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Google Plans to Make Assistant More Powerful by Investing in Startups

Google invests in startups to make its Assistant smarter

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How to Find and Delete Where Google Knows You've Been. Pixabay
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To make Google Assistant better, the company has announced a new investment programme for early-stage startups to build an enhanced digital assistant ecosystem.

The new initiative will include investment capital from Google to provide additional financial resources for the development, hiring and management of these startups.

The startups will get advice from Google engineers, product managers and design experts to share technical guidance and product development feedback.

“We’re welcoming companies across a diverse range of fields, including startups that are developing technologies that broaden the Assistant’s set of features,” Sanjay Kapoor, Vice President, Corporate Development at Google said in a blog post on Wednesday.

The programme will let startups access to the Google Cloud Platform — the suite of cloud computing services that run on the same infrastructure that it uses for products like Google Search and YouTube.

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Google. Pixabay

The first batch of investments has startups like “GoMoment”, a creator of “Ivy”, a 24/7 concierge for hotel guests, capable of providing instant answers to common questions.

Another early-stage startup is “Edwin” that prepares students looking to take English as a foreign language tests such as the “Test of English as a Foreign Language” (TOEFL).

“Edwin” combines advanced AI technology with the expertise of professional English teachers to tailor lessons according to individual needs, learning style and pace.

“BotSociety” startup has created a tool that allows developers to design, prototype and user test voice interfaces.

Also Read: Google Now Lets You Register Sites Ending In .app

More than 30,000 developers worldwide have designed their voice assistant applications using “Botsociety”.

“With aPulse Labs’, developers can test their applications with real people, quickly acquire in-depth insights, and use that feedback to refine the experience,” Google said.  (IANS)

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Experts Say That Google Storing Location Data Can Be Easily Absued

According to Jesse Victors, Software Security Consultant at Synopsys, when Google builds a control into Android and then does not honour it, there is a strong potential for abuse.

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Google storing location data has strong potential for abuse: Experts
Google storing location data has strong potential for abuse: Experts. Pixabay

 A day after reports surfaced that certain Google apps track your whereabouts even when you turn off location data, experts on Tuesday expressed concerns about the practice, stressing that location and identity data can be used for both good and bad.

The Associated Press on Monday ran a story saying an investigation found that many Google services on Android devices and iPhones store users’ location data even if the users explicitly used a privacy setting forbidding that.

Researchers from Princeton University confirmed the findings.

According to Tim Mackey, Technical Evangelist at the US-based tech company Synopsys, it has been widely understood for some time that tech giants like Google use data supplied through the use of their services as part of their efforts to personalize the experience.

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Location History is a Google product that is entirely opt in.Pixabay

“There is a basic saying when it comes to most technology — ‘Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should’. For practical purposes, this supply of personal data has been part of the virtual fees we pay to companies in exchange for ‘free’ access to the services provided,” Mackey told IANS.

“With General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) in the EU now in effect and regulations like the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) on the horizon, companies collecting personal data need to reassess their use of personal data,” he noted.

In a statement given to IANS, Google said that “Location History is a Google product that is entirely opt in, and users have the controls to edit, delete or turn it off at any time.

“As the (AP) story notes, we make sure Location History users know that when they disable the product, we continue to use location to improve the Google experience when they do things like perform a Google search or use Google for driving directions,” said Google.

just turning off Location History doesn't solve the purpose. In Google Settings, pausing "Web and App Activity" may do the trick.
just turning off Location History doesn’t solve the purpose. In Google Settings, pausing “Web and App Activity” may do the trick.

But just turning off Location History doesn’t solve the purpose. In Google Settings, pausing “Web and App Activity” may do the trick.

However, according to the information on Google’s Activity Control page, “Even when this setting is paused, Google may temporarily use information from recent searches in order to improve the quality of the active search session”.

According to Mackey, since we’re talking about consumer-level services, the expectation of the consumer for an “off switch” is what matters most.

“Users wishing their location be kept private indicate this preference through the ‘Location history’ setting. If vendors placed themselves in the shoes of a consumer and respected the setting, managing consent under regulations like GDPR would be simpler and the user’s expectations would be met,” Mackey emphasised.

Also Read: Microsoft’s Android Launcher Now Lets You Track Your Kid’s Location and App Usage

According to Jesse Victors, Software Security Consultant at Synopsys, when Google builds a control into Android and then does not honour it, there is a strong potential for abuse.

“It is sometimes extremely important to keep one’s location history private. Other times, you may simply wish to opt out of data collection. It’s disingenuous and misleading to have a toggle switch that does not completely work,” Victors said. (IANS)