Google beats expectations again with $31.15B in revenue

Alphabet, Google’s parent company, reported another pretty solid beat this afternoon for its first one-quarter as it more or less has continued to keep its business growing substantially — and is growing even faster than it was a year ago today.

Google said its revenue grew 26% year-over-year to $31.16 billion in the first quarter this year. In the first one-quarter last year, Google said its revenue had grown 22% between Q1 of 2016 and Q1 of 2017. All this is a little convoluted, but the end outcome is that Google is actually growing faster than it was just a year ago despite the continued trend of a decline in its cost-per-click — a rough style of saying how valuable an ad is — as more and more web browsing switchings to mobile devices. Last year, Google said it recorded $24.75 billion in the first quarter.

Once again, Alphabet’s” other bets” — its fringe projects like autonomous vehicles and balloons — depicted some additional health as that revenue grew while the losses shrink. That’s a good sign as it seems to explore options beyond search, but in the end it still represents a tiny fraction of Google’s overall business. This was also the first quarter that Google is reporting its results following a settlement with Uber, where it received a slice of the company as it aimed a spat between its Waymo self-driving division and Uber.

Here’s the final scorecard 😛 TAGEND

Revenue: $31.16 billion, compared to $30.36 billion Wall street estimations and up 26% year-over-year.

$31.16 billion, compared to $30.36 billion Wall street estimations and up 26% year-over-year. Earnings: $9.93 per share adjusted, compared to $9.28 per share from Wall Street

$9.93 per share adjusted, compared to $9.28 per share from Wall Street Other Revenues: $4.35 billion, up from $3.27 billion in Q1 last year

: $4.35 billion, up from $3.27 billion in Q1 last year Other Bets: $150 million, up from $132 million in Q1 2017

: $150 million, up from $132 million in Q1 2017 Other Bet losses: $571 million, down from $703 million in the first quarter last year

: $571 million, down from $703 million in the first quarter last year TAC as a% of Revenue: 24%

: 24% Effective tax rate: 11%, down from 20% in Q1 2017


Thousands of Android apps potentially violate child protection law

A study conducted on child-directed Android apps from Google Play Store saw over half may transgress US privacy law for under 13 s

Thousands of child-directed Android apps and games are potentially violating US law on the collection and sharing of data on those under 13, research has revealed.

A study conducted on 5,885 child-directed Android apps from the US Play Store, which are included in Google’s Designed for Families programme, found that well over half of the apps potentially contravened the US Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act( Coppa ).

” We identified several concerning violations and trends ,” wrote the authors of the Proceedings on Privacy Enhancing Technologies, led by researchers at the International Computer Science Institute at the University of California, Berkeley.” Overall, roughly 57% of the 5,855 child-directed apps that we analysed are potentially infringing Coppa .”

Among the apps, 4.8% had” are violations when apps share location or contact information without consent”, 40% shared personal information without applying reasonable security measures, 18% shared persistent identifiers with their parties for prohibited purposes such as ad targeting, and 39% showed” ignorance or neglect for contractual obligations aimed at protecting children’s privacy “.

The researchers found that 28% of the apps accessed sensitive data protected by Android permissions and that 73% of the tested apps transmitted sensitive data over the internet.

” While accessing a sensitive resource or sharing it over the internet does not necessarily mean that an app is in violation of Coppa , none of these apps attained verifiable parental permission: if the[ automated testing] was able to trigger the functionality, then a child would as well ,” the researchers wrote.

” This is an incredibly important examine that clears demonstrates that many apps for children are transgressing Coppa at a massive scale ,” told Josh Golin, executive director of the Campaign for Commercial Free Childhood.” Many kids’ apps are sharing personal information with third party who do data-driven personalised marketing, the very thing Coppa “re supposed to” guard against .”

The researchers said that Google had taken steps to help enforce Coppa compliance, with the Designed for Families programme that offer developers of children’s apps with information on the law and involves certification that apps comply. But “theyre saying” ” as our results show, there appears to not be any( or only limited) enforcement “.

While the researchers surmised that it is likely that” many privacy violations are unintentional and caused by misunderstandings of third-party Software Development Kitss” that are used to build the apps, they recommended Google to do more active vetting process of apps for Coppa compliance.

The researchers also analysed whether apps with potential Coppa violations were part of the US Federal Trade Commission’s( FTC) Safe Harbor programme, under which developers submit their apps for certification that they are Coppa-compliant. They found that few apps are actually certified under Safe Harbor and of those that are” possible violation are prevalent “.

” Based on our data, it is not clear that industry self-regulation has resulted in higher privacy criteria; some of our data suggest the opposite. Thus, industry self-regulation appears to be ineffective ,” the researchers wrote.

Golin told:” It’s also clear that self-regulation endeavors- both Google’s attempts to ensure Coppa compliance at the app store level and the Safe Harbor certification programme- are failing families. As has been demonstrated time and time again, self-regulation is no substitute for sustained government enforcement .”

Jeffrey Chester, executive director for the Center for Digital Democracy, told:” For years, the FTC has failed to address how both Google and Facebook routinely undermine customer privacy .”

” However, the FTC has just been through[ an] earthquake-like wake up call, given the revelations that Facebook allowed companies like Cambridge Analytica to seize data on 87 million people … Parents are confronted with a nearly impossible task. Dedicated the predominance of the Google App platform and the best interest young children have in apps, it’s not practical for a mother to have to spend time trying to decipher the complex connects that drive the ad supported App industry.

