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Google Action Blocks for People with Cognitive Disabilities: Report

According to the tech giant, Action Blocks is the first of its efforts to empower people with cognitive disabilities, help them gain independence, connect with loved ones and engage in the world as they are

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A man walks past a Google sign outside with a span of the Bay Bridge at rear in San Francisco, May 1, 2019. VOA

Aimed especially at helping people with cognitive disabilities, Google has announced a new accessibility tool named Action Blocks which would allow users to pre-write Google Assistant commands and place shortcuts to them on their home screen.

Action Blocks are an expansion of ‘DIVA’, the accessibility initiative announced by the tech giant back at the I/O 2019 conference.

‘DIVA’ aims to make smart speakers more usable for anyone who finds it hard to use spoken commands, by hooking them up to physical controls that are programmed to activate pre-configured actions.

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FILE – The Google logo is seen at a start-up campus in Paris, France, Feb. 15, 2018. VOA

“Think about the last time you did something seemingly simple on your phone, like booking a rideshare. To do this, you had to unlock your phone, find the right app and type in your pickup location. The process required you to read and write, remember your selections and focus for several minutes at a time.

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“For the 630 million people in the world with some form of cognitive disability, it’s not that easy. So we’ve been experimenting with how the Assistant and Android can work together to reduce the complexity of these tasks for people with cognitive disabilities,” Ajit Narayanan, Staff Software Engineer, Accessibility, Google, wrote in a blog post on Wednesday.

According to the tech giant, Action Blocks is the first of its efforts to empower people with cognitive disabilities, help them gain independence, connect with loved ones and engage in the world as they are. (IANS)

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Apple Refutes Report of Sharing Safari Data with Tencent or Google

Apple CEO Tim Cook has said he believes privacy is "ingrained in the Constitution," but that he's worried about how third-party companies have worked to collect information on us

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Apple, Campus, China
A customer is entering the Apple store in Fairfax, Virginia. VOA

After media reports surfaced that Apple is sending iOS users’ data via its Safari browser to Google and the Chinese tech company Tencent, the Cupertino-based iPhone maker refuted such reports, saying it safeguards people’s information in its own systems and never shares it with third-party players.

A report in reclaimthenet.org stated that “Apple, which often positions itself as a champion of privacy and human rights, may be sending some IP addresses from users of its Safari browser on iOS to Chinese conglomerate Tencent — a company with close ties to the Chinese Communist Party”.

The report focused on Apple’s “fraudulent website warning” system which is built into Apple’s Safari web browser to warn people when they visit sites that are harmful and can trick users into sharing login passwords for banks, email and social media.

“Before visiting a website, Safari may send information calculated from the website address to Google Safe Browsing and Tencent Safe Browsing to check if the website is fraudulent. These browsing providers may also log your IP address,’ read the information on Apple’s “Safari & Privacy” section.

It’s unclear when Apple started allowing Tencent and Google to log some user IP addresses, but one Twitter user reported the change in Safari happened as early as the iOS 12.2 beta in February 2019, said the report.

Google on an Android device. Pixabay

In a statement, the company said it actually doesn’t send information to Google or Tencent.

“Instead, it receives a list of bad websites from both companies and then uses it to protect people as they surf the web. Apple sometimes obscures the information about the website people visit if it requests more information to check if a questionable website is malicious,” CNET reported on Monday, citing Apple’s statement.

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For people concerned about their privacy, the service can be turned off in Safari preferences on the iPhone or Mac.

Apple CEO Tim Cook has said he believes privacy is “ingrained in the Constitution,” but that he’s worried about how third-party companies have worked to collect information on us. (IANS)