Facebook, Twitter, Google and Microsoft team up on terrorist database

Facebook, Twitter, Microsoft and Google are teaming up on a new effort to prevent the spread of terrorist content on their networks.

The companies are creating a shared database that will allow them to track the “digital fingerprints” of accounts that share terrorist images and videos across their respective networks to make it easier to identify and remove the content.

Under the new partnership, when Facebook, Twitter, YouTube or Microsoft removes a photo or video that promotes terrorism, it will add a hash what the companies describe as a “digital fingerprint” that makes that particular piece of content identifiable to a shared database. This will make it easier for all the companies involved to spot the same content on their own sites and remove it.

Here’s their description of how it will work:

Our companies will begin sharing hashes of the most extreme and egregious terrorist images and videos we have removed from our services content most likely to violate all of our respective companies content policies. Participating companies can add hashes of terrorist images or videos that are identified on one of our platforms to the database. Other participating companies can then use those hashes to identify such content on their services, review against their respective policies and definitions, and remove matching content as appropriate.

The statement notes that content won’t be removed automatically as each company will review each piece of content against their respective policies. Still, it could make it easier for the companies, which operate the most far-reaching social networks, to identify terrorist content more quickly.

“There is no place for content that promotes terrorism on our hosted consumer services,” the companies said in a group statement. “We hope this collaboration will lead to greater efficiency as we continue to enforce our policies to help curb the pressing global issue of terrorist content online.”

Read more: http://mashable.com/2016/12/05/facebook-twitter-partnership-terrorist-content/

Google’s new safety app will help you find friends and family in an emergency

Image: Press Association via AP Images

When something goes wrong, one of the first things you think about is getting in touch with the people you care about. But if there’s been a natural disaster, an accident or some other emergency, that may be a lot easier said than done.

Google’s latest app, called Trusted Contacts, aims to fix that. The app allows friends and family members to remotely share their location with just one touch.

When you sign up for the app, you designate specific people in your address book as “trusted contacts.” This allows you to share your location at any given time and allows them to request your location.

Unlike Apple’s Find My Friends and some related apps, Trusted Contacts doesn’t share your location by default. Instead, your trusted contacts can see general information about your whereabouts, like whether you’re currently online and if you’ve been moving around.

You can, however, broadcast your location at any given moment to one or all of your trusted contacts, who will be able to see your real-time location until you end the location sharing. The thinking, says product manager David Tattersall, is that users will be able to share their location with loved ones for brief periods of time, like while walking home or out on a hike.

The app also works offline, so if your battery dies or you lose service, the app will still be able to point contacts to wherever your last known location was.

Likewise, if a trusted contact wants to check on you, they can ask for your location within the app. When a contact requests your location, the app will notify you and you can opt to share your location or decline the request. If you don’t respond to the request, the app will automatically share your most recent location with the contact who requested.

That last part may be troubling to the more privacy conscious, but Google says it’s necessary as people are not always able to use their phone during serious emergencies, like natural disasters or car accidents.

“It basically means then that as long as you’ve got your phone in your pocket, someone can always find you in case of an emergency. You’re always findable,” Tattersall tells Mashable.

Trusted Contacts is currently only available on Android, but there is a web interface that allows you to designate iPhone users and others who don’t have the app as trusted contacts and Google says an iPhone version is in the works.

Though the app is relatively simple for now, Tattersall notes that the app complements some of Google’s other crisis response services and says that, in the future, Google may choose to integrate it with Android’s built-in emergency calling features.

“We have a really robust crisis response offering for times of earthquakes and natural disasters… you can see there’s a natural evolution here where these two products could work together if we want.”

BONUS: Google Earth Timelapse shows how man has altered the planet in 32 years

Read more: http://mashable.com/2016/12/05/google-trusted-contacts-app/

Google’s experimental Sprayscape app makes VR more like Snapchat

Imagine if you could share a virtual reality-ready 360-degree view of any moment, on the fly, as easily as you send a video on Snapchat.

That’s the premise of Sprayscape, the latest experimental app from Google. Out today, the Android app makes VR selfies a reality even if they are a bit blurry.

If you’ve ever tried to take a 360-degree photo or video with a smartphone before, then you know that capturing your surroundings perfectly is pretty much impossible. Sprayscape embraces this with its “perfectly imperfect” approach. Instead of creating an expertly stitched photo sphere, the app allows you to share an in-the-moment (and likely imperfect) look at what’s around you.

