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Westlake Legal Group > fox-news/tech/companies/google

Silicon Valley scrambles to stop coronavirus misinformation

The coronavirus’s rapid spread worldwide is forcing Big Tech to confront the equally viral proliferation of misinformation — in the form outright falsehoods and half-truths about the outbreak.

Facebook, Google and Twitter have all struggled in different ways to contain medical misinformation, in particular around vaccines, in recent years. The Silicon Valley mainstays face a potentially much bigger challenge as coronavirus spreads across the world, having already infected 2,800 people in China and killed at least 82.

The Washington Post reports that Facebook and its fellow social media companies have been fighting a range of conspiracy theories, including that the U.S. government secretly created or obtained a patent for the illness.

X-FILES OF UFO SIGHTINGS OVER UK TO BE RELEASED FOR THE FIRST TIME

“Oregano Oil Proves Effective Against Coronavirus,” read one post that had reportedly been shared across multiple groups on Facebook by Monday.

According to scientists, there is no such cure for the virus.

Facebook confirmed to the Post on Monday that its partner organizations have issued nine fact-checks in recent days pertaining to several false and fake posts about coronavirus; the company labels the inaccuracies and lowers their rank in users’ daily feeds. “This situation is fast-evolving and we will continue our outreach to global and regional health organizations to provide support and assistance,” Facebook spokesman Andy Stone said in a statement to the newspaper.

Twitter has reportedly been steering users toward more credible sources when they search for coronavirus-related hashtags.

“It’s captivated the public and been trending on social media as people look for more information,” Renee DiResta, research manager at Stanford Internet Observatory, told the Post in an interview. “So, the platforms should certainly be putting their fact-checking and algorithmic downranking of conspiracy content to work here.”

2,600-YEAR-OLD EGYPTIAN COLD CASE IS FINALLY CLOSED BY SCIENTISTS

Westlake Legal Group facebook-logo-getty-images Silicon Valley scrambles to stop coronavirus misinformation fox-news/tech/companies/twitter fox-news/tech/companies/google fox-news/tech/companies/facebook fox-news/health/infectious-disease/coronavirus fox news fnc/tech fnc Christopher Carbone article 6c10e5eb-1574-5125-b810-5c07ee3afa7a

Facebook and other tech giants are battling misinformation about the coronavirus. (Getty Images)

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Last year, Google tweaked its algorithms to prevent a large amount of harmful content from surfacing in search results. However, as the Post reports, several videos were on the platform that promote dubious information about coronavirus.

A spokesperson for YouTube told the Post the company is “investing heavily to raise authoritative content on our site and reduce the spread of misinformation on YouTube.”

Westlake Legal Group AP20022434749667-1-1 Silicon Valley scrambles to stop coronavirus misinformation fox-news/tech/companies/twitter fox-news/tech/companies/google fox-news/tech/companies/facebook fox-news/health/infectious-disease/coronavirus fox news fnc/tech fnc Christopher Carbone article 6c10e5eb-1574-5125-b810-5c07ee3afa7a   Westlake Legal Group AP20022434749667-1-1 Silicon Valley scrambles to stop coronavirus misinformation fox-news/tech/companies/twitter fox-news/tech/companies/google fox-news/tech/companies/facebook fox-news/health/infectious-disease/coronavirus fox news fnc/tech fnc Christopher Carbone article 6c10e5eb-1574-5125-b810-5c07ee3afa7a

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Google just created the most detailed image of a brain yet

Scientists have created the most detailed 3D map of an organism brain to date. The mesmerizing threads of blue, yellow, purple and green represent thousands of brain cells and millions of connections found inside the brain of a fruit fly.

This high-resolution map, known as a “connectome,” only makes up one-third of a fruit fly’s brain but includes a large region involved in learning, navigation, smell and vision. Scientists found over 4,000 different types of neurons, including those involved in the fly’s circadian rhythm — or internal clock — that might help researchers learn a bit more about how the insect sleeps, according to the publicly released data.

This map, a collaboration between scientists at Google and the Janelia Research Campus in Virginia, took two years to create. The team started out by cutting a fruit fly brain into extremely thin slices using a hot knife — and then imaging each slice under an electron microscope. Afterward, they stitched the images together to create a large map, tracing the paths of the neurons through the brain, according to the statement.

Related: 3D Images: Exploring the Human Brain

The point of such maps is to reveal something about how specific physical connections in the brain are linked to distinct behaviors. But following each individual neuron in a journey across the brain is painstaking work — and critics note that such maps have not yet led to a major discovery, according to The Verge.

The only organism to have its entire brain mapped this way is the roundworm C. elegans — a wriggly critter that only harbors around 300 to 400 neurons and around 7,000 synapses, or the junctions between brain cells. Other teams have attempted to map the human brain in lower resolution. But considering that the human brain contains 86 billion neurons, creating such a map will likely take some more time.

