Mountain View, May 8 (AP/UNB) — Google announced new privacy tools Tuesday intended to give people more control over how they're being tracked on the go or in their own home, part of a broader effort by big tech companies to counter increasing scrutiny of their data collection practices.
The company also announced updates for its artificially intelligent voice assistant as well as a cheaper Pixel phone and a rebranding of his smart-home products.
CEO Sundar Pichai kicked off the company's annual developer conference by noting that the company wants to do more to stay ahead of "constantly evolving user expectations" on privacy.
That focus echoed throughout the day, with the company demonstrating how many of its artificial intelligence capabilities — including some facial recognition and voice searches — are beginning to be processed on devices, rather than by constantly sending information to company servers.
Some critics, however, say Google's privacy updates sidestep more substantial changes that could threaten its ad-driven business model.
"They're sort of marginal improvements," said Jeremy Tillman, president of Ghostery, which provides ad-blocking and anti-tracking software. "They are not bad, but they almost seem like they're designed to give the company a better messaging push instead of making wholesale improvements to user privacy."
Data privacy and security at Google and its Big Tech counterparts have been under the microscope for more than a year now. Facebook dedicated much of its own conference last week to connecting people though more private channels rather than broadly on the social network.
Google announced smaller but tangible changes across many of its products. The company makes billions of dollars annually by selling digital ads that are targeted at the interests people reveal through their search requests and data collected by Google apps and services.
For instance, the company said it will extend an "incognito mode" feature to its Google Maps and search apps. When activated, the app won't record user searches or movements, analogous to how the same feature works in its Chrome browser and YouTube now.
The latest version of Google's Android phone software will also alert users when apps may be exploiting access to phone location data, which Stephanie Cutherbertson, an Android senior director, called "some of your most personal information." Android Q, as the new operating system is currently known, will also let users restrict apps' access to location more generally — for instance, by only allowing apps currently in use to gather the data. (Some apps record location data continuously in the background.)
Location data has been a sore subject for Google. In 2018, an Associated Press investigation found that Google continued storing phone location data even when users turned off a "location history" setting in Android.
The company also revealed plans to overhaul Chrome to let users rein in so-called tracking cookies, which are bits of software that follow people around on the web. The move, which could have major repercussions for the digital advertising industry, would require companies to identify cookies used by third-party websites and advertisers to track users.
In coming months, Google said that change will enable users to clear most of those tracking cookies without disturbing others that keep users logged into sites or that personalize website settings. Chrome currently only allows people to clear all cookies.
Competing browsers such as Apple's Safari and Mozilla's Firefox already build in privacy tools to block sites from tracking online activity.
To Marc Rotenberg, president of the Electronic Privacy Information Center, the privacy measures remain unimpressive. "Unless the Federal Trade Commission is prepared to bring enforcement actions against companies, these promises to protect privacy matter very little," he said.
On the AI front, Google said its digital assistant will get a series of updates this year, including one that lets it book rental cars and movie tickets.
Google says its assistant will be able to make the bookings using online forms on Android phones later this year. The technology behind this, called Duplex, was announced with much fanfare last year when Google demonstrated it making a call to book a restaurant reservation.
The Google Assistant will get shrunk down so that it can work directly on a phone, eliminating the need to communicate with Google's cloud servers to understand and act on certain commands. The phone-only capability will be available on new Pixel phones later this year.
Google also announced a new, cheaper Pixel phone and a larger smart home display called the Nest Hub Max. Both are packed with AI capabilities, including many that take place on-device without sending information to servers.
That might give Google slightly less information about its customers, said Gartner analyst Werner Goertz. But Google collects information across its many products, and it might not even greatly miss the data it foregoes, he said.
The Nest Hub Max signals the integration of Nest into Google. The $229 display screen is similar to last year's Google Home Hub , now renamed the Nest Hub, although the new product adds a camera made for video calling that can be turned on and off.
The hub can also be set to recognize different household members using facial recognition — again all the device itself, not in the cloud.
Dhaka, May 7 (UNB)- A new study has recently found that combining of malaria genetic data with human mobility data from mobile networks can help to map and predict the spread of drug-resistant malaria.
The study was conducted by the Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health, Telenor Group, Mahidol-Oxford Research Unit and the National Malaria Elimination Programme in Bangladesh, said a press release.