The app launches on an empty black sphere that you can fill with images by tapping on the screen. Sprayscape uses your phone’s gyroscope to help capture your surroundings. But the app only captures the part of the frame you touch and it’s far easier to capture a blurry view of what’s around you than a clear one.

The resulting “scapes” are unfocused and blurry but easily shareable. Just send a link (the app requires you to log in to a Google account for sharing) and your friends can view your 360-degree creation either by dragging their finger around the frame, holding up their phone to view different parts of the image, or by popping it in a Cardboard viewer.

“We call it VR-ish. When you use Sprayscape, you are taking photos on a 360-degree sphere. When you view a scape youre looking around media oriented to 360 space,” the app’s website explains.

The app comes to us via Android Experiments, which the company uses to highlight creative ways developers use Android to create new types of experiences, and Sprayscape, which was created internally at Google, certainly fits the bill.

Though we’ve seen other apps experiment with the “Snapchat for VR” concept before, Sprayscape offers a slightly more creative take on the idea. Still, it seems unlikely to be leaving Google’s experimental labs anytime soon.

Read more: http://mashable.com/

Google adds polling place, ballot information to search results

Voters fill out their ballot paper in London, Tuesday, March 1, 2016 as voting begins in the U.S. Democrats Abroad Global Presidential Primary.
Image: AP Photo/Frank Augstein

Google is making it easier for you to find information about the upcoming election.

The company is updating its search so that information about polling places and who is on your ballot will appear directly within search results.

Now, when you enter queries like “where is my polling place” or “who’s on my ballot,” Google will surface relevant results within the search in both Spanish and English.

In both cases, you’ll need to enter your home address where you’re registered to vote in order for the correct results to be displayed (if you have your location saved in Google Maps it can also pull from there.)

If you’re looking for a polling place, the results will show designated polling places in your area.

Image: google

For ballot information, the search results will reflect everything from presidential candidates down to local offices like school board positions. From there, you can click into the individual results to find additional information about candidates. Google says it may not be able to turn up results for every single local race nationwide just yet, but the company is working with local secretaries of state and other organizations to add more to the results.

The update is the latest search addition to emphasize voting. The company previously rolled out a similar search feature for helping people register to vote and highlighted the voter registration process in a recent Google Doodle.

Additionally, Google is also making all of its election data available to third-party developers via its Civic Information API, which helps other developers integrate the information into their apps.

Read more: http://mashable.com/

Upcoming Google Search update will emphasize mobile over desktop

Image: brittany herbert/mashable

Google is getting ready to make some major changes to search.

The company is in the process of creating a new index for mobile devices, which will become the “primary” index for search, according to Google webmaster trends analyst Gary Illyes. This means searches from mobile devices will serve up the freshest results as Google will update its mobile index more frequently.

Google has previously discussed such plans but Illyes’ comments, which were reported by Search Engine Land, are the first indication that the company plans to roll this out fairly soon.

A quick refresher on how Google Search works: Google’s bots crawl the web tracking more than 60 trillion web pages and the links within them. These pages are then categorized into a massive index based on hundreds of different factors. This index, along with a series of algorithms, enables Google to turn up relevant search results when you enter a query into the search box.

Right now, Google only uses one such index for all its searches, regardless of platform. Under the upcoming update Illyes detailed, though, Google will create a separate mobile-only index that will serve as the “primary” index for search. As Search Engine Land points out, it’s unclear exactly how this will work or what the impact will be, but at a basic level it means desktop and mobile users will see different search results and Google will put more resources into those surfaced on mobile.

Desktop and mobile users will see different search results

While some have interpreted this to mean that Google is “downgrading” desktop in some way, there are practical reasons why Google would want to prioritize mobile for updates. For one, mobile now accounts for the majority of all Google searches, so using an index that was created primarily for desktop no longer makes sense.

Think of your own search habits: When you use Google from your phone, chances are, you’re looking for an immediate answer to a question you have in the moment. Likewise, if you want to research a topic more deeply something that requires combing through several pages of results you probably save that for desktop. So, it follows that Google would want to make its “freshest” results mobile-first.

The change also stands to drastically improve the user experience for mobile users. Think of how frustrating it is to search for something on your phone only to land on a link that is virtually unreadable because the website isn’t optimized for mobile.

This update, in theory, helps guard against that since Google could prioritize content that’s optimized for mobile devices even more than it already does. We’ve seen signs of this already, particularly with AMP, which allows publishers and others to create ultra-fast loading versions of articles to display in search results.