The new map was published on Jan. 21 in the database BioRxiv, and it has not yet been peer reviewed.

Originally published on Live Science.

Westlake Legal Group google-gif Google just created the most detailed image of a brain yet LiveScience fox-news/tech/companies/google fox-news/health/medical-research/genetics fnc/tech fnc dab9fe77-2090-51df-a74a-a45564d00014 article   Westlake Legal Group google-gif Google just created the most detailed image of a brain yet LiveScience fox-news/tech/companies/google fox-news/health/medical-research/genetics fnc/tech fnc dab9fe77-2090-51df-a74a-a45564d00014 article

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Google whistleblower makes cryptic claim about search engine, Hillary Clinton after wife’s fatal crash

Westlake Legal Group robert-epstein Google whistleblower makes cryptic claim about search engine, Hillary Clinton after wife's fatal crash fox-news/tech/companies/google fox-news/politics/the-clintons fox news fnc/politics fnc Danielle Wallace article 4ef60a88-d449-53f5-a319-663c360b0d69

A high profile Google whistleblower who back in July testified before Congress that the search engine meddled in the 2016 presidential election on behalf of Hillary Clinton is now suggesting that the fatal car crash that killed his wife last month may not have been an accident.

DR. ROBERT EPSTEIN: STUDY CLAIMS GOOGLE REFLECTED ‘VERY DRAMATIC BIAS’ IN 2016 ELECTION SEARCH RESULTS

Dr. Robert Epstein, the senior research psychologist at the American Institute for Behavioral Research and Technology, made the claims in a tweet Sunday.

“Last year, after I briefed a group of state AGs about #Google’s power to rig elections, one of them said, “I think you’re going to die in an accident in a few months,” he tweeted. “A few months later, my beautiful wife #Misti died a violent death. Makes you wonder.”

In July, Epstein told the Senate Judiciary Committee that his research revealed “biased search results generated by Google’s search algorithm likely impacted undecided voters in a way that gave at least 2.6 million votes to Hillary Clinton” in the 2016 presidential election. He added that he himself supported Clinton.

In December, Epstein, 66, announced that his wife – 29-year-old Misti Vaughn – was killed when her car spun out of control in inclement weather in Escondido, Calif., located in San Diego County. The California Highway Patrol said Vaughn lost control of her Ford Ranger in the rain and careened into oncoming traffic, crashing into a big rig and an SUV, San Diego’s KNSD reported.

Epstein also shared an image of the badly damaged vehicle his wife was driving at the time of the wreck.

“#Misti’s awesome Ford Ranger was broadsided by a Freightliner semi towing 2 loads of cement. I had my ear to her heart for most of the last 100 minutes of her life. I heard her take her last breath, & heard the last beat of her heart. Mine is broken,” he tweeted on Jan. 11.

But days earlier — in two separate tweets on Jan. 4 — Epstein first nodded to Google and Clinton, saying he was not suicidal despite losing the love of his life, before then writing that he did not believe either party played a role in the crash that killed her despite claims from “conspiracy theorists.”

“BTW, although losing Misti is devastating for me – there will never be another Misti in my life, after all – I AM STILL NOT SUICIDAL. Hear that, #Google? Hear that, #Hillary?” he wrote.

“And, no I don’t think #Google or #Hillary had anything to do with Misti’s death, but for you conspiracy theorists out there, here’s a recent article about Misti’s accident…” he added, sharing a news report about his wife’s death.

CLICK HERE FOR THE ALL-NEW FOXBUSINESS.COM

Epstein’s testimony claimed that “Google presents a serious threat to democracy and human autonomy.” Accordingly to his research findings, “Google has likely been determining the outcomes of upwards of 25 percent of the national elections worldwide since at least 2015” and “in the weeks leading up to the 2018 election, bias in Google’s search results may have shifted upwards of 78.2 million votes to the candidates of one political party.”

Westlake Legal Group robert-epstein Google whistleblower makes cryptic claim about search engine, Hillary Clinton after wife's fatal crash fox-news/tech/companies/google fox-news/politics/the-clintons fox news fnc/politics fnc Danielle Wallace article 4ef60a88-d449-53f5-a319-663c360b0d69   Westlake Legal Group robert-epstein Google whistleblower makes cryptic claim about search engine, Hillary Clinton after wife's fatal crash fox-news/tech/companies/google fox-news/politics/the-clintons fox news fnc/politics fnc Danielle Wallace article 4ef60a88-d449-53f5-a319-663c360b0d69

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

Rachel Bovard: Congress has a role to play in regulating Google

Westlake Legal Group 694940094001_6119496994001_6119498827001-vs Rachel Bovard: Congress has a role to play in regulating Google Rachel Bovard fox-news/tech/technologies fox-news/tech/companies/google fox-news/politics fox-news/opinion fox news fnc/opinion fnc article 63aeb6b8-a45b-59c9-9a6d-f4034d187dc1

The Silicon Valley libertarians at Google are spending a lot of money these days to keep the government out of the company’s business. But their sudden aversion to government regulation is a newfound religion for Google: the company has been profiting for years off of a sweetheart deal with the government struck in 1996 — a government subsidy which Google no longer deserves.

