Inside Google & Alphabet - October 16th, 2019

Inside Google & Alphabet (Oct 16th, 2019)

Congress appearance / Pixel 4: no original quality backup / Chief: disclose smart devices to guests

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1. Google's senior executives will appear in front of Congress today alongside Reddit, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, and other legal experts to answer questions about the 1996 Communications Decency Act. Lawmakers are attempting to change Section 230 of the act, which protects tech companies from lawsuits over user content. Critics, like Boston University law professor Danielle Keats Citron, say Section 230 has been used “to immunize platforms from liability even though they knew about users’ illegal activity, deliberately refused to remove it, and ensured that those responsible for the illegality could not be identified.” In a testimony released on Oct. 15, however, Google defends Section 230, arguing it is vital to the internet's future and actually incentivizes "action against harmful content," Katherine Oyama, Google’s global head of intellectual property policy, wrote. Oyama adds that without the act, search engines, blogs, and other providers would not be able to filter any content, including adult material, security threats, and more, or would over-filter content, harming free speech. - REUTERS

2. Google's hardware chief, Rick Osterloh, said he would inform guests he owns smart devices before they enter his home. The admission comes after the BBC asked Osterloh whether homeowners should inform guests they own the likes of Google Nest speakers or Amazon Echos. "I would and do when someone enters into my home, and it's probably something that the products themselves should try to indicate," Osterloh said. You can read the interview in full here. - BBC NEWS

What's your take: Would you inform house guests of any smart devices? Or, do you do this now? Hit reply to share your thoughts.

3. Google Pixel 4 owners will not be able to enjoy unlimited original quality photo backups when the phone is released next week. Pixel 4 smartphones will instead back up content to Google Photos in the same "high quality," slightly compressed way other phones do. However, older Pixel versions will continue to boast the feature. The original Pixel will retain it permanently, while the Pixel 2 will lose it on Jan. 16, 2021, and the Pixel 3 will no longer contain the feature starting Jan. 31, 2022. - ANDROID AUTHORITY

4. Google's decision to remove the Hong Kong role-playing protestor mobile game, "The Revolution of Our Times," from the Google Play store has sparked fierce debate among its employees. Many Googlers have expressed solidarity with the Hong Kong protestors on internal mailing lists and message boards, while a number also expressed frustration over the tech giant's decision. “Google used to be a company that adamantly supported democracy, but will it abandon Hong Kong?” an unidentified employee said. “It’s time for Larry and Sundar to take a stand.” At the same time, however, other Googlers defend the company's app removal and argue their co-worker's comments are uninformed and offensive. The debate rages despite the fact Google specifically told its employees to spend less time engaging in political debates at work about two months ago. -RECODE

5. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, a Democratic presidential candidate, no longer will accept major donations from Google and Facebook executives, and urges her fellow candidates to do the same. In a Medium post, Warren's campaign pledged to decline contributions over $200 from executives at big tech companies like Alphabet, Facebook, Amazon, Apple, Microsoft, Lyft, and Uber, as well as banks, private equity firms, and hedge funds. “I hope my fellow candidates for the Democratic nomination will do the same,” Warren said. The new policy applies to past contributions made to the Warren campaign as well. - THE VERGE

6. Mozilla is trying to pressure Google into making its YouTube algorithms more accessible to independent researchers. The tech giant has launched a campaign called #YouTubeRegrets in which users have been sharing YouTube "horror stories" where they searched for one thing but landed somewhere else. For example, one individual describes how they looked up German folk songs, but the algorithm led them to the likes of neo-Nazi clips. Mozilla says Google should let researchers figure out how the site makes it recommendations to help change this, as well as to hold Google accountable. "That's the old era of 'Trust us, we've got this,'" Ashley Boyd, Mozilla's vice president of advocacy, said in response to YouTube claiming in June it implemented 30 changes this year that led to a 50% drop in time spent watching harmful misinformation, said. "Show us your work." - CNET

7. Google removed the first-generation Pixel Buds, the Daydream View VR headset, and the Google Clips camera from its store. All three products have suffered disappointing sales, while the Pixel Buds were removed to make way for the truly wireless Pixel Buds 2. "[There hasn't] been the broad consumer or developer adoption we had hoped, and we've seen decreasing usage over time of the Daydream View headset," a Google spokesperson said of Daydream View. While Google will not sell the Daydream View, however, the app and store will still remain available for existing users. - ANDROID POLICE

8. Waymo is partnering with Renault to potentially open up a self-driving route from Paris' main airport. The two are exploring the possibility of opening up an autonomous mobility service between Charles de Gaulle airport in Paris and the business district, La Defense. The idea is to have it ready by the 2024 Olympic summer games, which will be held in Paris. - AUTOMOTIVE NEWS

9. A man agreed to pay $25,000 for abusing YouTube's takedown system. Christopher Brady tried to extort payments of up to $300 with fake takedown threats, targeting at least three well-known Minecraft streamers. Brady also signed a public apology admitting to "falsely claiming that material uploaded by YouTube users infringed my copyrights." - ARS TECHNICA

10. Google has added a new "crop document" extension to Google Photos. Unlike other "crop and rotate" options, this new feature gives users the ability to select the exact border of your document before editing it. The extension is available for all photos in Google Photos 4.26. - 9TO5GOOGLE

Written and curated by Inside Dev and Inside Deals Editor Sheena Vasani, a freelance journalist based in California. Proficient in Javascript and Ruby. Got my start at Dev Bootcamp and Thinkful.

Edited by Bobby Cherry, a senior editor at who also curates Inside Pittsburgh.

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