While we’ll have to wait for further details from Google to find out what the implications of the change will be (Google didn’t respond to Mashable’s request for comment on the update), it does sound like we’ll find out sooner rather than later. The new index should be rolling out “within months,” Illyes told Search Engine Land.

Read more: http://mashable.com/

Google’s new update predicts when businesses are most crowded

-Customers save big at Walmart’s Black Friday shopping event on Thursday, Nov. 26, 2015 in Rogers, Ark.
Image: Gunnar Rathbun/Invision for Walmart

You may want to check Google before you head out on your next holiday shopping spree.

The company’s latest search feature makes it easier to find out how crowded stores are at any given time.

An extension of Google’s “popular times” update, which shows how crowded restaurants and coffee shops are based on search trends, the new feature will show a real-time estimate for how busy a particular location is.

Search for a store, restaurant or other location and Google will now provide a new “live” view in the popular times section of the location card. Googles predictions are based users location history, which is broken down by time of day.

While the popular times feature shows estimates based on historical trends, the live view uses real-time data to show how busy a particular location is at that moment.

The update also adds details about how long people tend to stay at any given place to help you anticipate how long the crowds will last.

While it’s likely impossible to avoid holiday shopping crowds entirely, Google’s predictions should help you feel a bit more prepared going in.

Monday’s update is also updating results for businesses’ holiday hours to reflect when stores and restaurants have different seasonal hours. It will also add in details for when a department within a particular business like a pharmacy within a grocery store has different hours than the main business.

All of the latest updates are available now in browser-based Google search results as well as in Google Maps on Android and desktop.

BONUS: This is how America’s biggest online shopping day came to be

Read more: http://mashable.com/2016/11/21/google-search-avoid-crowds/

Apple brags about iOS 10 adoption, throws shade at Google

It wouldn’t be an Apple event without a little shade, right?

Apple CEO Tim Cook opened Thursday’s keynote at the company’s Mac event in Cupertino with a not-so-subtle burn aimed at Google. The subject was mobile operating system adoption, a noted sore spot for Google.

Cook announced that iOS 10, which was released last month, has now reached an adoption rate of 60%. That’s an impressive stat in itself and we’ve previously noted that iOS 10 has been particularly successful in this regard but Cook took it a step further with this graphic comparing it to Android.

The image showed Google comparatively dismal adoption rate of Android 7.0, which has been out longer than iOS 10 but is installed on less than 1% of Android devices.

This is far from surprising, new versions of Android have always taken much longer to reach the masses than Cupertino’s counterpart, primarily because Google doesn’t control the vast majority of Android’s hardware. But it was still a good burn.

Read more: http://mashable.com/2016/10/27/apple-ios-10-60-percent/

Google’s big push to ‘mobile first’ search starts now

Image: Brittany Herbert/Mashable

Google is now starting to experiment with one of its biggest changes to search. The company is beginning to test a new “mobile first” version of its search index, meaning the company will prioritize mobile content in its search results.

First, a refresher on how Google Search works: Google’s bots crawl the web tracking more than 60 trillion web pages and the links within them. Google then categorizes them into a massive index based on hundreds of different factors. This index, along with a series of algorithms, is what enables Google to return relevant search results that list of blue links when you enter a query into the search box.

With the new update, Google will determine the rankings of pages based on their mobile content. (While it was previously reported that Google was creating an entirely separate mobile index, the company says it will be using the same index as before but that it will use mobile sites for its page ranking.)

Google’s message is very clear: The time to adapt to mobile is now.

“Although our search index will continue to be a single index of websites and apps, our algorithms will eventually primarily use the mobile version of a sites content to rank pages from that site, to understand structured data, and to show snippets from those pages in our results,” writes Google product manager Doantam Phan.

There are a lot of implications to this change, but the most obvious one is that sites that don’t have functional mobile versions will likely lose out, and turn up farther down in search results. With this move, Google’s message is very clear: The time to adapt to mobile is now.

This is a big change and one that “will take some time” to be implemented fully, according to Phan, but for users this means mobile search results will get a lot better. That’s good news for users since the majority of Google searches now come from mobile devices the impetus behind Google’s desire to optimize its core product for that audience.

Though Google is still only testing the change, the company offers a few suggestions to those who want to make sure their sites are ready for the change. You can take a look at them over at Google’s Webmaster blog.

BONUS: Google Home review: Smaller, cheaper and smarter than the Amazon Echo

Read more: http://mashable.com/