Blockbuster reporting from the Wall Street Journal reveals that Google is no longer the neutral search platform they have long led consumers to believe they were.

“It is not possible for an individual employee or a group of employees to manipulate our search results,” Google CEO Sundar Pichai told Congress. “We don’t manually intervene on any particular search result.”

GOOGLE PARENT COMPANY’S LEGAL CHIEF IS LEAVING FOLLOWING MISCONDUCT ALLEGATIONS

Except, it turns out, they do. And on quite a large scale. In fact, subjectivity underpins Google’s entire search business.

Google uses tens of thousands of individual contractors to manually shape search results based on a set of internal company criteria, as well as subjective contractor opinion. The company also uses its engineers to tweak its algorithms on behalf of business interests. Chillingly, the company intentionally modifies results around inflammatory topics like abortion and immigration in an effort to steer political discourse. This is in addition to using blacklists to block sites or terms from appearing in search results.

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Google does all of this in blatant violation of what it tells users and lawmakers — and of the terms of protection it has from the federal government.

The tech industry’s arrangement with the federal government dates back to 1990s, in the infancy of the internet, when Congress passed the Communications Decency Act. Section 230 of the law was intended to spur online discourse by giving present and future internet companies immunity for content posted by their users in order to create “forum[s] for a true diversity of political discourse.”

More from Opinion

In other words, lawmakers envisioned internet platforms as merely that — neutral platforms. Giant bulletin boards where people could post content without interference, except for, as the law described, content which companies in good faith deemed to be “obscene, lewd, lascivious, filthy, excessively violent, harassing, or otherwise objectionable.” (Courts have held that “otherwise objectionable” content must be similar to obscenity, violence, or harassment.)

It’s a lucrative arrangement, unique to tech. No other outlet of ideas has the same protection. And it has contributed to turning outlets like Google from dorm room projects to the world’s most dominant billion-dollar company.

But it’s all contingent upon Google continuing to act as the neutral bulletin board. The “platform,” as it were, merely a host for ideas — not as a publisher, with editorial control and subjective determinations around content.

But based on the Journal’s reporting, as well as multiple whistleblower claims, Google is far from a neutral arbiter. Rather, they engage in significant search manipulation and editorial control, ranking results based on subjective criteria, individual bias, and non-transparent internal editorial guidelines.

Put simply, they are no longer the neutral platform the law envisioned. They are a publisher. And the law ought to treat them as such, stripping them of the Sec. 230 protection whose terms they no longer meet.

When presented with the possibility of losing their government protection, Google and their backers howl that Sec. 230 is vital to their survival; that without it, they would have to allow exploitive and abusive content to flourish, for fear or being sued.

It’s nonsense. Responsible moderation and outright search manipulation are two different and mutually exclusive behaviors, and in fact, a distinction which Sec. 230 requires.

As Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, has pointed out, the ability to responsibly moderate content is not also a license to engage in political censorship. Tech companies can support or oppose whatever political causes that they want and engage in the good faith moderation the law allows. But the moment they begin to pick and choose what gets posted or amplified based on subjective determinations, the law demands they should be held accountable for the criteria with which they moderate their users. And this means losing the Sec. 230 protection.

Google is attempting to have it both ways — benefiting from government protections while claiming that any change to their sweetheart deal is unwarranted government meddling.

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It doesn’t work like that, and hopefully, lawmakers are smart enough to begin to catch on.

Sec. 230 may be a sweetheart deal for Google, but it’s turned sour for the rest of us. It’s time for Google to engage in radical transparency and real reform, or for Congress to take away the government subsidy they no longer deserve.

Westlake Legal Group 694940094001_6119496994001_6119498827001-vs Rachel Bovard: Congress has a role to play in regulating Google Rachel Bovard fox-news/tech/technologies fox-news/tech/companies/google fox-news/politics fox-news/opinion fox news fnc/opinion fnc article 63aeb6b8-a45b-59c9-9a6d-f4034d187dc1   Westlake Legal Group 694940094001_6119496994001_6119498827001-vs Rachel Bovard: Congress has a role to play in regulating Google Rachel Bovard fox-news/tech/technologies fox-news/tech/companies/google fox-news/politics fox-news/opinion fox news fnc/opinion fnc article 63aeb6b8-a45b-59c9-9a6d-f4034d187dc1

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

Americans trust Amazon and Google more than Tom Hanks or President Trump

Tom Hanks might be America’s favorite actor, but he’s not as trustworthy as Amazon or Google, according to a new report.

