Google Music Taps Big Data to Build a Robot DJ Mind-Reader


Other than maybe the NSA, nobody knows more about you than Google. It’s got a read on where you are, what you’re doing, what you’re thinking and watching and searching for and chatting with your friends about. Which means nobody should be better equipped to soundtrack every second of your life than Google Play Music. Starting today, the company’s taking full advantage of its smarts to deliver you the sounds you want, when you want them. All you have to do is press play.

Next time you open Google Play Music on any device, the first thing you’ll see is a list of playlists you might like, plus a short description for why the app made any given selection. If you’re at work, and it’s raining, maybe you get some ambient piano to help you focus the afternoon away. Just got home, pouring some wine? Sunset music. Friday night, you’re at a bar? EDM all night. It’s a bit like Google Now, the predictive feed of everything you probably want to know about right now, except fully focused on music. Think of it as a super-smart, hyper-personalized set of radio station presets. Just open the app, tap one, and go.

To do all this, the Play Music team is tapping into the full Google Data Machine for the first time. It’s choosing playlists by looking at the music you’ve listened to before, of course, but also your search history, your YouTube plays, even what’s in your email and calendar. It considers that data alongside things like time of day, location (a bar is different from a library is different from your office), the weather, and more. So you like classical at work, but you need a boost because it’s raining and you’ve been in meetings all day, plus it’s almost time to get to the gym? Play Music might show you Epic Movie Scores, followed by your favorite workout jams.

Google thinks that it has something like a complete picture of your life at all times. And it knows enough about music to know what you might want to hear as a result.

That contextual awareness for tunes has been the long-time goal of Elias Roman, the lead product manager for Google Play Music. He’s been working on it ever since his days at Songza, which Google acquired in 2014. And as Google has programmed more mood- and moment-based playlists, and added more diverse content like podcasts, Play Music been creeping toward smarter recommendations. But now, with the full power of Google’s data and algorithms finally at his back, Roman says that his goal is for you to hit the play button on the very first thing on your home screen, every single time.

Anything less means Google’s machine-learning tools need to get a little smarter, a little sharper. “We want it to feel as easy as radio,” he tells me, showing off the Instrumental Beatles Covers playlist that shows up at the top of his own feed. (Good music to work to, he says.) Of course, you can still manage your library, make your own playlists, or search for whatever you want to listen to, but Roman wants Google to do the work for you.

Music personalization is clearly the next task for every streaming service. But where Spotify’s trying to break down your music taste into its many component parts, then assemble playlists you’ll love, Google’s going one step further. It’s not just trying to say “here’s some music you’ll like,” but “here’s the song you need right now.” It’s a bold gambit: music taste can be finicky, and there’s nothing worse than when you press play and hear the exact wrong thing. Plus, you don’t always want the same things at the same time, right? Algorithms can’t account for mood. Though Roman says they can, at least sort of. Color me skeptical.

Roman is confident that because Google knows so much about your online life, Play Music can at least be right a lot more than it’s wrong. That could mean finally combining the simplicity and just-press-play nature of the radio with your own music taste. And doing it not once a week, or every morning, but every second of every day. Because everyone’s life could use an epic soundtrack.

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Google News points users to hoax article on election results

Google News was pointing web surfers looking for election results to false numbers as of Monday.
Image: Associated press / David Goldman, File

As the media autopsies the various forces at play in last week’s election results, online social platforms particularly Facebook are coming under increased scrutiny for their role in spreading blatantly false news stories.

But it seems even Google’s news search isn’t infallible when it comes to filtering out false information.

For the past several hours, Google’s top news item on a search for “final election results” has directed users to a post from a rudimentary WordPress blog falsely claiming that Donald Trump won the popular vote.

Image: google, screenshot

The error was first reported by Mediaite Sunday evening, and it appeared to have been fixed by the following afternoon.

A Google spokesperson didn’t immediately respond to our request for comment.

The same evening it was reported, The Daily Show‘s Dan Amira noticed a surge in Twitter users citing the blog to insist that Trump had more total votes than Hillary Clinton.

The author of the news site in question called “70news” claims the erroneous numbers came from “twitter posts [sic]” and that results from “Wikipedia or [Mainstream media]” don’t match the site’s own because “liberals are still reeling and recovering from Trump-shock victory.”

A sidebar on the site points readers to other false stories involving a conspiracy theory that billionaire Democratic donor George Soros is funding Anti-Trump protests. An entire section of the site is dedicated to “Hillary’s Health.”

For the record, the Associated Press‘ latest election tally shows Clinton leading Trump overall by around 670,000 votes.

Google’s mistake comes as Facebook contends with its role in spreading misinformation a disproportionate amount from right-wing conspiracy sites in the months leading up to the election. The social network’s critics argue that it should do more to vet articles shared on its site for accuracy.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has repeatedly insisted that these types of hoaxes do not affect user opinions.

“Overall, this makes it extremely unlikely hoaxes changed the outcome of this election in one direction or the other,” Zuckerberg said in a post on Saturday.

