US Approves Google Plan To Let Political Emails Bypass Gmail Spam Filter

The US Federal Election Commission approved a Google plan to let campaign emails bypass Gmail spam filters. From a report: The FEC’s advisory opinion adopted in a 4-1 vote said Gmail’s pilot program is permissible under the Federal Election Campaign Act and FEC regulations “and would not result in the making of a prohibited in-kind contribution.” The FEC said Google’s approved plan is for “a pilot program to test new Gmail design features at no cost on a nonpartisan basis to authorized candidate committees, political party committees, and leadership PACs.” On July 1, Google asked the FEC for the green light to implement the pilot after Republicans accused the company of giving Democrats an advantage in its algorithms. Republicans reportedly could have avoided some of their Gmail spam problems by using the proper email configuration. At a May 2022 meeting between Senate Republicans and Google’s chief legal officer, “the most forceful rebuke” was said to come “from Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), who claimed that not a single email from one of his addresses was reaching inboxes,” The Washington Post reported in late July. “The reason, it was later determined, was that a vendor had not enabled an authentication tool that keeps messages from being marked as spam, according to people briefed on the discussions.”

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Do Inaccurate Search Results Disrupt Democracies?

Users of Google “must recalibrate their thinking on what Google is and how information is returned to them,” warns an Assistant Professor at the School of Information and Library Science at UNC-Chapel Hill.

In a new book titled The Propagandists’ Playbook, they’re warning that simple link-filled search results have been transformed by “Google’s latest desire to answer our questions for us, rather than requiring us to click on the returns.” The trouble starts when Google returns inaccurate answers “that often disrupt democratic participation, confirm unsubstantiated claims, and are easily manipulatable by people looking to spread falsehoods.”

By adding all of these features, Google — as well as competitors such as DuckDuckGo and Bing, which also summarize content — has effectively changed the experience from an explorative search environment to a platform designed around verification, replacing a process that enables learning and investigation with one that is more like a fact-checking service…. The problem is, many rely on search engines to seek out information about more convoluted topics. And, as my research reveals, this shift can lead to incorrect returns… Worse yet, when errors like this happen, there is no mechanism whereby users who notice discrepancies can flag it for informational review….

The trouble is, many users still rely on Google to fact-check information, and doing so might strengthen their belief in false claims. This is not only because Google sometimes delivers misleading or incorrect information, but also because people I spoke with for my research believed that Google’s top search returns were “more important,” “more relevant,” and “more accurate,” and they trusted Google more than the news — they considered it to be a more objective source….

This leads to what I refer to in my book, The Propagandists’ Playbook, as the “IKEA effect of misinformation.” Business scholars have found that when consumers build their own merchandise, they value the product more than an already assembled item of similar quality — they feel more competent and therefore happier with their purchase. Conspiracy theorists and propagandists are drawing on the same strategy, providing a tangible, do-it-yourself quality to the information they provide. Independently conducting a search on a given topic makes audiences feel like they are engaging in an act of self-discovery when they are actually participating in a scavenger-hunt engineered by those spreading the lies….

Rather than assume that returns validate truth, we must apply the same scrutiny we’ve learned to have toward information on social media.

Another problem the article points out: “Googling the exact same phrase that you see on Twitter will likely return the same information you saw on Twitter.

“Just because it’s from a search engine doesn’t make it more reliable.”

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Google Files a Lawsuit That Could Kick Tinder Out of the Play Store

Google has counter-sued Match seeking monetary damages and a judgement that would let it kick Tinder and the group’s other dating apps out of the Play Store, Bloomberg has reported. Engadget reports: Earlier this year, Match sued Google alleging antitrust violations over a decision requiring all Android developers to process “digital goods and services” payments through the Play Store billing system. Following the initial lawsuit in May, Google and Match reached a temporary agreement allowing Match to remain on the Play Store and use its own payments system. Google also agreed to make a “good faith” effort to address Match’s billing concerns. Match, in turn, was to make an effort to offer Google’s billing system as an alternative.

However, Google parent Alphabet claims that Match Group now wants to avoid paying “nothing at all” to Google, including its 15 to 30 percent Play Store fees, according to a court filing. “Match Group never intended to comply with the contractual terms to which it agreed… it would also place Match Group in an advantaged position relative to other app developers,” the document states. Match group said that Google’s Play Store policies violate federal and state laws. “Google doesn’t want anyone else to sue them so their counterclaims are designed as a warning shot,” Match told Bloomberg in a statement. “We are confident that our suit, alongside other developers, the US Department of Justice and 37 state attorneys general making similar claims, will be resolved in our favor early next year.”

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Google Launches Advanced API Security To Protect APIs From Growing Threats

Google today announced a preview of Advanced API Security, a new product headed to Google Cloud that’s designed to detect security threats as they relate to APIs. TechCrunch reports: Built on Apigee, Google’s platform for API management, the company says that customers can request access starting today. Short for “application programming interface,” APIs are documented connections between computers or between computer programs. API usage is on the rise, with one survey finding that more than 61.6% of developers relied on APIs more in 2021 than in 2020. But they’re also increasingly becoming the target of attacks. According to a 2018 report commissioned by cybersecurity vendor Imperva, two-thirds of organizations are exposing unsecured APIs to the public and partners.