” That’s why we hope the FTC has finally awoken from its long digital privacy slumber .”

Google did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

YouTube illegally collects data on children, tell child protection groups

Android phone makers skip Google security updates without telling users- analyze

Google loses landmark ‘right to be forgotten’ case

Businessman wins legal action to force removal of search results about past conviction

A businessman has won his legal action to remove search results about war criminals conviction in a landmark” right to be forgotten” occurrence that could have wide-ranging repercussions.

The ruling was make use of Mr Justice Warby in London on Friday. The magistrate repudiated a similar claim brought by a second industrialist who was jailed for a more serious offence.

The claimant who lost, referred to only as NT1 for legal reasons, was convicted of conspiracy to account falsely in the late 1990 s; the claimant who won, known as NT2, was convicted more than 10 years ago of conspiracy to intercept communications. NT1 was jailed for four years, while NT2 was jailed for six months.

Granting an appeal in the case of NT1, the judge added:” It is quite likely that there will be more claims of this kind, and the fact that NT2 has succeeded is likely to reinforce that .”

Both men demanded that Google remove search results mentioning the cases for which they were convicted. These include links to web pages published by a national newspaper and other media. Google refused their request and the men took the company to the high court.

The decision in NT2′ s favour could have implications for other convicted crooks and those who want embarrassing narratives about them erased from the web. Warby ruled out any injuries payment, however.

Explaining his decision, the judge said NT1 continued to mislead the public, whereas NT2 had shown repentance. He also took into account the submission that NT2′ s conviction did not fear actions taken by him in relation to” consumers, clients or investors”, but rather in relation to the intrusion of privacy of third parties.

” There is not[ a] plausible suggestion … that there is a risk that this wrongdoing will be repeated by the claimant. The datum is of scant if any apparent relevance to any record-keeping activities that he seems likely to engage in ,” the magistrate added.

He said his key conclusion in its relationship with NT2′ s claim was that” the crime and punishment information has become out of date, irrelevant and of no sufficient legitimate interest to users of Google search to justify its continued availability “.

In the case of NT1, however, the judge was scathing about the claimant’s stance since leaving prison.” He has not accepted his remorse, has misled the public and this court, and depicts no compunction over any of these matters ,” he said.

” He remains in business, and the information serves the purpose of minimising the risk that he will continue to misinform, as he has in the past. Delisting would not erase the information from the record wholly, but it would make it much harder to find .”

In 2014 the European court of justice( ECJ) ruled that “irrelevant” and outdated data should be erased on request. Since then, Google has received requests to remove at the least 2.4 m connections from search results. Search engine firms can repudiate applications if they believe the public interest in accessing the information outweighs a right to privacy.

At a high court hearing in February, Hugh Tomlinson QC, representing NT1, told the high court that the visibility of the articles on the search engine caused” distress and upset” to his client.

Tomlinson, who is also chairman of the press regulation campaign group Hacked Off, told the court the businessman was not a public figure and now made a living from commercial lending and funding a property developer.

” Before anyone gratifies a new person these days they Google them ,” Tomlinson told. He added that many people engaged in misdeeds when they were young and if the misdeeds were constantly brought to the attention of others then they would permanently have a negative effect.

NT1′ s sentence was now expend, Tomlinson continued, and the law was designed to allow for the rehabilitation of wrongdoers so they could go on to lead normal lives.

But Antony White QC, representing Google, argued the ECJ’s” right to be forgotten” ruling was ” not a right to rewrite history or … tailor your past if that’s what this claimant would like to use it for “.

White said the business malpractice that gave rise to NT1′ s sentence was ” serious and sustained “.

NT2, in a separate hearing, also argued that his conviction was legally spent and he therefore had a right to be forgotten. Google defied taking down search results linking to articles including reports on his financial affairs, his conviction and interviews given by him several years later containing his account of the circumstances surrounding his conviction.

A Google spokesperson said:” We work hard to comply with the right to be forgotten, but we take great care not to remove search results that are in the public interest and will defend the public’s right to access lawful info. We are pleased that the court recognised our efforts in this area, and we will respect the judgments they have built in this case .”

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Beware the smart toaster: 18 tips for surviving the surveillance age

Weve gone a long way since the web was just a fun place to share cat gifs now its a place mostly dedicated to finding and selling your personal info. Heres what you need to know in this new era

On the internet, the adage runs , nobody knows you’re a puppy. That joke is merely 15 years old, but seems as if it is from an entirely different era. Once upon a day the internet was associated with anonymity; today it is synonymous with surveillance. Not merely do modern technology companies know full well you’re not a dog( not even an extremely precocious poodle ), they know whether you own a dog and what sort of dog it is. And, based on your preferred category of canine, they can go a long way to inferring- and influencing – your political views.

Just over a week ago, the Observer transgressed a tale about how Facebook had failed to protect the personal information of tens of millions of its users. The revelations sparked a #DeleteFacebook motion and some people downloaded their Facebook data before removing themselves from the social network. During this process, many of these users were shocked to consider just how much intel about them the internet behemoth had accumulated. If “youre using” Facebook apps on Android, for example- and, even unknowingly, dedicated it permission- it seems the company has been collecting your call and text data for years.

