that make up a visually pleasing picture, coupled with facial recognition technology and a vast database that helps tie together the relationships of people appearing in a photo. Google says its computers will recognize the best photos featuring family members or close friends of a person who uploads a bunch of pictures to Plus.
“You have amazing images of the most precious image of your life,” Gundotra told a software developers conference Wednesday as he discussed the additions to Google Plus. “But if we are honest with each other photos are very labor intensive.”
If the photos don’t look quite right, Google is promising to enhance them, taking over a job that typically requires people to buy and master special photo editing software such as Adobe System Inc.’s Photoshop, Apple’s iPhoto or Google’s Picasa. Computer-controlled editing tools will automatically remove red eyes, soften skin tones, sharpen colors and adjust contrast.
In an effort to get more photos onto the Plus network, Google is offering to back up all pictures taken on a mobile device, as soon as they’re snapped. To accommodate the increased volume, Google Plus will now provide each accountholder with up to 15 gigabytes of storage for full-resolution photos.
What’s wrong with photos being labor intensive? Isn’t part of the joy of photography going through photos? It seems like Google wants to automate and algorimithize everything it possibly can. The allure is that the computers will do the work. But when the computers do the work, the computers also make the decisions.
This is yet another Google technology that we just don’t need. There is already great free and proprietary software available for managing, organizing, and displaying photos. Google would like to be everyone’s repository for photo storage so it can know more about us.
That’s why Google’s offerings are free. When you use a Google offering, you are the product. Same goes for Facebook. That’s something you should think long and hard about when signing up for any social network. Google and its offerings, meanwhile, are best avoided… period.
Google is reportedly developing an offering to compete with the likes of Spotify and Rhapsody, because its cyber empire simply isn’t big enough:
Dear Spotify, Rhapsody and any other music-streaming service out there: Here comes Google.
The Wall Street Journal and now Bloomberg are reporting that Google is planning to launch a worldwide music streaming service in Q3 of this year. Google is reportedly talking to music companies about licenses for the service, which mimics that of Spotify.
Record labels currently have a strained relationship with Google because they believe Google acts as a gateway for sites where people can connect to swap tunes without paying royalties to the labels. It will be interesting to see if Google can come to terms with the industry’s few remaining major players. At this point, except for the independent labels, the music industry is a triopoly – it’s just Universal, Warner, and Sony. (EMI was subsumed by Universal and Sony).
Executives at Google seemingly feel the need to compete in every product category with every other major technology company, and they have tried to grow the Google empire through acquisitions in addition to product launches. In recent years, Google has attempted to buy many of the emerging players in Silicon Valley, including Twitter, Facebook, Yelp, and the now-struggling Groupon. All of those companies walked away from Google’s offers and overtures, forcing the Monster of Mountain View to launch its own offerings (including Google+, Google Offers, and Google Places).
A music streaming offering is just another way for Google to increase its treasure trove of user data. Google wants people to keep people on its properties, and its executives think it can best do that by having an offering for everything.
Brazil’s National Association of Newspapers says all 154 members had followed its recommendation to ban the search engine aggregator from using their content.
The papers say Google News refused to pay for content and was driving traffic away from their websites.
Google said previously that the service boosted traffic to news websites.
“Staying with Google News was not helping us grow our digital audiences, on the contrary,” said the association’s president, Carlos Fernando Lindenberg Neto.
“By providing the first few lines of our stories to Internet users, the service reduces the chances that they will look at the entire story in our websites,” he said, in an interview with the Knight Center for Journalism in the Americas.
Though we’re not fans of Google, we fail to see exactly what these newspapers are trying to accomplish by pulling out of Google News. Google News is really just a twist on regular old Google search itself. The difference is that Google News draws its results from media sources instead of the larger Web. Essentially, it’s a filter that can be used to find recent content written by journalists and commentators.
Google News may not have been doing much for Brazil’s newspapers, but it’s very unlikely it was hurting them. The purpose of search engines is to help people find content on the Internet. While it’s true that Google has or is developing offerings intended to monopolize users’ time and attention (such as YouTube), Google News is more like regular old Google than YouTube. If Neto’s group believes that search engines reduce the likelihood that people will read newspapers online, they should be pulling out of Google altogether, not just Google News. But they haven’t, because they don’t want to lose the traffic.
Rather than delisting themselves from Google News, what the newspapers should do is end any participation in Google’s AdSense network. The papers should take charge of their own advertising so Google doesn’t get a cut of that revenue. That would be a sensible thing to do.