Advanced API Security specializes in two tasks: identifying API misconfigurations and detecting bots. The service regularly assesses managed APIs and provides recommended actions when it detects configuration issues, and it uses preconfigured rules to provide a way to identify malicious bots within API traffic. Each rule represents a different type of unusual traffic from a single IP address; if an API traffic pattern meets any of the rules, Advanced API Security reports it as a bot. […] With the launch of Advanced API Security, Google is evidently seeking to bolster its security offerings under Apigee, which it acquired in 2016 for over half a billion dollars. But the company is also responding to increased competition in the API security segment. “Misconfigured APIs are one of the leading reasons for API security incidents. While identifying and resolving API misconfigurations is a top priority for many organizations, the configuration management process is time consuming and requires considerable resources,” Vikas Ananda, head of product at Google Cloud, said in a blog post shared with TechCrunch ahead of the announcement. “Advanced API Security makes it easier for API teams to identify API proxies that do not conform to security standards… Additionally, Advanced API Security speeds up the process of identifying data breaches by identifying bots that successfully resulted in the HTTP 200 OK success status response code.”

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How a Religious Sect Landed Google in a Lawsuit

A video producer claims he was fired after he complained that an obscure group based in the Sierra foothills dominated a business unit at Google. From a report: In a tiny town in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada, a religious organization called the Fellowship of Friends has established an elaborate, 1,200-acre compound full of art and ornate architecture. More than 200 miles away from the Fellowship’s base in Oregon House, Calif., the religious sect, which believes a higher consciousness can be achieved by embracing fine arts and culture, has also gained a foothold inside a business unit at Google. Even in Google’s freewheeling office culture, which encourages employees to speak their own minds and pursue their own projects, the Fellowship’s presence in the business unit was unusual. As many as 12 Fellowship members and close relatives worked for the Google Developer Studio, or GDS, which produces videos showcasing the company’s technologies, according to a lawsuit filed by Kevin Lloyd, a 34-year-old former Google video producer.

Many others staffed company events, working registration desks, taking photographs, playing music, providing massages and serving wine. For these events, Google regularly bought wine from an Oregon House winery owned by a member of the Fellowship, according to the lawsuit. Mr. Lloyd claimed he was fired last year because he complained about the influence of the religious sect. His suit also names Advanced Systems Group, or ASG, the company that sent Mr. Lloyd to Google as a contractor. Most of the Google Developer Studio joined the team through ASG as contractors, including many members of the Fellowship. The suit, which Mr. Lloyd filed in August in California Superior Court, accuses Google and ASG of violating a California employment law that protects workers against discrimination. It is in the discovery stage. The New York Times corroborated many of the lawsuit’s claims through interviews with eight current and former employees of the Google business unit and examinations of publicly available information and other documents. These included a membership roster for the Fellowship of Friends, Google spreadsheets detailing event budgets and photos taken at these events.

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Leaked Google Pixel 7 Reportedly Listed on eBay, Sold on Facebook Marketplace

Earlier this week an alleged prototype of Google’s upcoming Pixel 7 smartphone was reportedly listed for sale on eBay, the Verge reported. (“The distinctive camera bar is back, and this year it’s an aluminum bar with cutouts for the cameras…” they wrote, adding “We’ve collected images from the eBay listing into the gallery below, if you want to scrutinize them for yourself.”)

But now a Reddit user is claiming they actually bought Google’s as-yet-unreleased Pixel 7 Pro smartphone on Facebook Marketplace — and then used it for three weeks without realizing it. (Because the seller had listed it as a Pixel 6 Pro without a box.)

From the Verge’s new report today:
Google pre-announced the Pixel 7 and 7 Pro at its I/O keynote last month, revealing what the devices will look like and… not much else. They’ll very likely make their formal debut in October with Android 13. These alleged prototypes haven’t shed much more light on what we can expect from the phones, either — just confirmation that it’s using a different modem than the Pixel 6 series and that it appears to come in a variant with 256GB of storage and 12GB of RAM.

There probably won’t be much more we can learn from it, either. The purchaser of the alleged prototype said that the phone had been functioning fine until a few days ago when it seems to have been remotely wiped.

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Bandcamp at Centre of Dispute Between Epic Games and Google

An anonymous reader shares a report: If you’d told us that Bandcamp’s acquisition by Epic Games would lead fairly swiftly to an argument with a tech giant, our money would have been on that giant being Apple. Nope. Epic Games is seeking a court injunction against Google, over changing rules on its Google Play Store for Android. Bandcamp CEO Ethan Diamond blogged about the dispute overnight, noting that since 2015, Bandcamp has used its own billing system to process payments made for music and merch within its Android app. “However, Google is now modifying its rules to require Bandcamp (and other apps like it) to exclusively use Google Play Billing for payments for digital goods and services, and pay a revenue share to Google,” wrote Diamond. “If Google’s policy changes stand, beginning on June 1st, we would have to either pass Google’s fees on to consumers (making Android a less attractive platform for music fans), pass fees on to artists (which we would never do), permanently run our Android business at a loss, or turn off digital sales in the Android app.” Diamond also said that the new policy could see a delay in payments for artists and labels, from the current 24-48 hours to “15 to 45 days after a sale,” while Epic’s filing notes that Google’s system can’t be used for purchases of physical items (merch and physical music), which would force it to use two separate payment systems anyway.

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