Inside Google & Alphabet - July 16th, 2019

Inside Google & Alphabet (Jul 16th, 2019)

Celebrating Space Exploration / Rite Aid Partnership / Public Distrust in Toronto

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1. Google has added even more new material to celebrate 50 years of U.S. space exploration. Google last week launched several new features to commemorate the Apollo 11 mission, including an AR version of the Apollo 11 command module. Now the company has added material to Google Earth celebrating space exploration in general. The new features include an animation tool for Moon (and Mars!) footage; a look at existing NASA launch sites; and stories about ten iconic space explorers like Mae Jemison, Carl Sagan and Kirobo the robot. There's a lot of celebration going around – Google Assistant is even getting an interactive game  called "Journey to the Moon" on July 19. -- AUSDROID  

2. Google and Rite Aid have teamed up for more safe medication disposal. There are now hundreds of medication disposal places from Rite Aid and law enforcement agencies across the United States marked on Google Maps. To find the closest one, just search Google or Google Maps for "medication disposal near me." Improperly disposing of leftover medications – like flushing them down the toilet – can lead to a polluted water supply. This is not the first time Google has partnered to help dispose of drugs safely; it launched a drug drop-off search with CVS in February and worked with the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) last year for National Prescription Drug Take Back Day. -- DRUGSTORE NEWS

3. Google VP Karan Bhatia wrote an op-ed for Fox News. In it, he addressed accusations that Google was censoring conservative speech, stating bluntly "Google’s products are not politically biased." He noted a recent study by The Economist looking for bias in Google News (and not finding any), and explained what happens when Google does make an error in its Knowledge Panels. Bhatia will be one of the Google employees testifying before Congress this week. -- FOX NEWS

4. Sidewalk Labs' new Toronto development had a public meeting last night. The meeting -- the first to discuss the Sidewalk Labs draft plan released last month -- drew about 150 people. While there were positive statements about the developments, there was also a lot of discussion about Google's privacy commitments, even with anonymized data. One attendee said "The idea of being de-identified will be almost impossible 24 months from now." This is only the first of four meetings over the next nine days after which will follow public consultations in the fall; Toronto is a long, long way from any kind of actual building. -- IT WORLD CANADA

5. Peter Thiel's calls for a Google investigation have provoked a response from Donald Trump. Sunday night Thiel, co-founder of PayPal and member of Facebook's board, called for investigations into Google and its relationship with China. This morning Donald Trump responded in a tweet, writing "The Trump Administration will take a look!" Google reiterated in a statement that it does not work with the Chinese military. -- WASHINGTON POST

6. One of the Google protest organizers has left the company. Meredith Whittaker was one of the Google employees who organized a walkout in November, protesting how Google handles harassment among other concerns. In April she said Google was retaliating against her for her activities (Google denied this). Google has confirmed the departure but it does not appear that Whittaker has made a public statement yet. -- TECHCRUNCH


7. Waze is adding toll information to its app. Waze is initially adding information about 5,000 miles of toll roads in the U.S. (with information also available for Canada and Israel), but it's using crowdsourcing to get information on tolling costs as well. Waze users can enter information about types of toll passes, toll entry and exit points, etc. They won't be able to pay the toll via Waze, though – just see information about it. -- SLASHGEAR

Is Waze still a major part of your commutes and travel journeys? If so, does this addition excite you? If not, does this new data entice you to use it? Hit reply to let me know.

8. Two senators are recommending that the FTC investigate the tech industry. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and Josh Hawley (R-Missouri) sent a letter to the FTC asking for an investigation into tech companies' content policies to see if they are in compliance with federal law. This is not the first time the two have tangled with the tech industry; Hawley proposed a bill to make social media liable for political bias, while Cruz tangled with Google employees at a Congressional hearing in April. -- MEDIAPOST

9. About 5 percent of Google My Business views result in customer action. This from a study that BrightLocal did of 45,000 businesses on Google My Business. 4.83 percent of 2018's listing views resulted in a customer action (either a click, a phone call, or a request for directions). That's up from 3.87 percent in 2017. -- SEARCH ENGINE JOURNAL  

10. Google made thousands of changes to search in the last year. Yesterday, Google published a blog post explaining how it adjusts its search engine. 3200 changes over the last year is almost ten times as many as the Google of 2009, which had only 350-400 changes! -- SEARCH ENGINE LAND

Tara Calishain has been writing about search engines since 1996, when she wrote the Official Netscape Guide to Internet Research. She's since authored or co-authored several other search-related books, including Google Hacks. Tara is obsessed with all things related to online information collections. You can say hi at @ResearchBuzz on Twitter.

Editing team: Kim Lyons (Pittsburgh-based journalist and managing editor at Inside), David Stegon (senior editor at Inside, whose reporting experience includes cryptocurrency and technology), and Bobby Cherry (senior editor at Inside, who’s always on social media).

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