We allow Google to index this site because we want people who happen to be using Google to be exposed to criticism of the company. Google’s search engine has problems, but that’s small potatoes compared to the consequences of using offerings like Android, Gmail, Docs, and Drive. Those “services” collect and store a great deal of personal and sensitive information. Google’s search engine does log queries, but it is possible to use Google anonymously through tools like Google Sharing (which we recommend for people who can’t bring themselves to use an alternative like Blekko as their primary search engine).
Dean Howell, a self-professed Google fan, thinks so:
I’ve been using Google Chrome for Linux since it was first made available. I use Gmail, Google Docs (now Drive), Google Plus, Google Adsense, Google Analytics, Google Music, and many more. I am the original owner of an original CR-48 Chromebook, having received mine way back in Dec. 2010. I promote Google services at work and have worked hard to point my business’ compass towards their entire suite of offerings. I use a Samsung Nexus S with an official build of Android 4.04 and I’m only interested in official devices moving forward.
At the same time, I have been gently treading a fine line between complete faith and trust in Google and fear of the Orwellian future they are capable of realizing for us all.
We lost faith and trust in Google years ago. Virtually every move Google has made since has vindicated our decision to Leave Google Behind. Sounds like Dean is starting to catch on.
I never had any errors loading Slashdot or OMG Ubuntu. Hacker News, Reddit and all the other sites that I frequent all loaded fine, %100 of the time. Of course Google Plus, Adsense, Analytics and Google Drive all gave me “Connection Reset”. So today, while running errands, a really nasty notion came to me. Is Google using user agent strings to create a poor experience in Firefox?
I decided to test this theory.
Dean’s tests confirmed his suspicions: Google’s offerings work just reliably when the browser identifies itself to Google as Chrome or a Chromium-based browser. But errors were commonplace for Dean when his browser identified itself to Google as Firefox.
We’ve long suspected that at some point, Google would launch an online storage offering in competition with Dropbox, Box.net, Microsoft’s SkyDrive, iCloud, and Amazon Cloud Services. And now they have.
Google is taking the wraps off a long-anticipated product that it views as one of its most important launches of the year, as the Internet giant continues its push toward a future in which users’ photos, spreadsheets and other data primarily live on the Internet “cloud” instead of a PC or some other device.
The launch of “Google Drive” Tuesday has been a poorly kept secret in Silicon Valley, with the name and a rough description of the online storage product widely circulated in recent weeks as Google has worked out the final bugs. Drive will open up to millions of users around the world starting Tuesday, allowing them to sync their files between PCs, smartphones and tablets.
Google’s main intention with its new Drive offering, of course, is to take mining of personal information to a whole new level. With Drive, Google is going beyond its existing Gmail, Docs, YouTube, and Picasa offerings, and inviting users to upload pretty much everything they might normally keep on their desktops and laptops to its datacenters. The problematic user agreement Google created for Drive naturally does not provide adequate protections for the privacy and security of the people who use it:
“The language is not drafted nearly as tightly as we would expect from a company of Google’s size and stature,” says Eric Goldman of the High Tech Law Institute. He describes the covenants as poorly written and likely to confuse users by virtue of Google mashing licensing and privacy statements together.
Several companies and media organizations have already warned their employees that Google Drive’s terms of service are problematic, and the offering should not be used.
We agree. Stay far, far away from Google Drive.
MORE FROM ARS TECHNICA: Google Drive files can end up in ads, even though you still own them
Congratulations to Wikipedia and the Wikimedia Foundation:
Previous versions of our application used Google Maps for the nearby view. This has now been replaced with OpenStreetMap - an open and free source of Map Data that has been referred to as ‘Wikipedia for Maps.’ This closely aligns with our goal of making knowledge available in a free and open manner to everyone. This also means we no longer have to use proprietary Google APIs in our code, which helps it run on the millions of cheap Android handsets that are purely open source and do not have the proprietary Google applications.
OpenStreetMap is used in both iOS and Android, thanks to the amazing Leaflet.js library. We are currently using Mapquest’s map tiles for our application, but plan on switching to our own tile servers in the near future.
Foursquare and Apple have also recently ditched Google Maps in favor of OpenStreetMap.
Next they’ll renaming Android itself… to Google Phone, or Google Mobile:
Google often confuses me. The company, with its thousands of genius employees, often makes the most brain-dead decisions. Just earlier today Google rolled out their latest twist on the Android Market — but it’s not called Android Market anymore. Instead of simply redesigning the e-store, Google also re-branded the whole thing to Google Play.
