With just over a year until the 2020 US presidential elections, social media giants have been updating their policies on the spread of misinformation to better protect the democratic process.
Last month, Google finally took a stance on how it will handle political ads on its platforms, including YouTube. Now, the internet giant will limit political advertisers from targeting ads based on voters’ political leanings or public voter records.
Over the summer, Google and YouTube reportedly removed over 300 ads from President for “violating company policy.”
As first reported by 60 Minutes, when correspondent Lesley Stahl asked YouTube’s CEO Susan Wojcicki if the video-streaming service had taken down any of Trump’s ads, Wojcicki said: “There are ads of President Trump that were not approved to run on Google or YouTube.” However, when pressed for an example, Wojcicki added: “They’re available in our transparency report.”
YouTube’s transparency report — which outlines incidents where ads have been removed from the platform —lists over 300 now-removed Trump ads, but the archive doesn’t detail what specific rules they violated. The report shows that Trump’s ads typically ran for just a few days before they were removed, and during this period, Google was paid for hosting.
While it’s the responsibility of tech giants like Google to regulate and fact-check what politicians are saying on its platform, it’s also responsible to provide insight into this process with a “transparency report.” Right now, there’s no way of knowing why Trump’s ads were removed from YouTube. It could be a harmless spelling error, a copyright violation, or more worryingly, a lie or extreme inaccuracy.
I should also add that at a glance, the grid looks like it has less space to display any additional information that might be helpful to make a purchasing decision. The way Google has overcome this limitation (in both the A and B versions) is with an inline expanded detailed view seen below. Hence, clicking on any product, more information is shown before sending a viewer onto a different web site.
So Are Grids Better For All Of Google’s Searches?
Not necessarily. Prying further into other queries such as “wine” we discovered that the list view is still active in some cases (similar to Bol’s experiment result). And equally confusing is the “flower” (singular not plural) search query which also shows a list view. Google may have only run this experiment on a very defined segment of some sort – possibly only effective in certain situations. However, many other shopping-related searches still look like they are skewed towards using the grid.
Have Any Explanations For When To Use Lists Vs Grids?
And if you have ideas as to when to use grids vs lists, please share your interpretations as a comment. It would be great to better understand and better predict when to use one layout vs another.
Google Photos likes to offer up automated edits of your snapshots, some of which you might even like. However, there are a few basic editing tools you you want to manipulate your snapshots in other ways. There’s a new tool rolling out in Photos, and it’s long overdue: you can finally doodle on your photos with markup.
The new markup feature appears in the editing UI as a button down at the bottom. It’s not nested inside anything else, so it’s pretty quick to access. You can choose between a handful of different colors and two different line types. So, there’s not a lot to see here, but a markup tool doesn’t need to be elaborate. You might notice it’s very similar to the markup tool that shipped with Android Pie.
So far, no one on the AP team has markup in the Photos app, and there’s no way to install updated APKs ever since Google switched to app bundles. So, it’s up to Google to roll this out widely. It’ll happen when it happens.
Google will offer restricted data processing to enable businesses to comply with the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA), the company announced Wednesday. With restricted data processing enabled, Google will act as an affected business’ (advertiser, publisher or partner) data processing service provider. Here we’ll look at what this means for advertisers.
Restricted data processing, Google explained, will “restrict how it uses certain unique identifiers, and other data processed in the provision of services to you, to only undertake certain business purposes.”
What is the CCPA? Similar to the EU’s General Data Regulation Protection (GDPR), the CCPA provides several data privacy protections for California state residents. It is set to go into effect on January 1, 2020. Affected businesses must give California residents the ability to opt-out of the sale of their personal data on their website homepages. CCPA applies to businesses that, in part, meet one of the following criteria: Have annual gross revenue of at least $25 million; buy, receive or sell personal data of at least 50,000 consumers, households or devices; derive at least 50% of their annual revenues from selling personal data.
How restricted data processing works. With restricted data processing applied, features such as adding users to remarketing lists, similar audience seed lists will not be available. Google notes that for App campaigns this means users who download an app from an ad will continue to see ads for the app.