Combining epidemiological data, travel surveys, parasite genetic data, and anonymised mobile phone data, the study was able to measure the geographic spread of different types of malaria parasites in southeast Bangladesh, including drug-resistant mutations.
Data pointed to transmission from outside high-incidence areas and showed substantial transfer of parasites throughout the Chittagong Hill Tracts in southeast Bangladesh.
"Our combined method gave us detailed insight into the direction and intensity of parasite flow between locations," Hsiao-Han Chang, Research Associate at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, explained to eLife Sciences, publisher of the study.
"The study proves that we have a potent weapon at our disposal in the fight against malaria - Big Data," says Kenth Engø-Monsen, Senior Research Scientist, Telenor Research.
Nokia 4.2 is all set to launch in India today, and the company has been rolling out multiple teasers in the run up to the launch, reports NDtv.
The phone was introduced at the Mobile World Congress (MWC) 2019 exhibition in Barcelona, and it is finally ready to hit the shelves in the country. The phone's key features include a dedicated Google Assistant button and a power button with a LED notification light, both of which have been teased by the Nokia Mobile India Twitter handle in the past. A separate teaser also showed the back of the phone, similar to the Nokia 4.2, further cementing the imminent India launch today.
HMD Global's latest teaser on Twitter suggests that the Nokia 4.2 pink colour variant showcased at MWC will make its way to India as well. The Nokia 4.2 is a part of the Android One program, and features a rear fingerprint sensor and a dual rear camera setup aligned vertically at the back. It comes with a dedicated Google Assistant button and a LED notification light on the power button, as teased before.
Nokia 4.2 price
Although the official Nokia 4.2 price in India will be revealed later today. Its global price does offer an indication of what we can expect. The phone starts at $169 (roughly Rs. 11,700) for the 2GB RAM + 16GB storage variant, while its 3GB RAM + 32GB storage model is priced at $199 (roughly Rs. 13,800). We expect to see a similar pricing in the country.
Nokia 4.2 specifications
The dual-SIM (Nano) Nokia 4.2 runs Android 9.0 Pie out-of-the-box and features a 5.71-inch HD+ (720x1520 pixels) a-Si TFT display along with a 19:9 aspect ratio and 2.5D curved glass protection. Under the hood, the phone has an octa-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 439 SoC, paired with up to 3GB RAM and 32GB storage. There is also a microSD card slot (up to 400GB).
For photos and videos, the Nokia 4.2 has a dual rear camera setup that includes a 13-megapixel primary sensor with an f/2.2 lens and a 2-megapixel secondary sensor with an f/2.2 lens. There is also an 8-megapixel selfie camera at the front -- along with an f/2.0 lens.
The Nokia 4.2 packs a 3,000mAh battery and measures a 148.95x71.30x8.39mm.Connectivity options on the Nokia 4.2 include 4G LTE, Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n, Bluetooth v4.2, GPS/ A-GPS, NFC, Micro-USB, and a 3.5mm headphone jack. Also, sensors on the phone include an accelerometer, ambient light, proximity sensor, and a rear-mounted fingerprint sensor.
May 7 (AP/UNB)-Microsoft has announced an ambitious effort to make voting secure, verifiable and subject to reliable audits by registering ballots in encrypted form so they can be accurately and independently tracked long after they are cast.
Two of the three top U.S elections vendors have expressed interest in potentially incorporating the open-source software into their voting systems.
The software is being developed with Galois, an Oregon-based company separately creating a secure voting system prototype under contract with the Pentagon's advanced research agency, DARPA. Dubbed "ElectionGuard," it will be available this summer, Microsoft says, with early prototypes ready to pilot for next year's U.S. general elections.
CEO Satya Nadella announced the initiative Monday at a developer's conference in Seattle, saying the software development kit would help "modernize all of the election infrastructure everywhere in the world."
Three little-known U.S. companies control about 90 percent of the market for election equipment, but have long faced criticism for poor security, antiquated technology and insufficient transparency around their proprietary, black-box voting systems.
Open-source software is inherently more secure because the underlying code is easily scrutinized by outside experts but has been shunned by the dominant vendors whose customers — the nation's 10,000 election jurisdictions — are mostly strapped for cash.
None offered bids when Travis County, Texas, home to Austin, sought to build a system with the "end-to-end" verification attributes that ElectionGuard promises to deliver.