The reasoning is sound: the company wanted to better describe their offerings since it’s not just apps. The Play name is multifaceted, evoking thoughts of playing a game or pressing play on a media file. Cool. But most markets also sell more than one sort of good. The old name worked just as well.
The problem (from the perspective of Google executives) was that the old name was not directly tied into the Google brand. The new one is, just like Google Plus, Google Wallet, Google Chrome, Gmail, Google Apps, and most of the company’s other offerings.
Perhaps the name change is a good thing. At least now it’s more evident that Google owns and operates the online store that is preloaded onto Android (soon to be known as Google Mobile) spyphones.
Google, the company that has been fighting against paid links and “thin” content, seems to be behind a campaign that’s generating both on behalf of its Chrome browser. File this under “what were they thinking.”
Aaron Wall wrote about the campaign today at SEO Book, spotting how a search for “This post is sponsored by Google” brings back over 400 pages written apparently as part of a Google marketing campaign.
We’re checking with Google for confirmation that the company is behind the campaign, but expect a response to be delayed, as Google’s PR department, like much of Google, is off today. But it certainly appears to be Google-backed.
Google is increasingly relying on advertising to try to win over converts to its spyware-laden browser, Chrome, which is built on top of open source software originally derived from the KDE Software Compilation (KHTML). Google’s “ChromeOS” and Chromebooks aren’t doing so well, but Google has successfully convinced millions to download Chrome (the browser) by relentlessly hyping it on its web properties and bundling it with other downloads (like Google Earth).
Though Google is undoubtedly hoping that Chrome’s market share will continue to grow at Mozilla’s expense, it decided against parting ways with the nonprofit software maker recently, choosing instead to renew an agreement that will keep Google as the default search engine in Firefox for a few more years. But we believe Google’s executives didn’t sign off on the agreement out of the kindness of their hearts. They did so because they didn’t want to see Microsoft’s Bing become the default search engine in Firefox. (Microsoft had apparently made an offer and had put money on the table). Microsoft, of course, happens to make its own browser – Internet Explorer. But it has been working hard to integrate Bing into Firefox recently.
The Monster of Mountain View continues to engage in anticompetitive behavior:
If you search for “Yelp” on Google from your mobile phone the top paid result, even above the organic result to Yelp.com, takes you to Zagat. I am only seeing this on mobile searches. While it is a common practice for companies to advertise against their competitors’ names in search advertising, in this case it is Google itself which is bidding for that search term and taking the top spot. A classy move.
TechCrunch has a screenshot of the ad. The link is titled “Yelp”, but it goes to Zagat, which was recently purchased by Google and is now a subsidiary.
Because AdWords ads appear above what are known as the “organic” search results (which is a misnomer, there’s no such thing as “organic” search results), the real Yelp will always appear below the fake Yelp link as long as Google continues running its ad for Zagat. And of course, Google can run its Zagat ad forever… because Google can give itself as much advertising space as it likes.
TechCrunch notes that Yelp could fight back by buying its own Google ad. But then it’s just forking over money to a competitor.
What Google is doing here is a perfect example of why it is a menacing monopoly, and should be boycotted.
Two years after it tried and failed to buy Yelp, Google has reached an agreement with Tim and Nina Zagat of the eponymous Zagat Survey to acquire their company:
“With Zagat, we gain a world-class team that has more experience in consumer based-surveys, recommendations and reviews than anyone else in the industry,” said Marissa Mayer, a Google vice president responsible for the tech giant’s efforts in local, maps and location services, in a blog post.
“Moving forward, Zagat will be a cornerstone of our local offering — delighting people with their impressive array of reviews, ratings and insights, while enabling people everywhere to find extraordinary (and ordinary) experiences around the corner and around the world.”
Terms of the acquisition were not disclosed, but the Monster of Mountain View reportedly paid somewhere in the neighborhood of $125 million.
Zagat has been in business for more than thirty years. It was created in 1979 to organize and aggregate restaurant reviews. For many years, its guides were sold as books.
In the late 1990s, Zagat actually had a partnership with Microsoft, which integrated its restaurant guide into its Expedia Streets 98 mapping program. (Streets later became Microsoft Streets & Trips; Expedia was ultimately spun off as a separate company.)
Now Zagat is just another cog in the Googleplex.
Pretty sad that its founders decided to sell out instead of remaining independent.