Conversion tracking and measurement will still work with restricted data processing as will services including ad delivery, reporting, measurement, security and fraud detection, debugging and product improvement information.
Third-party ad tracking or serving will not be affected when restricted data processing is enabled. The ads will continue to serve on the Google Display Network and other networks “unless disabled by a publisher.” Google will not respond to bid requests for cross-exchange display remarketing ads when a publisher sends an opt-out signal.
It may be implemented to apply to all users in California or on a per-user basis when users click on a “Do Not Sell My Information” link, for example.
How advertisers can enable it. Customer Match and Store Sales direct upload already operate using restricted data processing, and users don’t need to take action.
In Google Ads, setting the allow_ad_personlization_signals parameter will set the value to false and enable restricted data processing. You only need to set it once to apply it across all products configured through your global site tag (gtag). You can find more details on this help page.
For App campaigns using the Firebase SDK, disable personalized advertising features as explained here.
Google Analytics will act as a service provider for affected businesses that when they have disabled sharing with Google products and services per an addendum to its Data Processing Terms. When data sharing is disabled, Google Analytics will only use data collected on behalf of the customer in Google Analytics to provide Google Analytics services. That data will not be able to be used for remarketing lists, for example.
Responsibilities. Advertisers, publishers and partners working with Google are responsible for ensuring they’re using its products in compliance with CCPA, the company says. Partners “must decide for themselves when and how to enable” restricted data processing.
Restricted data processing, Google states, does not apply to “the sending or disclosure of data to third parties” that advertisers, publishers or partners work with.
Additionally, if you share data between Google products, the data will be subject to the terms of the recipient product.
Why we should care. If your business falls under CCPA, you’ll want to be sure you’re adhering to the regulations across your digital marketing efforts. Given the size of California’s population, this regulation will have an impact on the ability of those businesses to retarget and build lookalike audiences based on site visitors and customers on a potentially sizable percentage of their potential audience (California represents 12% of the U.S. population).
About The Author
Ginny Marvin is Third Door Media’s Editor-in-Chief, running the day to day editorial operations across all publications and overseeing paid media coverage. Ginny Marvin writes about paid digital advertising and analytics news and trends for Search Engine Land, Marketing Land and MarTech Today. With more than 15 years of marketing experience, Ginny has held both in-house and agency management positions. She can be found on Twitter as @ginnymarvin.
It appears Microsoft has been busy working on a way to fully integrate Gmail, Google Drive, and Google Calendar with its Outlook webmail client. A Twitter user reported receiving an invite to test out the new features. Although there were some rough edges, he successfully linked his Google account and got access to Gmail, Drive, and Calendar data inside Outlook.
As popular as Gmail is, Microsoft’s Outlook email client also has a large following of happy users. Currently, Outlook offers a limited option for users to import or sync their Gmail account. The integration, however, is not complete in that the Gmail emails you delete from inside Outlook won’t actually delete them — they just get hidden. It appears that Microsoft plans to truly integrate not only Gmail but also Google Drive and Google Calendar into its Outlook.com web client.
He reports that the integration is similar to how Outlook works on mobile devices with separate inboxes and side-by-side integration in the calendar. With Google Drive integration, you can attach documents and files from Drive to both Gmail and Outlook emails. This still looks like an early test as he wasn’t able to add more than one Gmail account, and switching between Outlook and Gmail accounts caused the entire page to refresh.
As of this writing, there haven’t been any public announcements from Microsoft about this new feature or when it is expected to roll out for more users. We’ll update this post when and if Microsoft makes this feature official.
Google, and its parent company Alphabet, has its metaphorical fingers in a hundred different lucrative pies. To untold millions of users, though, “to Google” something has become a synonym for “search,” the company’s original business—a business that is now under investigation as more details about its inner workings come to light.
A coalition of attorneys general investigating Google’s practices is expanding its probe to include the company’s search business, CNBC reports while citing people familiar with the matter.