According to market research firm Morning Consult, the two tech titans are among the most trustworthy brands in the U.S., coming in behind only a person’s doctor and the U.S. military. Fifty percent of respondents said “your primary doctor” was the top trusted brand, while 39 percent and 38 percent of respondents said Amazon and Google were their most trusted brand.

Tom Hanks was the top brand for 34 percent of respondents and just 20 percent said President Trump topped their list.

Westlake Legal Group Morning-Consult-The-State-of-Consumer-Trust-11 Americans trust Amazon and Google more than Tom Hanks or President Trump fox-news/tech/companies/google fox-news/tech/companies/amazon fox news fnc/tech fnc Chris Ciaccia article 4131a562-64fa-5fc4-b0d6-0ca79a5537f2

(Credit: Morning Consult)

WAFFLE MAKER FROM AMAZON IS DELIVERED WITH OLD, CRUSTY WAFFLE INSIDE

“It’s no secret that trust is key to brand success,” Morning Consult CEO Michael Ramlet said in a statement. “In today’s climate, every single day presents leaders with the opportunity to cultivate reliability — a key driver of trust.”

Westlake Legal Group Tom-Hanks Americans trust Amazon and Google more than Tom Hanks or President Trump fox-news/tech/companies/google fox-news/tech/companies/amazon fox news fnc/tech fnc Chris Ciaccia article 4131a562-64fa-5fc4-b0d6-0ca79a5537f2

Tom Hanks during the 77th Annual Golden Globe Awards at The Beverly Hilton Hotel on Jan. 5, 2020 in Beverly Hills, California. (Steve Granitz/WireImage)

The data, which comes from online surveys on approximately 2,000 brands and an average of 16,700 interviews per brand, found that “despite widespread societal distrust, brands remain largely well trusted by consumers,” adding that Amazon and Google even outrank “other institutions, public figures, and ideas.”

The research firm noted that there were stark differences in the most trustworthy brands depending upon age group. Millennials and Generation Z were more likely to trust technology companies. For Gen Z, Google, Netflix, Amazon, YouTube and PlayStation were the five most trusted brands, while Millennials said Google, the U.S. Postal Service, Amazon, PayPal and Netflix were their top five most trusted brands.

Westlake Legal Group Morning-Consult-The-State-of-Consumer-Trust-15 Americans trust Amazon and Google more than Tom Hanks or President Trump fox-news/tech/companies/google fox-news/tech/companies/amazon fox news fnc/tech fnc Chris Ciaccia article 4131a562-64fa-5fc4-b0d6-0ca79a5537f2

(Credit: Morning Consult)

By comparison, Generation X listed the USPS, Google, Amazon, Hershey and PayPal, whereas Baby Boomers trusted the USPS, UPS, Hershey, The Weather Channel and Cheerios the most.

Westlake Legal Group Morning-Consult-The-State-of-Consumer-Trust-16 Americans trust Amazon and Google more than Tom Hanks or President Trump fox-news/tech/companies/google fox-news/tech/companies/amazon fox news fnc/tech fnc Chris Ciaccia article 4131a562-64fa-5fc4-b0d6-0ca79a5537f2

NEW GOOGLE AI TOOL DETECTS BREAST CANCER BETTER THAN RADIOLOGISTS, STUDY SUGGESTS

Despite their levels of trust from American consumers, Amazon and Google have come under intense scrutiny in recent months for a number of different mishaps.

Amazon reportedly tracked the location of attendees at one of its recent cloud computing conferences, disturbing some of the attendees, while Google has been slammed by lawmakers such as Sen. Josh Hawley R-Mo., over the tech giant’s “interference” in its search algorithms. Google says that changes to its search engine are designed to benefit users.

Fox News has reached out to the White House, Amazon and Google with requests for comment.

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Fox News’ James Rogers contributed to this article.

Westlake Legal Group Morning-Consult-The-State-of-Consumer-Trust-11 Americans trust Amazon and Google more than Tom Hanks or President Trump fox-news/tech/companies/google fox-news/tech/companies/amazon fox news fnc/tech fnc Chris Ciaccia article 4131a562-64fa-5fc4-b0d6-0ca79a5537f2   Westlake Legal Group Morning-Consult-The-State-of-Consumer-Trust-11 Americans trust Amazon and Google more than Tom Hanks or President Trump fox-news/tech/companies/google fox-news/tech/companies/amazon fox news fnc/tech fnc Chris Ciaccia article 4131a562-64fa-5fc4-b0d6-0ca79a5537f2

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Google parent company’s legal chief is leaving following misconduct allegations

David Drummond, the legal chief officer of Google’s parent company Alphabet and one of its highest-paid executives, has stepped down following allegations about his conduct at the company.

