Archive for the 'google' Category

Google says it favors encryption, but it’s penalizing encrypted retailers

Wednesday 20 August 2014 @ 8:37 am

Google’s Trusted Stores program isn’t compatible with encryption, the Wall Street Journal is reporting. The revelation flies in the face of Google’s public support of encryption.

Earlier this month we reported about Google’s plans to prioritize encrypted sites in search results. As we noted then, the ranking signal is fairly weak, so sites that Google deems higher quality will still show up higher in search results.

It was a small incentive to get websites to encrypt, but an important one. However, the fact that Google hosts an e-commerce program that isn’t compatible with encryption is a bit contradictory. Especially considering the rash of hacks on retailers in recent years.

Google’s Trusted Stores program rates participating stores based on their shopping experience and shipping expediency. Then Google issues the store a badge to display on each webpage of its site. The problem is, encryption blocks that badge.

It’s also worth noting that Trusted Stores are not required to encrypt payment or checkout pages.

“The Trusted Stores badge is designed to be suppressed and not show up on secure pages,” Google wrote to Christopher Heitman, co-owner of Pegasus Auto Racing Supplies based out of Wisconsin, according to the Wall Street Journal report.

Heitman has several times applied for a Google Trusted Stores badge and each time he’s been denied because he uses encryption across his site. The benefit of encrypting the entire site, rather than individual pages, is that it prevents certain types of cyber attacks wherein an attacker can use information entered on an unencrypted page, like a username and password, to gain access to other information.

Google says it’s developing a “workaround” to make the Trusted Stores badge compatible with encryption. In the interim, it seems pretty ironic that Google would launch a prioritization tool that rewards encrypted sites with higher placement in search results, while operating an honor program for online retailers that penalizes encrypted sites.

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Google cars designed to speed because obeying the law can be dangerous

Tuesday 19 August 2014 @ 12:28 pm

Google’s self-driving cars are designed to exceed the speed limit by up to 10 miles per hour because stubbornly obeying the law can be a danger to everyone on the road. The legal and philosophical consequences of this fact are fascinating.

In a recent Reuters review of the Google car, reporter Paul Ingrassia was told:

Google’s driverless car is programmed to stay within the speed limit, mostly. Research shows that sticking to the speed limit when other cars are going much faster actually can be dangerous … so its autonomous car can go up to 10 mph (16 kph) above the speed limit when traffic conditions warrant.

This is a fascinating quandary for Google’s engineers. No one knows for sure who is responsible when an automated vehicle breaks the law. If a flawed algorithm sends a driver down a one-way road due to a missing road sign, who is responsible? Is it the Google engineer, or perhaps a the construction crew that screwed up the road sign?

As states slowly allow for automated car testing on their roads, they’re piecing together the legality one situation at a time. The old standards of determining guilt may not apply to robots.

“Criminal law is going to be looking for a guilty mind, a particular mental state — should this person have known better?” University of Washington’s Ryan Calo, an expert in tech law, told the New York Times. “If you’re not driving the car, it’s going to be difficult.”

But the idea of programming a car to break the law ahead of time is perhaps the most fascinating legal question. Sometimes the spirit of the law contradicts the written law. Laws are designed to save lives, but they aren’t flexible enough to deal with every single situation.

Thanks to the big data gathered on car accidents, Google will know when speeding is actually safe and when it isn’t. Right now, Google engineers may suspect that exceeding the speed limit when other cars are also speeding is the safest thing to do. And a law could be designed to allow Google’s self-driving cars to legally speed under those general circumstances.

But as Google collects more data, its decisions will increasingly become more unpredictable.

Perhaps it is safest to speed in excess of 20 miles per hour on St. Patrick’s Day, because going near the speed limit around drunk drivers agitates them and makes them more reckless. We doubt that a law could ever really be flexible enough to know when it should be permissible for Google to speed.

And even if a robot is allowed to break the law, who decides the conditions? Is it permissible to speed when doing so would cause a 10 percent decrease in potential for a traffic fatality. What about 5 percent?