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Google Fiber to cut jobs and halt expansion of US internet service

Ambitious and expensive high-speed internet program will stop plans to expand to new cities as business reportedly under pressure to cut costs

Googles parent company is halting operations and laying off staff in a number of cities where it once hoped to bring high-speed internet access by installing new fiber-optic networks.

The company also announced that Craig Barratt, a veteran tech executive who led the ambitious and expensive Google Fiber program, is stepping down as CEO of Access, the division of Googles parent company, Alphabet, that operates the five-year-old program.

In a statement, Barratt said Google Fiber would continue to provide service in a handful of cities where its already operating, including Atlanta, Austin and Charlotte.

But it will pause further plans in at least eight more metropolitan areas where it has been holding exploratory talks with local officials. Those include Oklahoma City, Phoenix, Dallas, Tampa and Jacksonville in Florida, Portland in Oregon and Los Angeles and San Jose in California.

Barratt didnt say how many jobs would be cut. His statement described the Access business as solid, but said it would make changes to focus our business and product strategy and incorporate new technology.

A recent report by the tech news site the Information said the business was under pressure by the Alphabet CEO, Larry Page, to cut costs after failing to meet financial goals, including a target of signing up five million subscribers.

Barratt said he would continue to serve as an adviser to Page.

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Memes are bigger on Google than Jesus

Congratulations to memes, which thanks to your Dat Bois and your Arthur fists and your problematic Pepe usage have surpassed Jesus on Google.

The son of God had a good run.

Norwegian developer Dominik Salonen noticed this development on Google Trends and shared his findings to Twitter on Wednesday.

So when was the fateful moment dank memes overtook our lord and savior Jesus Christ? According to Google Trends, memes first surpassed Jesus in early May. In August, memes staged their official takeover.

Image: google trends

Memes haven’t yet overtaken God in popularity, though things aren’t looking good:

Image: google trends

[H/T: Gizmodo]

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Google to label malicious sites as repeat offenders

Google is set to introduce a “Repeat Offender” tag to its Safe Browsing feature.  (Reuters)

Its Googles version of The Scarlet Letter.

The tech giant is set to punish websites violating its Safe Browsing standards by applying a Repeat Offender tag, eweek reported.

The change, announced in a Google blog post on Nov. 8, is set to begin this week for users of Google Chrome and other browsers. The warning will remain in place for a month and only be taken down if Google believes the site no longer poses a threat.

The Repeat Offender tag was developed to combat sites that are intentionally harmful and duplicitous. In the past, those sites would typically remove the security issue after being flagged by Google but just for long enough to get the Safe Browsing warning removed. Then the initial security issue would pop back up.

As a result of this gap in user protection, we have adjusted our policies to reduce risks borne by end-users, Brooke Heinichen, a member of the Safe Browsing Team, wrote in the Google blog post.

Safe Browsing has been available to users on desktop and Android systems since December.

More than 2 billion Internet-connected devices worldwide are protected by Safe Browsing, DigitalTrends reported.

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Merck to pay $950 million for illegal marketing of Vioxx

Washington (CNN)Pharmaceutical giant Merck will plead guilty to charges related to illegal promotional activity for the painkiller Vioxx and pay fines and settlement costs totaling nearly a billion dollars, the Justice Department announced Tuesday.

Justice officials said Merck, Sharp and Dohme Corp. has agreed to the massive settlement to resolve criminal charges and civil claims stemming from its promotion and marketing of Vioxx. The drug was withdrawn from the marketplace in September 2004.
Under the agreement, Merck will plead to a misdemeanor charge for the illegal promotion and pay a $321 million criminal fine.
    The firm also agreed to a civil settlement under which it will pay $628 million to resolve allegations of off-label marketing and false statements about the cardiovascular safety of Vioxx.
    The federal government will receive $426 million from the civil settlement and the remaining $202 million will be distributed to the participating Medicaid states, the Justice Department said.
    “When a pharmaceutical company ignores FDA rules aimed at keeping our medicines safe and effective, that company undermines the ability of health care providers to make the best medical decisions on behalf of their patients,” Assistant Attorney General Tony West said.
    The FDA approved Vioxx for three medical purposes in 1999 but did not approve its use against rheumatoid arthritis until April 2002. The government says that for nearly three years in the interim, Merck promoted Vioxx for rheumatoid arthritis. An FDA warning letter was sent to Merck in 2001 for making the claims.
    Officials say that while this is not a record settlement, the $950 million agreement places it among the top five on record.

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    Google unveils its Children’s Day doodle for India

    Image: Google india

    Google will showcase a picture drawn by an 11-year old Indian girl as its doodle on Childrens Day (November 14) in India.

    Sixth-grade student Anvita Telang won the National Doodle4Google competition, the company said today. Her drawing, titled, “If I could teach anyone anything, it would be” received over 100,000 votes over the past 10 days.

    Telang, a student at Vibgyor High School, Pune, illustrated greeneries, water, water life, balloons and other pleasantries in her picture with the message that people should try to enjoy every moment.

    Google has run competitions for its doodles (the special picture with a message you see above the homepage search bar) since 2009 in India. In a press statement, the company said with this program it aims to “celebrate and promote creativity, passion, and imagination in our younger users.”