It’s not me, it’s you! So Facebook protested, following the completion of widespread anger about its data-collection practises. You acquiesced to our opaque privacy policies. You agreed to let us mine and monetise the minutiae of your existence. Why are you so upset?

Facebook’s surprise at our outrage is not unreasonable. For years, technology companies have faced very little scrutiny as they mushroomed in sizing and power. Ultimately, however, the tide is turning. We seem to have reached a watershed moment when it comes to public attitudes towards the use of our private datum. We are more aware of a consequence of our online behaviour than ever before.

Awareness of our digital footprint is one thing, but what are we to do about it? In the wake of the Facebook revelations, it’s clear that we can’t all keep clicking as usual if we value our privacy or our republic. It’s still comparatively early in the internet era and we are all still figuring it out as we go along. However, best practises when it comes to security and online etiquette are starting to emerge. Here’s a guide to some of the new rules of the internet.

1. Download all the information Google has on you

You may well have downloaded your Facebook data already; it has become something of a trend in recent days. Now take a look at what Google has on you. Run to Google’s “Takeout” tool and download your data from the multiple Google products “youre supposed to” use, such as Gmail, Maps, Search and Drive. You’ll get sent a few enormous files that contain information about everything from the YouTube videos you have watched, your search history, your place history and so on. Once you’ve seen just how much information about you is in the cloud, you may want to go about deleting it. I highly recommend deleting your Google Maps history, for a start, unless you are particularly eager to have a detailed online record of everywhere you have ever been. You may also want to stop Google from tracking your place history. Sign in to Google, open Maps, then click on “timeline” in the menu. At the bottom, there’s an option to manage your place history.

2. Try not to let your smart toaster take down the internet .

These days you can buy a “smart” version of just about anything. There are connected toasters, which let you personalise your toast puts and advise your phone when your breakfast is ready. There are Bluetooth-enabled forks, which vibrate when you are eating too quickly. There are internet-connected umbrellas, which alert you if it looks like it’s going to rainfall. There are even smart tampons, which let you monitor your flow.

Not merely are most of these contraptions unnecessary and expensive, most of them have shoddy security and are a liability. In 2016, for example, hackers created a zombie army of internet-connected devicesand used them to take down most areas of the internet, including sites such as Netflix, Facebook, Spotify and the Guardian. So think twice about whether you really need to buy that fancy connected contraption. There’s enough to worry about today without having to wonder if your toaster is plotting against you.

3. Ensure your AirDrop decideds are dick-pic-proof

If you are an iPhone user, turn off your AirDrop function while in a public place or limit it to contacts. This stops strangers on the train from sending you unsolicited dick pics via AirDrop, which is a thing that actually happens because of course it does.

4. Secure your old Yahoo account

You may have an old email account “youve never” use any more and can’t be bothered to delete. That email account is a treasure trove of personal information just waiting to be hacked; indeed, if it’s a Yahoo account it was hacked in 2013. You don’t need inevitably to delete your old account but you should secure it. Change the password and turn on two-step verification. Make sure you’ve disconnected any linked services( such as cloud storage) in your settings.

5. 1234 is not an acceptable password

Nor is “password”. Nor is “monkey”- which, for some reason, is one of the most popular passwords there is. The more secure passwords are very long ones, so start thinking in terms of “passphrases” instead of password. For example, “nomonkeyisnotagoodpassword” would take a computer 128 undecillion years to crack.

6. Check if you have been pwned

“Pwned” is internet-speak for, among other things, having your email account compromised in a data breach. It’s a good idea to check this regularly. Simply go to, enter your email address, and the website will let you know if and when your details have been compromised so you can take appropriate action such as changing your password.

7. Be aware of personalised pricing

We’re all familiar with dynamic pricing- the vexing route in which airline ticket prices fluctuate according to supply and demand. Increasingly, however, we’re insuring the rise of” personalised pricing “~ ATAGEND, as retailers analyse our data to gauge how much we’re likely to pay and charge us accordingly. Uber, for example, knows that you’re more likely to pay surge pricing if your telephone battery is about to die– although they assert not to have acted on the information collected. And Staples has displayed different costs to clients based on their location. It’s hard to know just how widespread personalised pricing is as retailers are understandably discreet about it. However, you should assume that it’s happening. So, before making a big purchase online you might want to see if use a different device or utilizing the incognito or private mode in your browser has any effect on the price. There are also tools you can download that let you spoof your place. It’s the modern equivalent of haggling.

8. Say hi to the NSA guy spying on you via your webcam

Even scares need a little social interaction.

9. Turn off notifications for anything that’s not another person speaking immediately to you

Sometimes this will be easy: is it a single-player game? It doesn’t need notifications at all. You can find out if you’ve got more gems, or extra energy- or whatever other fake currency the game hopes you are able to am worried about- in your own time , not when it wants to drive your involvement. Other times, this will be harder. Instagram’s rubbish-” a famous puppy simply posted a picture that received 12 likes”- can be turned off, but you’ll have to dig down in the puts to find it. Are there exceptions? Sure. The odd breaking news alert never hurt anyone, and maybe you really do want to let Duolingo prod you to practise your Spanish. But if you would be annoyed by a robot calling you up to tell you something, why are you letting it interrupt your thought process in another way?