These are questions that that will ultimately have to be answered by a regulatory body. For now, it’s all in Google’s hands.

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Lessons from a game guru: Candy Crush Saga creator once survived six months without pay

Monday 18 August 2014 @ 10:00 am
Lessons from a game guru: Candy Crush Saga creator once survived six months without pay

Above: Arseny Lebedev (left) and Tommy Palm

Image Credit: Dean Takahashi

I’ve talked before about the charmed life of Tommy Palm, a key figure at King Digital Entertainment in the creation of the hit mobile game Candy Crush Saga. But in looking at Palm, it’s clear that the line between winners and losers is a thin one.

Palm was part of a team of four people who took a so-so game on the Web and converted it into one of the biggest mobile sensations ever. Last year, King generated more than $1.8 billion in revenues, most of it from one game: Candy Crush Saga.

That was enough to enable the company to go public at a valuation of $6 billion, making Palm a rich man. His story is like many entrepreneurs. He was once so broke that he considered giving up on the game business. He endured six months without a paycheck, and he almost took a job at McDonald’s to pay the bills.

King missed its targets for its most recent earnings, and the company’s stock price tanked. But for someone with humble beginnings like Palm, King’s current troubles aren’t all that bad. He has hit low points in his life before, as we learned during the Casual Connect conference in San Francisco. At that industry event, fellow game developer Arseny Lebedev (the founder of casual game house Signus Labs) interviewed Palm about his life. Here’s an edited transcript of their talk.

Arseny Lebedev: You’re an inspiration to me. You’ve been in the business forever. You have a nickname — Tommy “Danger” Palm. Tell us more about yourself. Where are you from? What’s your background? Why are you in games?

Tommy Palm: I’m from Stockholm, Sweden. I’ve been passionate about game development ever since the age of 12, when I had a Commodore 64 and learned programming with some friends. We made games together. I continued doing that on a hobbyist level until the end of the 1990s, when I started my first game development company, Jadestone. In 2009, I founded Fabrication Games, which King acquired in 2012, together with Alex, our technical director.

Lebedev: What did you work on at Jadestone?

Palm: Our first game was a war strategy game called Kodo, but the first big game that we made was a football manager game with online multiplayer. Mostly for web, but we had some mobile extensions to it. At the time, it was impossible to get those kinds of things working, though, especially with a business model around it.

Arseny Lebedev of Signus Labs and Tommy Palm of King

Above: Arseny Lebedev of Signus Labs and Tommy Palm of King

Image Credit: Dean Takahashi

Lebedev: What about Fabrication Games? That was a mobile company, right?

Palm: Jadestone eventually went more over to gambling, so Fabrication was where we took the mobile content we’d developed and continued with that. We focused solely on making cross-platform games. That’s what we figured would be big in the future.

Lebedev: This was over a period of 15 years or 20 years?

Palm: Yeah, basically, from the end of the 1990s.

Lebedev: What were some of the high points and low points in that long stretch?

Palm: They were often tightly connected. I started Jadestone straight out of school. There was no money backing it whatsoever. It was just me and some guys early on who were able to live on very little money.

We were blown away originally when we saw mobile games on the Nokia 6110. The multiplayer Snakes version was fantastic. We figured this was going to be huge. We just didn’t know it would take 10 or 15 years for it to get there. It was a lot of struggling with great ideas and the limits of technology — plus, nobody really had a clue about business at the time. But we figured out we needed that when we ran out of money.

I remember this vivid moment in early 2000 when I’d been living without any income for the past six months. I’d started to evaluate whether I was going to take a job at McDonald’s to support myself, or if I was going to continue doing this. We were at a conference in Gotland, and it had been raining. Everything was very gloomy. But we’d sent a proposal to Nokia, and we sat down at a bar and got the deal. The contract was huge by our standards at the time, and at that moment, the sun came out. I was almost in tears. That would save the company for another two years, and we started working very closely with Nokia. That’s one of my absolute highlights.