The 56-year-old executive will leave the tech giant on Jan. 31, the company confirmed to Fox News. “I believe that it’s also the right time for me to make way for the next generation of leaders,” the executive wrote in a note that was sent to colleagues, according to Bloomberg News.

Drummond, who received $47 million in salary and equity last year according to Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) filings, is the latest American executive to be called out in the #MeToo era. A blog post in August of 2019 described an alleged extramarital affair with a former lover. An independent subcommittee was investigating how executives handled claims of sexual harassment and misconduct, including Drummond’s actions, CNBC reported in November.

AUSTRALIA’S FIRES HAVE KILLED OR IMPERILED 1 BILLION ANIMALS

Westlake Legal Group getty-images-david-drummond-google Google parent company's legal chief is leaving following misconduct allegations fox-news/tech/topics/big-tech-backlash fox-news/tech/companies/google fox-news/tech fox news fnc/tech fnc Christopher Carbone article 0f415758-bb5d-5b35-85f3-1053d1204626

David Drummond, senior vice president for corporate development and chief legal officer at Google Inc., at the company’s headquarters in Mountain View, California on March 11, 2011. (Ryan Anson/AFP/Getty Images)

NASA CAPTURES BREATHTAKING IMAGE OF NACREOUS CLOUDS OVER SWEDEN

For his part, Drummond labeled himself at the time as “far from perfect,” although he denied starting a relationship with anyone at Alphabet other than Jennifer Blakely, the former Google manager who wrote the scathing blog post.

“With Larry and Sergey now leaving their executive roles at Alphabet, the company is entering an exciting new phase, and I believe that it’s also the right time for me to make way for the next generation of leaders. As a result, after careful consideration, I have decided to retire at the end of this month,” Drummond, who was Google’s first lawyer, wrote in his note to employees.

The issue of sexual misconduct allegations and how they have been handled has roiled many industries, including Big Tech.

Twenty thousand Google employees worldwide walked out in protest in November after an explosive New York Times story detailed how the company protected top executives who were accused of sexual harassment — including paying $90 million to one who allegedly coerced a subordinate into performing sexual acts.

When reached by Fox News, the tech giant declined to comment further on the matter.

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Westlake Legal Group getty-images-david-drummond-google Google parent company's legal chief is leaving following misconduct allegations fox-news/tech/topics/big-tech-backlash fox-news/tech/companies/google fox-news/tech fox news fnc/tech fnc Christopher Carbone article 0f415758-bb5d-5b35-85f3-1053d1204626   Westlake Legal Group getty-images-david-drummond-google Google parent company's legal chief is leaving following misconduct allegations fox-news/tech/topics/big-tech-backlash fox-news/tech/companies/google fox-news/tech fox news fnc/tech fnc Christopher Carbone article 0f415758-bb5d-5b35-85f3-1053d1204626

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

Google parent company’s legal chief is leaving following misconduct allegations

David Drummond, the legal chief officer of Google’s parent company Alphabet and one of its highest-paid executives, has stepped down following allegations about his conduct at the company.

The 56-year-old executive will leave the tech giant on Jan. 31, the company confirmed to Fox News. “I believe that it’s also the right time for me to make way for the next generation of leaders,” the executive wrote in a note that was sent to colleagues, according to Bloomberg News.

Drummond, who received $47 million in salary and equity last year according to Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) filings, is the latest American executive to be called out in the #MeToo era. A blog post in August of 2019 described an alleged extramarital affair with a former lover. An independent subcommittee was investigating how executives handled claims of sexual harassment and misconduct, including Drummond’s actions, CNBC reported in November.

AUSTRALIA’S FIRES HAVE KILLED OR IMPERILED 1 BILLION ANIMALS

Westlake Legal Group getty-images-david-drummond-google Google parent company's legal chief is leaving following misconduct allegations fox-news/tech/topics/big-tech-backlash fox-news/tech/companies/google fox-news/tech fox news fnc/tech fnc Christopher Carbone article 0f415758-bb5d-5b35-85f3-1053d1204626

David Drummond, senior vice president for corporate development and chief legal officer at Google Inc., at the company’s headquarters in Mountain View, California on March 11, 2011. (Ryan Anson/AFP/Getty Images)

NASA CAPTURES BREATHTAKING IMAGE OF NACREOUS CLOUDS OVER SWEDEN

For his part, Drummond labeled himself at the time as “far from perfect,” although he denied starting a relationship with anyone at Alphabet other than Jennifer Blakely, the former Google manager who wrote the scathing blog post.