10. Never put your kids on the public internet

Maybe it’s fine to upload pics to a shared( private) photo album, or mention their day in a group DM. But if it’s public, Google can find it. And if Google can find it, it’s never going away. How are you going to tell your child in 16 years’ time that they can’t get a drivers’ licence because Daddy set a high-res photo of their iris online when they were two and now they trip-up alarms from here to Mars?

11. Leave your phone in your pocket or face down on the table when you’re with friends

Unless you want to signal, repeatedly and obviously:” I would rather be hanging with someone else than you .”

12. Sometimes it’s worth merely wiping everything and starting over

Your phone, your tweets, your Facebook account: all of these things are temporary. They will pass. Free yourself from an preoccupation with digital hoarding. If you wipe your telephone every year, you learn which apps you need and which are just sitting in the background hoovering up data. If you wipe your Facebook account every year, you learn which friends you actually like and which are just hanging on to your social life like a barnacle.

13. An Echo is penalty , but don’t put a camera in your bedroom

Do we really need to break this one down?

14. Have as many social-media-free days in the week as you have alcohol-free days

This can be zero if you want, but know that we’re judging you.

15. Retrain your brain to focus

Save up your longreads use Instapaper or Pocket and read them without distraction. Don’t dip in and out of that 4,000 -word article on turtles: read it in one run. Or maybe even try a volume!

16. Don’t let the algorithms pick what you do

You are not a robot, you are a human being, and exercising your own free will is the greatest strength you have. When that YouTube video ends, don’t watch the next one that autoplays. When you pick up your phone in the morning, don’t simply click on the narratives at the top of Apple News or Google Now. Exercise selection! Workout liberty! Exercise humanity!

17. Do what you want with your data, but guard your friends’ info with their own lives

Yes, you should think twice before granting that fun app you downloaded access to your place or your photo library. Do you trust it not to do weird things with your images? Do you know it won’t track your every motion? But ultimately, those are your decisions, and they are for you to make. But your friends’ data isn’t yours, it’s theirs, and you are a trusted custodian. Don’t think twice before authorising access to your address book, or your friends’ profiles: guess five or six periods, and then don’t do it.

18. Finally, remember your privacy is worth protecting

You might not have anything to hide( except your embarrassing Netflix history) but that doesn’t mean you should be blase about your privacy. Increasingly, our inner lives are being reduced to a series of data points; every little thing we do is for sale. As we’re starting to see, this nonstop surveillance changes us. It influences the things we buy and the ideas we buy into. Being more mindful of our online behaviour, then, isn’t just important when it comes to protecting our datum, it’s essential to protecting our individuality.

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YouTube suspends ads on Logan Pauls channels after recent pattern of behavior in videos

More problems and controversy for Logan Paul, the YouTube star who caused a strong public backlash when he posted a video of a suicide victim in Japan. Google’s video platform today announced that it would be pulling advertising temporarily from his video channel in response to a “recent pattern of behavior” from him.

This is in addition to Paul’s suspensions from YouTube’s Preferred Ad program and its Originals series, both of which have been in place since January; and comes days after YouTube’s CEO promised stronger enforcement of YouTube’s policies use a mix of technology and 10,000 human curators.

Since coming online again after a one-month break from the service in the wake of the Japanese video, in addition to the usual( asinine) content of his videos, Paul has tasered a rat, indicated swallowing Tide Pods, and, according to YouTube, intentionally tried to monetize a video that clearly infringed its guidelines for advertiser-friendly content( we’re asking if we can get a specific reference to which video this might be — they all seem fairly offensive to me, so it’s hard to tell ).

“After careful consideration, we have decided to temporarily suspend ads on Logan Paul’s YouTube channels, ” a spokesperson said to TechCrunch in an emailed statement elaborating on the Tweet. “This is not a decision we attained gently, however, we believe he has exhibited a pattern of behavior in his videos that induces his channel not only unsuitable for advertisers, but also potentially damaging to the broader inventor community.”

Yesterday, during a series of “Fake News” hearings in the U.S. led by a Parliamentary committee from the UK, YouTube’s global head of policy Juniper Downs said that the company had detected no evidence of videos that pointed to Russian interference in the Brexit vote in the UK, but the platform continues to face a lot of controversy over how it vets content on its site, and how that content subsequently is used unscrupulously for financial gain.( YouTube notably was criticised for taking too long to react to the Japanese video that started all of Paul’s ache .)

This is a contagion problem for YouTube: not only do situations like his damage public perception of the service — and potentially have an impact on viewership — but it could impact how much the most premium brands choose to invest on ads on the platform.

Interestingly, as YouTube continues work on ways of improving the situation with a mix of both machine learning and human approaches, it appears to be starting to reach beyond even the content of YouTube itself.

The Tide Pod suggestion came on Twitter — Paul wrote that he would swallow one Tide Pod for each retweet — and appears to have since been deleted.

Generally, YouTube reserves the right to hide ads on videos and watch pages — including ads from certain advertisers or certain formats.

When a person builds especially serious or repeated violations, YouTube might choose to disable ads from the whole channel or suspend the person from its Partner program, which is aimed at channels that reached 4,000 watch hours in 12 months and 1,000 subscribers, and lets the creators make money from a special tier of ads and via the YouTube Red subscription service.( This is essentially where Paul has fallen today .)

Since YouTube is wary of getting into the censorship game, it’s leaving an exit road open to people who choose to post controversial things anyway. Posters can turn off ads on individual videos. From what we understand, Paul’s channel and videos will get reevaluated in coming weeks to see if they meet guidelines.