Another of those moments was later, with King, in November 2012, when the mobile version of Candy Crush was released and we saw the numbers for the first weekend. That was one of those moments you never forget. We had a bet going in the team as far as what kind of numbers we were expecting, and I was ten times under that number.

Candy Crush Saga is one of the big smartphone games that is driving the growth of mobile gamers.

Above: Candy Crush Saga is one of the big smartphone games, and it’s driving the growth of mobile gamers.

Image Credit: King

Lebedev: We’ll talk about that soon. But what about a low point? As an indie guy, sometimes the low points just seem so low, and you wonder why you’re even doing this.

Palm: When you’re an entrepreneur, you invest so much — not only money, but your time and your passion for something. The low points can be terrible. I’ve heard a couple of great leaders talk about how depressed they’ve become when their companies are doing badly. I’m amazed, when I meet entrepreneurs, that they can keep doing this. We need those kinds of people to create great companies.

Lebedev: King bought Fabrication. What was King then, and what is it now?

Palm: King has been around for 11 years now. A lot of the original founders are still working very actively in the company. They originally came from a Swedish startup called Spray, where they were working with a lot of cool web ideas.

Lebedev: What was the vision with King when it started?

Palm: It’s changed a couple of times. But it’s been focused on games. Casual, skill-based games were something King was doing for quite some time and leading in that small segment.

Lebedev: It was a website, right?

Palm: It was a platform for games that was shared with a lot of partners. These skill games were games where you would bet a dollar on the result and you’d be matched with someone of equal skills. If you won you’d get the dollar or whatever it was. But there’s a lot of regulation in that area now. It’s different in different regions. It was fairly big at the time.

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How Bugcrowd uses crowdsourcing to uncover security flaws faster than the bad guys do (interview)

Monday 18 August 2014 @ 6:34 am
How Bugcrowd uses crowdsourcing to uncover security flaws faster than the bad guys do (interview)

Above: Casey Ellis, CEO and cofounder of crowdsourced security firm Bugcrowd

Image Credit: Dean Takahashi

Given enough time, the masses on the Internet will find a security flaw in any piece of software.

Smart companies are using this power to their favor. Bugcrowd in particular is marshaling the power of crowdsourcing to fix security flaws for big corporations before the bad guys can exploit them.

The business is the brainchild of Casey Ellis, who figured that companies would pay big bounties to security researchers who fixed potential nightmarish flaws in code before too many people became aware of them. Bugcrowd has signed up more than 10,000 hackers to find bugs. And it has also signed up a bunch of corporations that are willing to pay rewards, or bug bounties, to those who find flaws in software. A hacker can safely approach a company working with Bugcrowd without fear of being ripped off or sued, and a company can rely on the fact Bugcrowd records a hacker’s history of reliability.

This kind of crowdsourcing can be a huge force multiplier for companies that have small resources dedicated to fixing their own security flaws. We interviewed Ellis at the recent Black Hat security conference in Las Vegas. Here’s an edited transcript of our talk.

VentureBeat: Tell me all about Bugcrowd.

Casey Ellis: Bugcrowd runs bug bounty programs on behalf of our customers. We’ve built a platform to make the process efficient and secure. On one side, you have researchers, 10,500 at the moment. On the other side, there’s people who have seen the Facebook or Google bounty programs and like that idea. They want to start to apply it to how they’re doing security. Either in that very open, public way or in a way that’s a bit more private and trusted and so on.

VB: How long did it take to get going?

Ellis: About 18 months ago, at the beginning of 2013. We got accepted in an accelerator program in Sydney and did four months of that. It was working by that point. I came out here, raised a seed round, and relocated to the Bay Area.

Bugcrowd tablet user interface

Above: Bugcrowd tablet user interface

Image Credit: Bugcrowd

VB: What was involved in making it work technically?

Ellis: In the initial instance it was about proving the concepts. My background prior to this, I ran a penetration testing company, a security services company. It was, okay, can we structure this bug bounty model in a format that people I’ve been selling to already, who are already consuming this type of service, could stomach? Will that model work, in terms of delivering the solution, and will they buy it? That was most of our first four months, proving out that piece.