Attorneys general for almost every state teamed up in September to launch a joint antitrust probe into Google. The investigation is being led by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, who said last month that the probe would first focus on the company’s advertising business, which continues to dominate the online advertising sector.
Paxton said at the time, however, that he’d willingly take the investigation in new directions if circumstances called for it, telling the Washington Post, “If we end up learning things that lead us in other directions, we’ll certainly bring those back to the states and talk about whether we expand into other areas.”
Google’s decades-long dominance in the search market may not be quite as organic as the company has alluded, according to The Wall Street Journal, which published a lengthy report today delving into the way Google’s black-box search process actually works.
Google’s increasingly hands-on approach to search results, which has taken a sharp upturn since 2016, “marks a shift from its founding philosophy of ‘organizing the world’s information’ to one that is far more active in deciding how that information should appear,” the WSJ writes.
Some of that manipulation comes from very human hands, sources told the paper in more than 100 interviews. Employees and contractors have “evaluated” search results for effectiveness and quality, among other factors, and promoted certain results to the top of the virtual heap as a result.
One former contractor the WSJ spoke with described down-voting any search results that read like a “how-to manual” for queries relating to suicide until the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline came up as the top result. According to the contractor, Google soon after put out a message to the contracting firm that the Lifeline should be marked as the top result for all searches relating to suicide so that the company algorithms would adjust to consider it the top result.
Or in another instance, sources told the WSJ, employees made a conscious choice for how to handle anti-vax messaging:
One of the first hot-button issues surfaced in 2015, according to people familiar with the matter, when some employees complained that a search for “how do vaccines cause autism” delivered misinformation through sites that oppose vaccinations.
At least one employee defended the result, writing that Google should “let the algorithms decide” what shows up, according to one person familiar with the matter. Instead, the people said, Google made a change so that the first result is a site called howdovaccinescauseautism.com—which states on its home page in large black letters, “They f—ing don’t.” (The phrase has become a meme within Google.)
The algorithms governing Google’s auto-complete and suggestion functions are also heavily subject to review, the sources said. Google says publicly it doesn’t allow for predictions related to “harassment, bullying, threats, inappropriate sexualization, or predictions that expose private or sensitive information,” and that policy’s not new. The engineer who created the auto-complete function in 2004 gave an example using Britney Spears, who at the time was making more headlines for her marriages than for her music.
The engineer “didn’t want a piece of human anatomy or the description of a sex act to appear when someone started typing the singer’s name,” as the paper describes it. The unfiltered search results were “kind of horrible,” he added.
The company has since maintained an internal blacklist of terms that are not allowed to appear in autocomplete, organic search, or Google News, the sources told the WSJ, even though company leadership has said publicly, including to Congress, that the company does not use blacklists or whitelists to influence its results.
The modern blacklist reportedly includes not only spam sites, which get de-indexed from search, but also the type of misinformation sites that are endemic to Facebook (or, for that matter, Google’s own YouTube).
Google relying on human intervention, and endless tweaks to its algorithms as the WSJ describes, isn’t an antitrust violation. When it uses its trove of data from one operation to make choices that may harm competitors to its other operations, though, that can draw attention.
All that human intervention and algorithmic tweaking also affects advertising and business results, according to the WSJ. Those tweaks “favor big businesses over smaller ones,” the paper writes, “contrary to [Google’s] public position that it never takes that type of action.”
The largest advertisers, including eBay, have received “direct advice” on how to improve their search results after seeing traffic from organic search drop, sources told the paper. Smaller businesses, however, have not been so lucky, being left instead to try to figure out the systems either bringing them traffic or denying them traffic on their own.
Links to Google’s own features and properties also take up an increasingly large percentage of the search results page, the WSJ notes. For example, if you search for one of today’s chart-toppers, such as Beyoncé, you’re greeted with three large Google modules that take up more than half the screen real estate:
More than half of Google searches are now reportedly “no-click” searches, where individuals look only at the page of results and use the snippets on it rather than clicking through to any of the sources from which Google is drawing that information. That kind of use of data, among others, could be considered harmful to competition, since the company is using data collected from competitors to keep users from going to those competitors.