It’s not clear at all how much Paul has made from his YouTube videos. One calculate sets his YouTube ad revenue at between $ 40,000 and $630,000 per month, while another puts it at $270,000 per month( or around $3.25 million/ year ). To note, he’d already been removed from the Preferred program and the Originals program, so that would have already dented his YouTube income.

And you have to ask whether suspending ads genuinely fixes “the worlds biggest” content issues on the platform. While an advertising suspension might entail a loss of some revenue for the inventor, it’s not really a perfect solution.

Logan Paul, as one example, continues to push his own merchandise in his videos, and as a high-profile figure who has not lost his whole fan base, he will still get millions of views( and maybe more now because of this ). In other terms, the originally contravening content( and a viable business model) is still out there, even if it doesn’t have a YouTube monetizing element attributed to it.

On the other hand, SocialBlade, one of the services analytics on YouTube inventors , notes that Paul’s opinions have dropped 41 percent, and subscribers are down 29 percentage in the last month, so maybe there is a god.

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Alphabet launches new cybersecurity company, Chronicle, out of its X moonshot factory

Alphabet, the company you probably still incorrectly refer to as “Google, ” today announced the launch of Chronicle, a new cybersecurity company that aims to give companies a better opportunity at seeing and fighting off hackers. Chronicle is graduating out of Alphabet’s X moonshot group and is now a standalone company under the Alphabet umbrella, just like Google.

Stephen Gillett, who joined X from Google Ventures and was previously the COO of Symantec, will be the new company’s CEO.

To get started, Chronicle will offer two services: a security intelligence and analytics platform for enterprises, and VirusTotal, the online malware and virus scanner that Google acquired in 2012.

Gillett writes that members of the general notion behind Chronicle is to eliminate a company’s security blind spots and allow businesses to get a better picture of their security posture. “We want to 10 x the velocity and impact of security teams’ work by making it much easier, faster and more cost-effective in order to be allowed to capture and analyze security signals that had already been been too difficult and expensive to determine, ” writes Gillett. “We are building our intelligence and analytics platform to solve this problem.”

X’s Captain of Moonshots Astro Teller also notes that “the information that security teams need to identify and investigate assaults is right there in an organization’s existing security tools and IT systems, but it’s hidden in enormous volumes of data and therefore can’t easily be seen, understood, or used.”

What exactly this new platform will look like remains to be seen, though. Gillett notes that it will run on Alphabet’s infrastructure and use machine learning and advanced search capabilities to help business analyze their security data. Chronicle also says that it will offer its services in the cloud so that they can “grow with an organization’s needs and don’t add yet another piece of security software to implement and manage.”

Chronicle isn’t precisely the first company to take this approach, so it’ll be interesting to see how it is different from its competitors, which includes various log analytics firms and the likes of IBM.

While Alphabet admits that it doesn’t have many details to share at the moment, the company does say that the service is currently being alpha tested by a number of Fortune 500 companies.

Chronicle will host a press bellow later today and we will update this post as we learn more about the service .

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Eric Schmidt stepping down as Alphabets executive chairman to become a technical advisor

A little late in the day news dump for you, ahead of the upcoming holiday. Longtime Google executive Eric Schmidt announced today that he’ll be stepping down from his role as the executive chairman of Alphabet’s board of directors.

Alphabet has confirmed the move with TechCrunch, offering up a statement from Schmidt.

“Larry, Sergey, Sundar and I all believe that the time is right in Alphabet’s evolution for this transition, ” he said in the statement. “The Alphabet structure is working well, and Google and the Other Gambles are flourishing. In recent years, I’ve been spending a lot of my day on science and technology issues, and philanthropy, and I plan to expand that work.”

Schmidt joined up with Google in 2001, stepping into the role of CEO at the behest of founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin, after stints at Sun Microsystems and Novell. Around the time of the company’s 2004 IPO, the trio reportedly pledged to work together for another 20 years.

Of course, Schmidt handed the baton to Page in 2011. Four years later, when Google restructured to form Alphabet, Page became its CEO, with Sundar Pichai stepping in to take over Google.

Alphabet’s not offering much insight into why a shifting is taking place once again, but Page echoed Schmidt’s general positivity in the same statement. “Since 2001, Eric has provided us with business and engineering expertise and a clear vision about the future of technology. Continuing his 17 years of service to the company, he’ll now be helping us as a technical advisor on science and technology issues. I’m incredibly excited about the progress our companies are building, and about the strong leaders who are driving that innovation.”

Alphabet, meanwhile, is expected to appoint a new chairman at a meeting next month. The role will likely be a non-executive one. Schmidt meanwhile will remain on Alphabet’s board, stepping into what appears to be a less key role as “technical advisor.” No specifics on what shape that position will take, moving forward, though perhaps he’ll be able to stay on through 2024, after all.

You can read the entirety of the statement over on Alphabet’s investor site.

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With $70M from Alphabet, UnitedMasters replaces record labels

Record labels are obsolete. They haven’t to be maintained as music evolved from selling Cds to streaming anthems to promoting concert tickets and merchandise. Labels were meant to help artists generate albums, fame, and fund. But now anyone can record themselves and no one “buys” music. So today that requires being a technology company, combining analytics with hyper-targeted ad. And the old labels don’t have the engineering talent for it.