    Several other participants were also praised for their submissions. Some of their entires portrayed the significance of Indian classical dance, sign languages, gardening and books. Indian school kids routinely show an immense interest in Googles competition.

    Google said kids from over 50 cities participated this year. “Its heartening to see the messages that these young minds wish to communicate with such creativity. It was a tough competition,” said Sapna Chadha, the head of marketing at Google India.

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    Keeping your secrets safe on Amazon, Google, Facebook and Netflix

    Illustration file picture. (REUTERS/Kacper Pempel/Files)

    When a relationship gets serious, we start to share more of our lives. We borrow each others cars. We move in together. Inevitably, we start sharing each others technology and even our passwords.

    But your device says a lot about you: Your pastimes, your taste in music, your curiosities and the things you shop for. So how do you maintain your privacy online, even with the people who are closest to you?

    Here are a few simple tricks to help you keep your secrets under wraps. (Note: Apps and websites do not always work the same across all devices and operating systems. If something isnt located in the menus precisely as I say, look around for a similar action.)


    Amazon tracks not only what you have purchased, but also what you have browsed. If you share an Amazon account, both can pose a major problem especially this time of year.

    The good news is that you can easily cover your tracks. To erase your browsing history, from your account settings, look for the Personalization section. Go to Personalized Content >> View and Manage Your Browsing History. Here, you have a few options. You can remove only certain items or all items as well as turn off browsing history, so you never have this issue again.

    Lets say you want to make it more difficult for someone to find out what you have ordered. Amazon will not completely delete your order history, but you can archive individual orders. Casual snoops will have a harder time seeing what you have purchased. From your account settings, go to Your Orders. Select the item you wish to hide and select Archive order.

    You can use the Amazon app as an additional holiday security measure. Suppose you have purchased a pair of shoes for your spouse, youve archived the order, and now youre waiting for the package to arrive. But youre receiving so many boxes this time of year, how do you know which delivery to open and wrap?

    With the Amazon app, you can scan the barcode on the box to immediately find out whats inside. It works like a charm unless your spouse has secretly ordered something for you!

    By the way, Amazon has added a slew of new benefits for Prime members from unlimited photo storage to free ebooks. Click here for seven Amazon Prime perks youre probably not using.


    Google often auto-completes your search terms based on personal information, such as your location and previous searches. Anyone looking over your shoulder or borrowing your device might be surprised by the guesses Google makes. Google products that collect your information include Chrome, Google Maps, and YouTube.

    To delete your search history on Google, you need a Google account. Just log in, go to My Activity, and remove items individually.

    Better yet, take control of the data Google saves about you. Click here for step-by-step instructions on how to stop Google from collecting data about you.

    Most browsers have a similarly easy way to delete your browsing history, and the controls tend to be in your browsers preferences. Keep this in mind, especially if youre researching something a little unusual.


    For many of us, Facebook is like a sprawling digital yearbook. Maybe you have a family computer, and you usually forget to log out of Facebook. Other people use the same computer, they stumble into your Facebook account, and they notice your conspicuous search history.

    Your significant other may wonder why youve become so curious about the person you once invited to the prom, no matter how innocent your interest.

    The easiest way to avoid an awkward conversation is to open your Activity Log on your Facebook page. Select More from the column at left >> Search >> Clear Searches. Or you can remove each search item one by one.

    Your Facebook Activity Log stores a lot of data about you. Click here for tips to clean it up and prevent things from coming back to haunt you.


    We all have our guilty pleasures, especially when it comes to movies. You may have privately viewed Lars Von Triers “Nymphomaniac” and thought it was a great work of art-house cinema, but that could be hard to explain to a roomful of people.

    If you want to hide past screenings, just go to My Account >> Viewing History. Be advised that items arent always deleted immediately; it may take 24 hours for your lists to update on all devices.

    Netflix also allows you to create multiple profiles. Many households dont bother with this unless they have children, but if you want to keep your viewing history private, you can create a personal profile and protect it with a password. Click here to learn how to do this as well as access secret Netflix categories.

    Go incognito

    Every major web browser including Chrome, Edge, Firefox, Internet Explorer, Safari, and Opera has private, or incognito, browsing settings. Turning this feature on means your browser will ignore cookies including ad-tracking cookies and won’t record your browsing history. It’s almost like you weren’t online. Click here to learn how to enable this simple step to keep your browsing history a secret.

    Maintaining privacy is one of my favorite themes. To learn other ways to protect your information, be sure to listen or download my podcasts, or click here to find it on your local radio station. You can listen to the Kim Komando Show on your phone, tablet or computer. From buying advice to digital life issues, click here for my free podcasts.

    Copyright 2016, WestStar Multimedia Entertainment. All rights reserved.

    Learn about all the latest technology on the Kim Komando Show, the nation’s largest weekend radio talk show. Kim takes calls and dispenses advice on today’s digital lifestyle, from smartphones and tablets to online privacy and data hacks. For her daily tips, free newsletters and more, visit her website at

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