Google, for its part, disputed the WSJ’s findings throughout, telling the paper, “We do today what we have done all along, provide relevant results from the most reliable sources available.”
A Google Chrome experiment has gone horribly wrong this week and ended up crashing browsers on thousands, if not more, enterprise networks for nearly two days.
The issue first appeared on Wednesday, November 13. It didn’t impact all Chrome users, but only Chrome browsers running on Windows Server “terminal server” setups — a very common setup in enterprise networks
Complaints flooded Google
According to hundreds of reports, users said that Chrome tabs were going blank, all of a sudden, in what’s called a “White Screen of Death” (WSOD) error.
The issue was no joke. System administrators at many companies reported that hundreds and thousands of employees couldn’t use Chrome to access the internet, as the active browser tab kept going blank while working.
In tightly controlled enterprise environments, many employees didn’t have the option to change browsers and were left unable to do their jobs. Similarly, system administrators couldn’t just replace Chrome with another browser right away.
“This has had a huge impact for all our Call Center agents and not being able to chat with our members,” someone with a Costco email address said in a bug report. “We spent the last day and a half trying to figure this out.”
“Our organization with multiple large retail brands had 1000 call center agents and many IT people affected for 2 days. This had a very large financial impact,” said another user.
“Like many others, this has had significant impact on our organization with our entire Operations (over 500 employees) working in a RDS environment with Google Chrome as the primary browser,” said another system administrator.
“4000 impacted in my environment. Working on trying to fix it for 12 hours,” said another.
“Medium sized call center for a local medical office lost a day and a half of work for 40-60 employees,” added another.
“Same issue experienced, hundreds of users impacted – hours spent attempting to isolate the cause,” said another user.
Hundreds of complaints poured in via Google’s support forum, Chrome bug tracker, and Reddit [1, 2]. One impacted sysadmin told ZDNet that they initially mistook the Chrome blank tabs as a sign of malware and reacted accordingly, starting network-wide security audits.
Google ships a fix
However, with time, the root cause of the bug was eventually found, and traced back to a feature called “WebContents Occlusion.”
According to Google Chrome design document, this is an experimental feature that suspends Chrome tabs when users move other app windows on top of Chrome, treating the active Chrome tab as a background tab.
The feature, meant to improve Chrome’s resource usage when not in active use, had been under testing in Chrome Canary and Chrome Beta releases all year.
However, this week, Google decided to test it in the main Stable release, so it could get more feedback on how it behaved.
That it behaved badly is an understatement.
“The experiment/flag has been on in beta for ~5 months,” said David Bienvenu, a Google Chrome engineer. “It was turned on for stable (e.g., M77, M78) via an experiment that was pushed to released Chrome Tuesday morning.”
“Prior to that, it had been on for about 1% of M77 and M78 users for a month with no reports of issues, unfortunately,” he added.
However, when rolled out to a broader audience — such as Windows users on terminal server setups — an unexpected bug occurred that instead of suspending Chrome tabs when users switched to another app, it unloaded the tab entirely, leaving a blank page behind.
Users could refresh the Chrome tab to access their sites again, but in some cases, this also meant they lost previous work.
The Chrome team said they pushed a new Chrome configuration file to all Chrome users and disabled the experiment.
Chrome engineers operate a system called Finch that lets them push updated Chrome settings to active installs, such as enabling or disabling experimental flags.
If the fix has not reached all impacted users, and they still have problems, they can disable the following two experimental flags by hand:
An alternative method to fixing this is to start Google Chrome with the following command-line argument: –disable-backgrounding-occluded-windows
Fix prompts more criticism
However, fixing the problem actually made system administrators even angrier. Many didn’t know that Chrome engineers could run experiments on their tightly-controlled Chrome installations, let alone that Google engineers could just ship changes to everyone’s browsers without any prior approval.