VB: What sort of activity level is there now? How many people are using it?

Ellis: We launched a program for Medium yesterday. just switched on. We have Pinterest, Heroku, a couple of folks there. They’re the open programs. We also run private programs where it’s just a trusted tier of testers. All in, we’ve run 95 programs so far.

VB: How do you deal with the questions around this whole model?

Ellis: When we started, the concept was seen as an even crazier idea than it is now. You’d come to a place like this and talk to people about the concept of crowdsourcing, being able to find vulnerabilities. It’s taking off in the market. We’re doing our piece to push that, but it’s happening anyway. It’s because software is always going to have security flaws, because people aren’t perfect. And there aren’t enough people to find them all. The demand for the type of people who are able to find these issues before the bad guys do is high.

So the question, where else do we get people who can do this and apply them to the problem? — crowdsourcing is made for this. That’s how the bad guys do it, after all.

VB: How do companies describe their problems so they can get people to solve them?

Ellis: When we engage someone, we find out, do they want to run an open program or a private program? If they want to run an open program, we take them through the process of getting ready for that. We’ll start it off quietly, get them used to dealing with the researchers, and then start to open it up. It’s a matter of, what do you want these guys to test? What do you want them not to test? What things are you most interested in?

The way a bug bounty works, the first person to find each unique issue gets rewarded. The more creative or severe that issue is, the more they’re rewarded. One of the things customers can do is say, “We’re particularly concerned about this thing here as a company. If this was to happen, it would be especially impactful. If you can prove to us that there’s a problem there and that we can fix it, we’ll reward you with more than we ordinarily would.” Oftentimes, if they’ve already been doing things like penetration testing, security testing, they’ll already know about that from the past. They’ll kind of forklift it into this process.

Computer Virus

VB: What sort of problems do you get compared to the days of individual negotiations with hackers? A company could rip off the hacker and just take the information and not pay them.

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Mesosphere Comes To The Google Cloud Platform, Integrates Google’s Open Source Kubernetes Project

Monday 18 August 2014 @ 1:00 am
Google Data Center Google and Mesosphere today announced a partnership that brings support for Mesos clusters to Google’s Compute Engine platform. While the Mesos project and Mesosphere aren’t quite household names yet, they are quickly becoming important tools for companies that want to be able to easily scale their applications, no matter whether that’s in their own data centers, in a… Read More

Yes, Google Maps is tracking you. Here’s how to stop it

Sunday 17 August 2014 @ 11:12 am
Yes, Google Maps is tracking you. Here’s how to stop it

Above: Google's location history web page shows all the places you've been, as logged by Google Maps.

Google is probably logging your location, step by step, via Google Maps.

Want to see what kind of data it has on you? Check out Google’s own location history map, which lets you see the path you’ve traced for any given day that your smartphone has been running Google Maps.

In the screenshot above, it shows some of my peregrinations around Paris in June of this year.

This location history page has actually been available for several years, since Google first rolled it out as part of Latitude, its now-defunct location-sharing app. Cnet noticed it in December, 2013, TechCrunch picked it up a few days later, and now noticed it last week.

We’re highlighting it again because it’s trivially easy to turn off Google Maps location-tracking, if you want to.

In fact, I checked the location history page this morning and had difficulty finding any location data at all, because I’ve had location tracking turned off for months, with a few exceptions.

To turn off location tracking, just follow these easy steps.

How to delete your location history

View your location history using Google’s web page.

Set a time period to view — up to 30 days at a time.

Select the period you want to delete.

Click the “Delete history from this time period” link on the left side of this page.

If you have multiple Google accounts, check the history for each one.

To turn off location tracking in Android

Go to the Settings app.

Scroll down and tap on the Location section.

Tap Google Location Reporting.

Switch Location History to “off.”

Note: For greater privacy, you can also turn off Location Reporting, but this will keep apps like Google Maps from working properly.

How to turn off location tracking in iOS

Open the Settings app.

Scroll down to Privacy, and select Location Services.

Disable all Location Services by setting the top slider to “off” — or scroll down to disable specific apps one by one, such as Google Maps.