“With Larry and Sergey now leaving their executive roles at Alphabet, the company is entering an exciting new phase, and I believe that it’s also the right time for me to make way for the next generation of leaders. As a result, after careful consideration, I have decided to retire at the end of this month,” Drummond, who was Google’s first lawyer, wrote in his note to employees.

The issue of sexual misconduct allegations and how they have been handled has roiled many industries, including Big Tech.

Twenty thousand Google employees worldwide walked out in protest in November after an explosive New York Times story detailed how the company protected top executives who were accused of sexual harassment — including paying $90 million to one who allegedly coerced a subordinate into performing sexual acts.

When reached by Fox News, the tech giant declined to comment further on the matter.

GET THE FOX NEWS APP

Westlake Legal Group getty-images-david-drummond-google Google parent company's legal chief is leaving following misconduct allegations fox-news/tech/topics/big-tech-backlash fox-news/tech/companies/google fox-news/tech fox news fnc/tech fnc Christopher Carbone article 0f415758-bb5d-5b35-85f3-1053d1204626   Westlake Legal Group getty-images-david-drummond-google Google parent company's legal chief is leaving following misconduct allegations fox-news/tech/topics/big-tech-backlash fox-news/tech/companies/google fox-news/tech fox news fnc/tech fnc Christopher Carbone article 0f415758-bb5d-5b35-85f3-1053d1204626

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You’re not paranoid. Your phone really is listening in.

The scene plays out like a thriller: you pull out your phone, and you see an ad for AirPods.

Wait a minute, you think. Didn’t I just have a conversation about AirPods with my friend? Like, a real conversation, spoken aloud? Is my phone… listening to me?

Why, yes, it probably is. When you use your default settings, everything you say may be recorded through your device’s onboard microphone. Our phones routinely collect our voice data, store it in a distant server, and use it for marketing purposes. This fact was kept quiet for some time, but this kind of targeted ad is gradually becoming common knowledge.

As a “prime” example, tap or click here to see what Amazon does with the voice data it harvests and how you can stop Alexa from listening.

Your phone isn’t the only device that’s watching and listening to you. The FBI warns hackers can take over your smart TV if you don’t secure it. Tap or click to learn how to take control of your privacy on your TV before it’s too late.

Before you ask, yes, it’s perfectly legal, and developers claim not to abuse this practice. But that doesn’t mean you have to like it; many people are startled to see ads for things they have only spoken about, not search for on their browsers. Luckily, there are ways to stop your devices from eavesdropping on you.

Whispering (marketing) campaigns

When you think about it, smartphones are equipped with an arsenal of monitoring equipment: multiple microphones and cameras are designed to absorb audio and video. While these tools may be useful for creating media, they are also a goldmine for advertisers.

In mid-2018, a reporter for Vice experimented to see just how closely smartphones listen to our conversations. To test his phone, the journalist spoke pre-selected phrases twice a day for five days in a row. Meanwhile, he monitored his Facebook feed to see if any changes occurred.

Sure enough, the changes seemed to arrive overnight. One of his test phrases involved going “back to university,” and by the next morning, the reporter saw ads for summer courses. He then changed up his test phrase to “cheap shirts,” and quickly saw advertisements for low-cost apparel on his Facebook feed.

This report triggered a wave of studies on the surveillance effects of social media platforms.

While not every study provided clear answers, a general sense of agreement on the matter was reached due to hints in the User Agreements of several apps and social media platforms. Tap or click for an easy way to spot what’s hiding in the User Agreement of your favorite platforms.

These user agreements explicitly state recorded audio may be used for targeted advertising purposes. Interestingly, such practices aren’t against the law. This action allows tech companies to push the privacy boundaries even further to encourage us to buy things we don’t need.

What can I do about being spied on?

If you’re not comfortable with targeted ads, there are ways to mitigate your smartphone’s spy power. That said, you may lose access to some handy features like wake words and voice assistants, so you’ll have to decide whether these features are worth sacrificing your privacy.

The biggest vulnerability comes from the “always-on” feature of most voice assistants. To pick up wake words like “Hey Siri,” the mic needs to remain on at all times – which means your phone is always listening.

The best place to start taking your privacy back is by turning off the “always-on” microphone features on your handset. Here’s how to do it.

Deactivate “Hey Siri”

Apple has come under fire for transcribing audio recordings of Siri users. The data is locally stored on your device and is uploaded once Siri is activated, so disabling this feature will at least make your Siri inputs shorter and more specific to your requests.

To turn off “Hey Siri,” navigate to your iOS device’s Settings, followed by Siri & Search. Then, toggle Listen for ‘Hey Siri to Off.

Disable “OK Google”

Every time you use “OK Google,” or use another voice-controlled function, your query is recorded, and the transcripts are saved to your Google account. Tap or click here to learn how to remove these recordings and other info you don’t want Google to store.