Two of the leading vendors, Election Systems & Software of Omaha, Nebraska, and Hart InterCivic of Austin, Texas, both expressed interest in partnering with Microsoft for ElectionGuard. A spokeswoman for a third vendor, Dominion Voting Systems of Denver, said the company looks forward to "learning more" about the initiative.
Anyone with an existing voting system or developing a new one will be able to incorporate ElectionGuard — at the state or local level in the U.S. or national level for jurisdictions abroad.
"Once the barrier to entry is low enough, hopefully one of the vendors will go for it, and that will bring the rest of them in quickly enough," said Dan Wallach, a Rice University computer scientist who assisted Travis County.
"It can be used with a ballot-marking device. It can be used with an optical scanner, on hand-marked paper ballots," said Josh Benaloh, a senior cryptographer at Microsoft Research and key contributor to the ElectionGuard project. Benaloh helped produce a National Academies of Science report last year that called for an urgent overhaul of the rickety U.S. election system, which Russian hackers infiltrated in 2016 in several states.
That report called for all U.S. elections to be held on human-readable paper ballots by 2020. It also advocated a specific form of routine postelection audits to ensure accurate vote counts — a requirement that "end-to-end' voting verification satisfies.
Election integrity activist Susan Greenhalgh of the National Election Defense Coalition said she hoped it would encourage innovative thinking at the level elections are actually managed.
"We can't have faith-based voting anymore," she said. "This is a great step forward in verifying election results."
ElectionGuard will let voters confirm that their votes are accurately recorded. Beyond that, the unique coded tracker it produces registers an encrypted version of the vote that keeps the ballot choice itself secret while ensuring votes are accurately counted.
That enables reliable postelection audits and recounts.
It also lets outsiders such as election watchdog groups, political parties, journalists — and voters themselves — verify online that votes are properly counted without being altered.
Microsoft executives say they also plan to build a prototype voting system for reference.
One election official who has been in informal conversations with the ElectionGuard project leaders is Dean Logan, who runs elections for Los Angeles County, the nation's most populous, and is building an open-source voting system for it.
A spinoff of Galois called Free & Fair developed the sophisticated postelection audits , known as "risk-limiting," for Colorado, which was the first U.S. state to require the audits recommended in the National Academies of Sciences report.
ElectionGuard is not designed to work with internet voting schemes — which experts consider too easily hackable — and does not currently work with vote-by-mail systems.
ES&S told The Associated Press via email that it was excited to partner with Microsoft and "still exploring the potentials" for incorporated the software kit its voting systems.
Hart InterCivic, the No. 3 vendor, said it planned a pilot project with Microsoft to "incorporate ElectionGuard functionality as an additional feature" layered over its core platform.
A spokeswoman for Dominion, the No. 2 vendor, said "We are very interested in learning more about the initiative and being able to review the various prototypes that are being planned, along with hearing more about other federally-supported efforts in the elections space."
Edgardo Cortés, a former Virginia elections commissioner now with New York University's Brennan Center, welcomed additional private sector support for election systems.
"I think it'll take a while to catch on and see how beneficial (ElectionGuard) ends up being," he said. "But I think it certainly does have a great deal of potential."
Columbia University will be partnering with Microsoft to audit the pilots.
Dhaka, May 6 (UNB) - Robi, digital services provider, on Monday announced that it will not be a part of the recently proposed merger of Axiata Group and Telenor Group.
It will remain a direct subsidiary of Axiata post completion of the proposed transaction, Robi said in a press release reacting to the discussion between the groups to combine their telecom and infrastructure assets in Asia.
The proposed merger will not impact Bangladesh market as Robi will be separately and independently managed by Axiata.
Earlier, Telenor Group and Axiata Group Berhad announced that they have been discussing to combine their telecom and infrastructure assets in Asia (MergeCo), in which Telenor would take a majority stake.
The parties were aiming to create a leading, well diversified Pan-Asian telco with operations in nine countries with a total population of close to one billion people.
Telenor's Asian footprint includes Thailand, Malaysia, Bangladesh, Pakistan and Myanmar. Axiata has been operating companies in Malaysia, Bangladesh, Cambodia, Nepal, Sri Lanka and Indonesia, and the tower business edotco.