Take the steps above, and your location history will look something like mine does, below.

For more details, check out this LifeHacker article: PSA: Your phone logs everywhere you go. Here’s how to turn it off.

Hat tip: John Koetsier.

"You have no location history," Google says -- if you've refused to let it log your locations.

Above: “You have no location history,” Google says — if you’ve refused to let it log your locations.

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Google's innovative search technologies connect millions of people around the world with information every day. Founded in 1998 by Stanford Ph.D. students Larry Page and Sergey Brin, Google today is a top web property in all major glob... read more »

John McAfee’s call to arms: If you want freedom, resist Google (video)

Sunday 17 August 2014 @ 8:56 am
John McAfee’s call to arms: If you want freedom, resist Google (video)

Above: John McAfee, founder of McAfee

Image Credit: Dean Takahashi

Cybersecurity pioneer and outspoken playboy John McAfee has a message for people using Google.

Wise up.

If you think that Google’s collection of personal data is innocuous, McAfee wants you to think again.

“Google … would like us to believe that if we have nothing to hide, we should not mind if everybody knows everything that we do,” McAfee said during an appearance at the Defcon security conference in Las Vegas August 8, captured on video by the BBC, below.

“If everybody knew everything about everybody else, what would human behavior become?” McAfee asks. “You need to think this through.”

Watch the video below to see McAfee’s call to arms for privacy.

“We cannot have intrusions into our lives and still have freedom,” he said.

“And freedom is all I have. And it’s all you have, if you think about it.”

We’ve also included an earlier interview with McAfee, from January, 2014, in this playlist, in which he talks about the dangers behind botnets running on the Internet of things. He also explains that the antivirus company he founded, which is now part of Intel, no longer bears his name.

Also at Defcon, McAfee announced that he’s starting a new project, called the Brown List, to help people fight injustice.

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McAfee, headquartered in Santa Clara, California, is the world’s largest dedicated security technology company. McAfee delivers proactive and proven solutions and services that help secure systems, networks, and mobile devices around... read more »

Google's innovative search technologies connect millions of people around the world with information every day. Founded in 1998 by Stanford Ph.D. students Larry Page and Sergey Brin, Google today is a top web property in all major glob... read more »

Google acquires Jetpac, a photo startup with artificial-intelligence smarts

Friday 15 August 2014 @ 2:54 pm
Google acquires Jetpac, a photo startup with artificial-intelligence smarts

Above: Pete Warden, a co-founder and chief technology officer of Jetpac

Image Credit: Michael O'Donnell/VentureBeat

Google’s artificial-intelligence hiring spree continued today with the acquisition of Jetpac, a startup that created a mobile app that pulled specific items out of publicly available Instagram photos to generate city guides.

In a tweet today, Jetpac cofounder and chief technology officer Pete Warden directed people to a new company homepage that announced the news:

We look forward to working on exciting projects with our colleagues at Google.
We’ll be removing Jetpac’s apps from the App Store in the coming days, and ending support for them on 9/15.

That might sound like a sad development for users, but for people who use Google services — especially those involving images — there might well be an upside. Warden and his colleagues managed to take a complex branch of artificial intelligence known as computer vision and make it easy for lots of people to use.

The team was skilled in deep learning, which is an area Google has done plenty of work on, but it certainly could use more talent and ideas for ways to implement image-recognition technologies as plenty other companies, including Microsoft and Baidu, beef up their own deep-learning operations. Perhaps even online pinboard company Pinterest is interested in the area, as are Facebook and Twitter.

Deep learning involves training systems called artificial neural networks on lots of information derived from audio, images, and other inputs, and then presenting the systems with new information and receiving inferences about it in response.

Warden, who spent five years as a senior engineer at Apple and is now working on a book about deep learning, did not immediately respond to VentureBeat’s request for comment.

Jetpac announced a $2.4 million funding round in 2012. The startup’s investors include Khosla Ventures, Morado Venture Partners, and Jerry Yang.