If you use Google Assistant on Android, open the Google Assistant Settings. Say, “OK Google” or hold down the phone’s home button, then tap the file drawer icon found on the upper right-hand corner, and tap the three-dot menu. Select More and choose Settings.

From this point, you’ll want to scroll down to the devices category and select your phone, then in the Google Assistant section near the top, tap the blue slider button to change it gray, which turns off Google Assistant.

Disable mic access for apps

Disabling the always-on microphone features from your phone isn’t enough for some apps like Facebook. The social site makes exceptions to the rule and will keep on listening unless you make the change.

This is just one of the many privacy settings you really should be using if you have a Facebook account. Tap or click for more ways to lock down your profile.

Here’s how you can turn audio recording off for Facebook, but the same steps apply for any app that uses the microphone:

iPhone

Go to Settings >> Facebook >> Settings in the sub-menu. Slide the Microphone switch to the left, so it turns from green to white. That turns it off. Alternatively, you can go to Settings >> Privacy >> Microphone then look for Facebook to do the same. Note that you can toggle the mic on and off for other apps, too.

Android

Open Settings, then choose Applications and Application Manager. Look for Facebook, and tap App Permissions, then toggle the microphone off.

Keep in mind, turning off Facebook’s microphone access will affect and disable certain features like Live Video. If you’re going to use these features, you will have to toggle the mic back on. Follow the same steps above, but make sure the toggle is set to On, and you’ll be good to go.

Bonus Tip for More Know-How:

Amazon has previously come under fire for violating the privacy of its users with Alexa. The famous voice assistant was revealed to be recording users’ inquiries and storing the recordings for human reviewers to analyze. The exposure caused Amazon to make several drastic changes to its products and privacy policy.

Tap or click here for 3 new Alexa privacy settings you need to know about.

What digital lifestyle questions do you have? Call Kim’s national radio show and tap or click here to find it on your local radio station. You can listen to or watch the Kim Komando Show on your phone, tablet, television or computer. Or tap or click here for Kim’s free podcasts.

Copyright 2020, WestStar Multimedia Entertainment. All rights reserved.

Learn about all the latest technology on the Kim Komando Show, the nation’s largest weekend radio talk show. Kim takes calls and dispenses advice on today’s digital lifestyle, from smartphones and tablets to online privacy and data hacks. For her daily tips, free newsletters and more, visit her website at Komando.com.

Westlake Legal Group iStock-538683033 You’re not paranoid. Your phone really is listening in. The Kim Komando Show Kim Komando fox-news/tech/topics/privacy fox-news/tech/technologies/smartphones fox-news/tech/companies/google fox-news/tech/companies/apple fox-news/tech/companies/amazon fnc/tech fnc article 3cb70cb1-8e09-5245-bd46-2010398029e5   Westlake Legal Group iStock-538683033 You’re not paranoid. Your phone really is listening in. The Kim Komando Show Kim Komando fox-news/tech/topics/privacy fox-news/tech/technologies/smartphones fox-news/tech/companies/google fox-news/tech/companies/apple fox-news/tech/companies/amazon fnc/tech fnc article 3cb70cb1-8e09-5245-bd46-2010398029e5

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Trump camp fumes over Google’s new political ads policy: ‘It is a removal of free speech’

Westlake Legal Group 694940094001_6115747116001_6115738465001-vs Trump camp fumes over Google’s new political ads policy: ‘It is a removal of free speech’ Kristin Fisher fox-news/tech/topics/big-tech-backlash fox-news/tech/companies/google fox-news/politics/elections/campaigning/trump-2020-campaign fox-news/person/donald-trump fox news fnc/politics fnc article 4478f7a9-00d6-5a37-a6c7-d228bf3c114d

For a digital-first campaign, with a digital expert at the helm, Google’s new political ads policy was an unsurprising, but unwelcome move.

“It is a removal of free speech. It is a voter suppression activity,” Trump campaign manager Brad Parscale said in an interview with Fox News at the campaign’s headquarters in Virginia.

Google is severely limiting a tactic used by almost all campaigns, but perfected in 2016 by the Trump campaign: microtargeted ads aimed at very specific groups of people. Parscale believes the change in policy is payback for President Trump’s victory.

SANDERS CALLS OMAR ‘EXTRAORDINARY’ AS HE TEAMS UP WITH ‘SQUAD’ MEMBER IN NEW HAMPSHIRE

“2016 freaked them out because I used a whole bunch of liberal platforms to do it,” Parscale said. “I guarantee you, this decision came from another room full of people going, ‘Oh my God, we’ve got to stop them. They’re going to win again in a landslide and we can’t be part of it.’” 

