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By Abhay V
Google will skip the release of Chrome OS 95 to adjust to the new four-week release schedule
by Abhay Venkatesh
Earlier this year, Google announced that it was moving to a four-week release cycle for Chrome, shortening the duration between releases for consumers. The change is slated to be made with Chrome version 94. Today, the company announced its plans for Chrome OS and the release schedule changes coming to it.
The company says that it will be moving Chrome OS to the four-week release cycle starting with version 96, which is expected to make it to users sometime in late November. Chrome version 94, on the other hand, is expected to roll out in the stable channel in the third week of September, with the corresponding Chrome OS version slated to release in the week of October 14. Keeping in mind these schedules, the search giant says that it will be skipping Chrome OS version 95 completely to “bridge the gap” between version 94 and 96.
The firm also revealed that it will be introducing a new six-month update cadence for enterprise and educations users of the OS. This is likely aimed at focusing more on stability and security, and less on feature additions. The firm, however, has not provided much information in this regard. A similar eight-week Extended stable option is also planned for the browser.
Google’s Marina Kazatcker adds:
By Jay Bonggolto
Google vows to let UK's competition regulators oversee its online tracking changes
by Jay Bonggolto
Google tried to assuage growing online privacy concerns in 2019 by introducing new web standards that would put limits to how advertisers access user data to target their ads as part of the Privacy Sandbox project. The goal was to control third-party cookies that allow unauthorized tracking on the web with new digital advertising tools. Earlier this year, though, the UK's Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) launched an investigation into the project.
Now, the CMA has announced that it has secured Google's commitments to limit how it uses data in order to address privacy and competition concerns. The competition watchdog is now seeking feedback from interested third parties before it accepts Google’s commitments.
Privacy Sandbox involves assigning users to a cohort based on their interests while keeping their identity private. This method lets a browser analyze the users' habits on-device without sending them to a server. The changes, however, have sparked concerns that Google's replacement for third-party cookies could hamper competition in the digital advertising space.
As part of its commitment, the search giant vows to not access synced Chrome browsing histories once third-party cookies are eliminated. This will presumably prevent Google from favoring its own advertising business or websites at the expense of its rivals.
In addition, the company promised to give regulators a say on the results of its testing of alternatives. The CMA can request a "standstill period" of two months if Google fails to address any of their outstanding concerns. During this period, they can reopen an investigation and implement interim measures.
The CMA and the Information Commissioner's Office will consult on Google's commitments until July 8 with input from third parties. The regulators also noted that these commitments will be legally binding if accepted.
By Usama Jawad96
Google is improving its search results to protect people from online harassment
by Usama Jawad
Google Search is quite heavily used all over the world so it's no surprise that the company regularly updates the service with more features and redesigns it from time to time as well. Last month, it also revealed that it is working on a new technology called Multitask Unified Model (MUM) to fetch answers to more complex search queries.
Now, Google has revealed that it will be further enhancing its Search experience to better protect people from harassment.
Google's existing mechanism in this domain involves people manually reporting websites which post content about them without their consent and demand payment for its removal. A common example of this is revenge porn where malicious actors post explicit, non-consensual content of a person online. As part of the current process, Google investigates the information provided by someone affected from this harassment, and then removes the page from search results while also demoting the website's overall ranking.
Now, Google plans to further enhance this process by not only targeting the malicious site but also reducing the ranking of similar "low quality" predatory websites that appear in search results. This will aid in protecting people who are targeted by repeated harassment via unfavorable information posted about them online without their consent. Google says:
As highlighted, the road to enhance Search is an endless one, and Google says that it will continue evolving the experience based on feedback and the changing landscape.
By Usama Jawad96
Google will show regional vaccination-related search trends to U.S. health officials soon
by Usama Jawad
Tech companies have been updating their tools and technologies in the past year or so to aid in vaccine distribution and provide easy access to information on the topic to the general public. Today, Google has announced that it will soon be releasing new tools to further enhance this process.
First up is a COVID-19 Vaccination Search Insights tool for public health officials in the U.S. This is in response to health authorities wanting access to data about what kind of information their local communities need from them in order to hasten and simplify the vaccination process. This tool caters to this need by showing search trends across three categories: all vaccine information, searches indicating intent to get vaccinated, and those about safety and side effects. These trends will be at a county or zip code level and will be updated on a weekly basis.
Google has emphasized that user privacy will not be violated because the tool will utilize differential privacy to add noise to the data without significantly affecting its overall quality. As such, all data will be anonymized at a user level and will be aggregated in such a way that even though comparisons across various regions are possible, the number of search queries fired by an individual region is not.
Secondly, Google has collaborated with Ariadne Labs by providing it data to develop a Vaccine Equity Planner dashboard which combines data from various sources to show areas where people have difficulties in accessing vaccines. Google's COVID-19 Vaccination Access Dataset, which collects data from Maps-related APIs, is being utilized in this dashboard. Google has once again highlighted that this dataset does not contain user data. You can view the public dataset on GitHub here.
The company has indicated that although both the tools will be available in the U.S. in the English language only for now, it will decide whether to expand their reach globally after consultation and feedback from researchers and public health officials.
Paced Walking arrives on Google Fit to help you meet exercise goals
by Paul Hill
Google has announced a new feature called Paced Walking for Google Fit. With this feature, you can plug in a pair of headphones and listen to an audio beat that you can walk in step with. The beat’s speed can be adjusted if you want to walk a bit quicker and can be played over the top of music or podcasts.
Using the Paced Walking feature will allow you to set the right pace to start acquiring Heart Points in Google Fit which are awarded for every minute that you walk at a pace of 100 steps or more per minute. Securing Heart Points should get you well on the way to meeting the World Health Organization’s recommendation of doing at least 150 minutes of moderate physical activity per week.
According to Rob Harle, a research scientist for Google Fit, Paced Walking was designed to make exercise accessible to more people. He said:
To use the Paced Walking feature, press the plus icon in the bottom right corner, select Track workout, and then select Paced walking from the dropdown. You can then set the pace goal and hit the start button to begin.