That’s why last year, the former chairman of Interscope Records Steve Stoute secretly created a $70 million Series A led by Google’s corporate umbrella Alphabet and joined by prestigious venture firm Andreessen Horowitz, Silicon Valley investors Floodgate, and amusement giant 20 th Century Fox.

Today, his startup UnitedMasters emerges from stealth.

UnitedMasters is ready to give musicians an alternative to exploitative record label bargains. Artists pay UnitedMasters a competitive rate to distribute their music across the internet from Spotify to YouTube to SoundCloud, and they split the royalties while the artist retains the rights to the master recordings. Then UnitedMasters sucks back in all the analytics, identifies the listeners, builds artists a CRM tool, and helps them retarget their top fans with pinpointed ads for tickets and merch.

Stoute expressed the view that the scheme is to “Look at music like gaming. You monetize the game to all the people who are most engaged. I wanted to bringing that theory and thinking to music.” It’s off those whales, those super fans, where musicians make a lot of their fund. And ultimately person constructed a style to deliver ads for what artists do sell to people who’ve listened to their album 50 periods for almost nothing.

Stoute had already been working on an ad agency for culture makers called Translation since 2004, and the company will join UnitedMasters as part of Translation Enterprises. Beyond musicians, UnitedMasters will also work with brands looking to advertise to specific segments of listeners. For example, it is unable to assistance alcohol tycoon Diageo to marketplace its Puff Daddy-affiliated vodka Ciroc to the rapper’s fans.

The startup world’s biggest rap fan Ben Horowitz is so smitten with the idea that he’s joining the board of UnitedMasters. “Steve thought: What if there were a platform that instantaneously enabled musical artists to market themselves globally as effectively as the top technology companies marketplace to their customers? ” Horowitz wrote in a now-published blog post shared with TechCrunch. “Such a platform would free musicians from dependencies on the old model while increasing their income tenfold. It is generating unprecedented intimacy between artists and fans, while making artists truly independent.”

It was Larry Page himself that pushed Alphabet to lead the startup’s $70 million Series A. “People don’t know Larry was actually a drummer. He has a deep sensitivity for the artist” says Stoute. Page was stunned that musicians couldn’t keep track of the fans that bring in the most money and retarget them. So Page worked with Google’s Corp Dev leader David Drummond, a former radio DJ, to invest all the money UnitedMasters needed.

The Google family is quite gung-ho about upending the recording industry. The first investment of GV( Google Ventures) was Kobalt, a music distribution and rights service. It’s created over $200 million to track to publish artists’ run and track down royalties, while subsidiary Kobalt Capitol is a platform for investors to buy music copyrights.But Kobalt stops short of helping musicians marketplace their tours and t-shirts.

Musicians trust him unlike some technologists. Born in Queens, NY, he used to manage local heroes Nas and Mary J. Blige, turning them into icons. Talking to him, you get the distinct sense that he’s fed up with watching other musicians get screwed over. He refers to UnitedMasters more like a movement than a mere software company.

Music Tech Is Inevitable, Not The Enemy

The first iteration of UnitedMasters is now live allowing artists to connect their YouTube or SoundCloud accounts to the site and in return receive “personalized guidance on how you can grow your career”. That could include insights into fan demographics or where to route tours.

UnitedMasters is now actively recruiting both tech talent in product, design, and engineering; and its first wave of independent musicians. The team of around 40 features ex-Facebook and Dropboxers. Meanwhile, it’s already working with around 1,000 acts, focusing first on emerging artists who want to be digital aborigines in how they operate their business. “Being able to operationalize freedom was the goal of UnitedMasters.There needs to be 250,000 Chance The Rappers” Stoute says, pointing to the ferociously indie hip-hop upstart who won a Grammy as a role model.

Eventually, it could sign established artists who want to ditch their label bargains, bet on their long-term potential, and retain control of their original records. Instead of a cash advance, a leash, and a sliver of the revenue, UnitedMasters acts as a partner.

Now labels often want a cut of all of the artists’ revenue streams. “Label started doing 360 deals because they margins were drying up[ as CD marketings declined ], but they weren’t a 360 service” Stoute chides. “I’m not attaining the records labels the’ bad guy’” he qualifies, but declares “The models have to change.” Artists often complain that streaming doesn’t pay enough, but companies like Spotify pay out almost 70 percent of their revenue. It’s the labels withholding more than they deserve.

There are already services like TuneCore for pushing music to the streaming services, and each of them is trying to woo musicians by providing more analytics. Spotify simply launched a whole insights app for artists. There are also plenty of merchandise platforms and ticket partners to choose from. But UnitedMasters wants to be the missing data layer for the music business. That could allow it to find a huge fan of an artist on Pandora earning them simply fractions of a penny per river, retarget them with ads on Facebook, and get them to buy a signed poster or VIP ticket package.

Educating artists that there’s another track could be UnitedMasters‘ biggest challenge. Many musicians still think of streaming as the foe, cannibalizing their album marketings, rather than as the inevitable progression of music distribution that can serve as marketing for their band as a brand. But once artists see that they’re not much different from Nike and their anthems are like commercials, they realise they need assist getting listeners to convert, and turn their passion into a purchase.

There’s room for both the old school labels and startups like Kobalt and UnitedMasters. But artists are beginning to see themselves more as founders building a squad of marketing and product experts, rather than able to get all the diverse servies they need from one company or label. That could induce UnitedMasters’ partner model increasingly attractive compared to dedicating control to an outdated, centralized owner.