“Do you see the impact you created for thousands of us without any warning or explanation? We are not your test subjects,” said an angry sysadmin. “We are running professional services for multi million dollar programs. Do you understand how many hours of resources were wasted by your ‘experiment’?”
“How many tens of thousands of dollars has this oops cost everyone? This is starting to look like a pretty massive mistake on Googles part,” added another disgruntled sysadmin.
“We take great care in rolling our changes out in a very controlled manner to avoid this type of scenario and we spent the better part of yesterday trying to determine if an internal change had occurred in our environment without our knowledge. We did not realize this type of event could occur on Chrome unbeknownst to us. We are already discussing alternative options, none of them are great, but this is untenable,” said another, hinting at a browser change across their organization.
Although it lasted just two days, this entire incident is panning out to be one of the Chrome team’s biggest bungles. Many impacted users demanded an official apology from Google, and by the looks of the financial impact it may have caused some companies, they are entitled to it.
Market research firm Canalys reported that Amazon shipped three times the number of smart speaker/display units as Google in the third quarter of 2019. According to the company, Google was responsible for 3.5 million units compared with Amazon’s 10.4 million; Alibaba was second with 3.9 million.
Nearly 30 million units shipped in Q3. The third quarter saw shipments of 28.6 million smart speakers and displays overall, compared with 26.1 in Q2 2019 and 19.7 million in Q3 2018 according to Canalys. Privacy concerns don’t seem to have weakened consumer demand.
Canalys attributes Amazon’s success to the strength of the e-commerce giant’s direct channel, Prime Day sales and other promotions, as well as company’s Echo trade-in program. Google sells directly, through traditional retailers and other channel partners but its direct sales have proven no match for Amazon.
Display category grew 500%. Canalys pointed out that the “smart display category grew 500% globally to reach 6.3 million units in Q3 2019.” The firm said that the Echo Show 5 (smart display) “contributed significantly” to Amazon’s Q3 success. The overall share of smart displays in Q3 was 20% for the first time, indicating increasing traction for the devices.
Google has been seeking to use smart displays, especially the Nest Hub Max, as a competitive advantage vs. Amazon. So far it doesn’t seem to be working.
There are numerous estimates circulating in the market about the total number of smart speakers. Research firms put the number of devices in U.S. homes above 100 million. Canalys projected that there would be 225 million smart speaker/display devices globally by 2020.
Why we should care. Given the Q3 numbers, we can expect a pretty robust holiday quarter for these smart devices. Though so far smart speakers/displays have yet to yield many benefits to marketers, they likely will over time and become an important channel. That’s especially true with smart displays, which have the benefit of touch screens, giving brands and retailers more marketing and advertising options than smart speakers.
About The Author
Greg Sterling is a Contributing Editor at Search Engine Land. He writes about the connections between digital and offline commerce. He previously held leadership roles at LSA, The Kelsey Group and TechTV. Follow him Twitter or find him on LinkedIn.
Long before Google introduced Daydream and subsequently left it dead in the water, the company created the Cardboard platform. You can use the carton headsets as an ultra-low-budget entry to VR to this day, and they’re compatible with almost any regularly shaped phone on the market. Google has now open-sourced the underlying VR SDK which will allow interested developers to create their own VR experiences on Cardboard viewers and improve and enhance the project as they see fit.
Google says that it still wants to contribute to the project and plans to release a Unity SDK package, but it hasn’t actively developed the Google VR SDK for some time already. Still, it sees “consistent usage around entertainment and education experiences,” so it didn’t want to shut down the platform altogether. Google states that “an open source model will enable the community to continue to improve Cardboard support and expand its capabilities, for example adding support for new smartphone display configurations and Cardboard viewers as they become available.”
Open-sourcing the project to keep it alive is a better move than just shuttering it altogether, and it’s in line with Google’s vision for the platform. It has always wanted it to be open and accessible. The VR headset’s hardware specifications have been open-sourced a long time ago, allowing third-party manufacturers to create their own Cardboards. Similarly, the open-source VR view platform that enabled VR and Cardboard experiences on the web has been around since 2016.