Earlier in its life, the Jetpac app let people explore travel pictures from their Facebook friends and decide where they wanted to visit.

More recently, Jetpac developed a mechanism for spotting smiles in pictures to discern how happy people are in a city.

San Francisco-based Jetpac started in 2011.

Terms of the deal weren’t disclosed.

A screen shot of the Jetpac app on an iPhone.

Above: A screen shot of the Jetpac app on an iPhone.

Image Credit: Screen shot

We're studying digital marketing compensation: how much companies pay CMOs, CDOs, VPs of marketing, and more, with ChiefDigitalOfficer. Help us out by filling out the survey, and we'll share the results with you.

Google's innovative search technologies connect millions of people around the world with information every day. Founded in 1998 by Stanford Ph.D. students Larry Page and Sergey Brin, Google today is a top web property in all major glob... read more »

We're building Jetpac because travel should be more fun. We are frustrated with what's available today. The tools that help you dream about and plan trips shouldn't put you off traveling. The technology shouldn't get in the way, it's n... read more »

Mr. Pete Warden is Co-Founder of Jetpac Inc. Mr. Warden serves as the President and Chief Executive Officer of Mailana, Inc.... read more »

Google’s underwater cables have a shark problem. Happy Shark Week!

Friday 15 August 2014 @ 11:51 am
Google’s underwater cables have a shark problem. Happy Shark Week!

Above: The game is sorta like this, but it's on iOS and you run forever with a broad sword.

Image Credit: SyFy

Google’s got a shark problem.

Rather, it’s trying to avoid one. The Mountain View-based tech giant is wrapping their trans-Pacific underwater fiber optic cables in a Kevlar-like material, a synthetic compound used in bullet proof vests, in order to protect them against shark bites. Sharks apparently love the taste of fiber optic cables, so Google is taking no chances.

Google’s Dan Belcher, a product manager on the company’s cloud team, told people at the Google Cloud Roadshow in Boston last week that engineers would begin wrapping the cables in Kevlar to protect them. The story hit just in time for Shark Week and was first reported by Network World.

Google announced it, along with four other companies, was spending $300 million to construct what is being called FASTER, a trans-Pacific cable that will run from the West Coast of the U.S. to Japan, in order to speed up data transmission times. Several Chinese companies are also involved in the ambitious project.

Google’s VP for tech infrastructure, Urs Holzle, posted on a Google + blog about the cable earlier this week:

At Google we want our products to be fast and reliable, and that requires a great network infrastructure, whether it’s for the more than a billion Android users or developers building products on Google Cloud Platform. And sometimes the fastest path requires going through an ocean. That’s why we’re investing in FASTER, a new undersea cable that will connect major West Coast cities in the US to two coastal locations in Japan with a design capacity of 60 Tbps (that’s about ten million times faster than your cable modem). Along with our previous investments – UNITY in 2008 and SJC (South-East Asia Japan Cable) in 2011, FASTER will make the internet, well, faster and more reliable for our users in Asia.

Underwater transmission cables already line the floors of both the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. Google’s fiber optic cables are made of glass, which will now be shrouded in Kevlar to protect them for shark attacks and other potential hazards. With the new cables, transmission speeds will likely be 1 gigabit per second.

Scientists have speculated that sharks are attracted by the electromagnetic hum of the cables. But nobody knows for sure, because sharks are incapable of expressing their feelings. To humans anyway. And now, Google is taking no chances from the potential catastrophe coming from sharks.

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Google's innovative search technologies connect millions of people around the world with information every day. Founded in 1998 by Stanford Ph.D. students Larry Page and Sergey Brin, Google today is a top web property in all major glob... read more »

Chrome’s Safe Browsing Tool Now Also Protects You From Downloading Deceptive Software

Thursday 14 August 2014 @ 10:47 am
Over the years, Google has added all kinds of security features into Chrome through its Safe Browsing service. It can warn you when you are surfing to a site that it deems unsafe, like malware and phishing sites, but also when you are about to download software from known malware sites. Starting today, Google is expanding this program to include downloads of “deceptive software,”… Read More

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