“It’s very important that an artist’s jobs is to be a great artist” Stoute concludes. “The infrastructure around them should be helping them get more fund at efficient rates , not owning their masters and taking from them.”

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Google sibling Waymo launches fully autonomous ride-hailing service

Alphabets self-driving automobile firm beats Uber to be first to offer robot taxis without humans behind the wheel to take over in an emergency

Waymo, formerly known as Google’s self-driving car, is launching a fully autonomous Uber-like ride-hailing service with no human driver behind the wheel, after testing the vehicles on public roads in Arizona.

Waymo, which is owned by Google parent Alphabet, said members of the public will begin riding in its fleet of modified Fiat Chrysler Pacifica minivans outfitted with self-driving technology in the next few months. Passengers will initially be accompanied in the back seat by a Waymo employee, but will eventually travel alone in the robotic car.

The service will first be available to those who are already part of the company’s public trial already under way in Phoenix. Rides will be free to start with, but Waymo expects to begin charging for journey at some point.

” Because we consider so much potential in shared mobility, the first route people will get to experience Waymo’s fully self-driving technology will be as a driverless service ,” said Waymo’s chief executive John Krafcik as he announced the new service at the Web Summit technology conference in Lisbon.

” To have a vehicle on public roads without a person at the wheel, we’ve built some unique safety features into this minivan. Our system runs thousands of checks on itself every second. With these checks, our systems can instantly diagnose any problems and pull over or come to a safe stop if needed ,” said Krafcik.

The service marks a major step forward in the development and roll-out of fully autonomous vehicles. While self-driving automobile companies have routinely tested their vehicles on public roads, they usually have a human sitting behind the wheel ready to take over should the autonomous technology fail.

Waymo has been testing the automated Chrysler Pacifica minivans without a human backup since 19 October in the Phoenix suburb of Chandler, Arizona, which has no restrictions on self-driving vehicles. The trials and new service please give Waymo the march on competitors Uber and other tech and automotive manufacturers such as Delphi, General Motors, Intel, Uber, Lyft, Apple and Tesla.

Autonomous vehicles are seen as the logical next step for ride-hailing firms such as Uber, and perceived as an existential threat by the firm, which began ploughing money into its own self-driving efforts.

Waymo is a pioneer of self-driving technology and has tested its system in six nations across the US, the most recent being Michigan. It has more than eight years of testing under its belt, after beginning as Google’s self-driving car research project under its moonshot division, X.

In January, Krafcik unveiled a suite of self-driving hardware developed in-house, including an enhanced vision system, improved radar and laser-based lidar- technology that has considered lawsuits with Uber over intellectual property and the involvement of former Google engineer Anthony Levandowski.

Krafcik said Waymo was exploring many applications for its technology, including ride-sharing, personal use vehicles, transportation, trucking and logistics.

In April, driving statistics compiled by analyst firm Edison Investment Research found that Waymo’s self driving technology was 5, 000 times better than Uber’s, which was ranked the worst of six major self-driving auto companies testing its vehicles. Edison’s data showed that Uber’s self-driving vehicles forced a human to take over once every mile driven. By contrast, Waymo’s technology faced a similar situation once every 5,128 miles driven, with more than half a million miles driven in the last 12 months, something that must have been ironed out in the last six months for driver-free operations to be allowed.

Self-driving vehicle firms say the robot cars have the potential to be safer than human-driven vehicles because their is no risk of drowsiness, distraction or drunkenness. Autonomous vehicles also have the potential to restore life to those areas and industries that have suffered from stricter drink-drive statutes, such as country taverns and sports clubs, and may help reduce congestion and pollution in urban areas by taking private cars off the road.

Living my nervousnes dreaming: taking a ride in a Google self-driving auto

Al Franken hammers Facebook lawyer at hearing over Russian ads

Senator conflicts with Colin Stretch over how tech giants apparently missed posts coming from Russia: How could you not connect the dots?

A top executive at Facebook struggled to answer on Tuesday as an angry and incredulous Al Franken, a Democratic senator, demanded why the social network accepted political advertisements paid for in Russian roubles during the presidential election.

Colin Stretch, vice-president and general counsel at Facebook, admitted that the internet company could have done better in tracing the source of its ad fund during testimony to a Senate judiciary subcommittee. It is the first of three congressional hearings focusing on how three tech giants- Facebook, Google and Twitter- were exploited by Russia to sway voters.

” This is something you guys have to deal with and fix ,” Franken told Stretch, who was appearing instead of the more recognisable Facebook leaders Mark Zuckerberg or Sheryl Sandberg.” You were kind of the canary in the coal mine in 2016.”

In a devastating line of questioning, Franken asked irately:” How did Facebook, which prides itself on being able to process billions of data points and instantly transform them into personal connections for its users, somehow not induce the connection that electoral ads paid for in roubles were coming from Russia? Those are two data points! American political ads and Russian fund: roubles. How could you not connect those two dots ?”

Stretch said Facebook had done an effective job on cyber-theft but admitted:” I think in hindsight, we should have had a broader lens. There were signals we missed and we are now focused -”

But Franken, angry and sardonic, interrupted:” People are buying ads on your platform with roubles. They’re political ads. You set billions of data points together all the time. That’s what I hear that these platforms do: they’re the most sophisticated things invented by human, ever. Google has all knowledge that human has ever developed. You can’t put together roubles with a political ad and go hmm, those two data points spell out something bad ?”