Starting in January, Google, which also owns YouTube, will only allow political advertisers to target voters using age, gender and zip code. They will no longer be able to get as granular by aiming ads at users based on their political affiliations or public voter record — even if those users have asked the campaign to contact them.

“It would almost be like [if] AT&T had all the lists of all the Trump supporters in America, and AT&T said, ‘Oh, you can’t dial their phones,’ I mean, it’s crazy,” Parscale said.

Google attributed the change in policy to a desire to improve voters’ confidence in political ads on its platforms.

“We want the ads we serve to be transparent and widely available so that many voices can debate issues openly,” the company said.

Many Democrats also dislike Google’s new policy, but for different reasons. Acronym, a progressive digital group, called the new rules outrageous, saying: “It’s clearly a PR move unrelated to the actual problem of misinformation on their platform — they’ll still allow the Trump campaign to outright lie in their advertising.”

Democratic presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren’s deputy press secretary, Saloni Sharma, also thinks the change is “just lip-service and does not actually solve the problem.”

Parscale maintains that none of the campaign’s ads have been misleading or factually inaccurate, even the controversial ad about former Vice President Joe Biden — which Biden’s campaign manager claimed “spread false, definitively debunked conspiracy theories.”

“This all started because people didn’t think the Biden Ukraine ad was true,” Parscale said. “It was 100 percent true. Did Biden say quid pro quo for Ukrainian aid? Yes. He said it on tape.”

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Many Democrats also dislike Google’s new policy because they believe it will end up hurting Democrats more than Republicans. Ninety-five Democratic digital operatives and strategists signed a post on Medium arguing that if Google takes away their ability to focus ad dollars on unregistered voters, “Democratic organizations and campaigns are at a severe disadvantage.”

When asked which party is hurt the most by Google’s new policy, Parscale replied: “I think it hurts America. These are new tech ways of stopping connections. If I went on TV right now and said, ‘The telephone companies aren’t allowing me to call people,’ all heck would break loose. Right? It’s exactly what they did. They just did it with a different connection.”

Google said it knows political operatives on both sides of the aisle are upset. But in a statement to the Daily Caller, the company said: “We believe the balance we have struck — allowing political ads to remain on our platforms while limiting narrow targeting that can reduce the visibility of ads and trust in electoral processes — is the right one.”

Westlake Legal Group 694940094001_6115747116001_6115738465001-vs Trump camp fumes over Google’s new political ads policy: ‘It is a removal of free speech’ Kristin Fisher fox-news/tech/topics/big-tech-backlash fox-news/tech/companies/google fox-news/politics/elections/campaigning/trump-2020-campaign fox-news/person/donald-trump fox news fnc/politics fnc article 4478f7a9-00d6-5a37-a6c7-d228bf3c114d   Westlake Legal Group 694940094001_6115747116001_6115738465001-vs Trump camp fumes over Google’s new political ads policy: ‘It is a removal of free speech’ Kristin Fisher fox-news/tech/topics/big-tech-backlash fox-news/tech/companies/google fox-news/politics/elections/campaigning/trump-2020-campaign fox-news/person/donald-trump fox news fnc/politics fnc article 4478f7a9-00d6-5a37-a6c7-d228bf3c114d

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Breaking up Big Tech giants like Facebook and Google is ‘on the table,’ says US antitrust chief

Westlake Legal Group William-Barr-amazon Breaking up Big Tech giants like Facebook and Google is 'on the table,' says US antitrust chief fox-news/tech/topics/big-tech-backlash fox-news/tech/companies/google fox-news/tech/companies/facebook fox-news/tech/companies/apple fox-news/tech/companies/amazon fox news fnc/tech fnc Christopher Carbone article 0129e873-0cd0-5868-bb98-49e167b6c123

The country’s top prosecutor probing Big Tech left the door open to breaking up the biggest names in Silicon Valley.

Makan Delrahim, head of the Justice Department’s antitrust division, said Tuesday that breaking up companies such as Google, Facebook or Amazon is “perfectly on the table” while speaking at the WSJ Tech Live summit.

The Journal reports that Delrahim laid out a “worst-case scenario” for Big Tech as the Justice Department’s wide-ranging antitrust review, which began over the summer, continues.

“There’s no question consumers have benefited from technology. There’s no question we have a lot more conveniences at our disposal. The big question is: Are companies abusing the market power that they have gained,” Delrahim said.

Delrahim reportedly summed up his operating philosophy a few moments later, saying: “Big is not bad. Big behaving badly is bad.”

Notably, Delrahim said it was not his job to be worried about whether breaking up America’s biggest tech firms would help China to gain market shares.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg and former Google CEO Eric Schmidt have all made that nationalist appeal in defense of Silicon Valley.

“Consideration of national champions is inappropriate,” Delrahim said.

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