Stretch responded:” Senator, it’s a signal we should have been alert to and in hindsight -”

But Franken cut him off, asking whether Facebook would pledge not to publish a political ad paid for in Northern korean won. As Stretch demurred, Franken interjected ferociously:” Please answer yes or no, sir … You’re sophisticated. You’re the chief legal counsel for Facebook. Please answer yes or no .”

Stretch sought to clarify that currencies did not necessarily indicate the source country of an advert and refused to commit to banning political ads purchased in foreign currencies. But Franken snapped back, asking why a bad actor would choose the North Korean won to conceal his activities. He told the counsel:” My goal is for you to think through this stuff a little bit better .”

The hearing on Capitol hill heard how Russia’s attack via social media began in 2015, before the party primaries, and continued even after last November’s presidential election. Stretch said there had been an effort to challenge the validity of Donald Trump’s election, sowing further division.

Facebook, Twitter and Google defended their security measures and promised to do more to stop the misuse of their platforms by a foreign power. Richard Salgado, director of law enforcement and information security at Google, said:” We take this seriously. We’ve stimulated changes and will continue to get better .”

But some senators were sceptical. Patrick Leahy, a Democrat of Vermont, called the companies” Johnny come latelies” and said:” There’s a lot that I think you could have done earlier .”

Senator Dianne Feinstein highlighted fake pages such as “Black Matters US” and” United Muslims of America”, which Russians use a custom audience tool to target. Stretch described such attempts to exploit divisions in society as “vile” and “cynical” and said there have been a modification to ad targeting policies with added layers of review.

Senator Chris Coons struck a similar tone to Franken and again Facebook the brunt. He drew attention to an advert that claimed Hillary Clinton, along with Barack Obama, was despised by Americans and the army should be withdrawn from her control. Another advertised a non-existent” miners for Trump” rally. People were “duped”, Coons said.

Stretch reacted:” That advertisement has no place on Facebook and we are committted to preventing that sort of behaviour happening again on our platform. You’re right to surface it. It induces me angry, it induces everyone angry .”

But Coons said he was ” concerned” that it had taken Facebook 11 months since the election to come forward and address the issue. Stretching disputed this , noting the company had published a white paper in April.

In written testimony to members of the committee, Facebook said it calculated approximately 29 m people were served content in their news feeds immediately from Russia’s Internet Research Agency’s( IRA) 80,000 posts over two years.” Posts from these pages were also shared, liked, and followed by people on Facebook, and, as a result, three times more people may have been exposed to a tale that originated from the Russian operation .”

The company said its best calculate was that about 126 m people may have been served content from a page associated with the IRA at some phase during the two-year period. This equals about 0.004% of content in news feed, or about one out of 23,000 pieces of content. Stretch testified that many of those users may never have find the material.

These “organic” posts are separate from more than 3,000 ads linked to the agency that Facebook has already turned over to congressional committees. Many of the ads focused on divisive social issues.

Twitter told the same subcommittee that it had found and shut down 2,752 accounts linked to Russia’s IRA, which is notorious for pro-Russian government positions.

On Twitter, the Russia-linked accounts put under 1.4 m election-related tweets from September through 14 November last year- nearly half of them automated. The company also procured nine Russian accounts that bought ads, most of which came from the state-backed news service RT, previously known as Russia Today. Twitter said last week it would no longer accepted ads from RT and Sputnik, another state-sponsored news outlet.

Twitter’s acting general counsel, Sean Edgett, said:” The investigation continues and we expect to keep the committee up to date on any future discoveries .” The other companies also said the investigations continued.

Twitter’s general counsel claimed that the company could” draw lines” between organic tweets and advertisings. But Senator Richard Durbin objected:” When it comes to drawing those lines, it’s a challenge for us, and we do it for a living. I think it’s going to be very hard for you, too .”

Google said two accounts linked to the Russian group spent $4,700 on ads on its platforms during the 2016 election. The company also detected 18 YouTube channels likely backed by Russian agents. Those channels hosted 1,108 videos with 43 hours of material, although they racked up just 309,000 opinions in the US between June 2015 and November 2016, Google said.

The Minnesota senator Amy Klobuchar asked the companies whether they would support the” honest ads” bill she has introduced with Senator Mark Warner, which would bring political ad regulations from Tv, radio and publish to the internet.

Each of the tech giants offered qualified subsistence rather than answering “yes”. Stretch said:” We stand ready to work with you and your co-sponsors on that legislation going forward .”

Edgett of Twitter added:” The same runs for Twitter .”

Salgado of Google said carefully:” We surely support the goals of the legislation and would like to work through the subtleties to make it work for all of us .”

The committee chair, Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina, quoted Donald Trump as went on to say that he had won the election based on Twitter. Graham warned that the social media platforms were being used by people who” wish us damage and wish to undercut our way of life “.

The Republican senator John Kennedy said he was proud of the American companies but added:” I think you do enormous good, but your power sometimes scares me … You’ve got 5m advertisers and you’re going to tell me you’re going to be able to tell me the origin of all those advertisers? … I’m trying to get us down from la-la land .”

All three companies will also testify Wednesday before the House and Senate intelligence committees as part of congressional investigations conducted by Russian election interference.

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