Google’s New Application Tools for Maps, YouTube, and Assistant Put Privacy in the Hands of Its Users

Image Source: www.iStock.com/IngusKruklitis

Just in time for National Cybersecurity Awareness Month, Google Maps, YouTube, and Google Assistant were recently announced to have new tools related to user privacy and security. The new updates to these applications give users more control over what data Google can retrieve, and even gives the option for users to delete already collected data such as within Google Voice Assistant. 

Google Maps has now included an incognito mode to keep the application from tracking which places you search for and where you travel to, this thus giving its application users more control over privacy. Incognito mode also helps to keep users’ personalized recommendations from including any locations that would otherwise be irrelevant. Android and iOS users are expected to have this feature available to their Maps application this month.

Image Source: Google | https://www.blog.google/technology/safety-security/keeping-privacy-and-security-simple-you/

 

YouTube is receiving an update as well, with users now able to choose when the app will automatically delete accumulated history. You can choose to keep your watch history for three or 18 months, or just choose to keep the data until you delete it manually.

Google Assistant is also getting an update that allows users to delete any saved voice data. By saying phrases like “Hey Google, delete the last thing I said to you,” or “Hey Google, delete everything I said to you last week,” to your device, Google Assistant will delete its “Assistant Activity”. Deleting voice data from a while back would require you to go into account settings.

After it was revealed that actual people could listen to voice recordings for the purposes of improving voice assistants, Google, Amazon, and Apple all took action to remedy the privacy situation. Alexa, for instance, was implemented with the option for consumers to choose whether recordings will be reviewed. Two months ago, Apple also stated the suspension of its Siri grading program which similarly recorded user audio. The company commented on how they would incorporate consumer participation choice in the grading program with a future update. 

Image Source: Google | https://www.blog.google/technology/safety-security/keeping-privacy-and-security-simple-you/

 

This Google Assistant feature is expected to be released in all languages by next month. The English commands will be available this month. 

Lastly, Google had released Password Checkup within its Password Manager tool. The Checkup feature notifies its users if their passwords have been compromised from a data breach, weak and need to be strengthened, or whether a password has been reused. Google will be adding this tool to Chrome soon, but users can still take advantage of the feature at passwords.google.com.

YouTube Advertisers Will Soon Have New Action Buttons for Their Ads

As one of the biggest digital marketing platforms, YouTube began integrating its video platform with other Google Services. It is now testing an extension that will allow viewers to take action via TrueView-in-stream Ads. With this extension, viewers can take action on an ad they see instead of just clicking on it. After testing the extensions, the company creating the ads will be able to add location elements or forms to their ads to get their targeted audience to sign up for the service or just submit their email for future updates.

YouTube has mentioned that early testers of this extension were Chili’s, 20th Century Fox, Headspace, and Maybelline, and more companies will likely sign up soon.YouTube will now allow advertisers to choose other action methods for the ads shown, such as providing the download option for an app, the link to book a trip while watching a vacation ad, or the link to purchase a movie ticket while watching a trailer. So far, the ads have proven to be successful, as one of YouTube’s early testers, Vodafone, had a 3.5 percent increase in click-through rate and 2.3x incremental increase in ad recall.

As Abner Li explains in his article from 9to5Google:

“YouTube is adding Brand Lift studies to Google Ads or Display & Video 360, the company’s recently announced merger and simplification of its advertising products.”

Google goes into detail about their metrics for the ad campaigns:

Additionally, we’ve introduced two new metrics: lifted users, the number of people who were influenced by your ad, and cost-per-lifted-user to make it easier for you to optimize your campaign’s effectiveness and cost-efficiency.

We’re also ramping up our investments in Google Measurement Partners to ensure our advertisers can measure YouTube media with measurement solutions that meet rigorous, verified standards. We work closely with partners to ensure their solutions respect user privacy.”

CPG advertisers can use can use third-party market research firms to access and evaluate data on ad performance.

Users tend to click on the “SKIP AD” button let alone take any action. This feature is not only good for the audience, but it’s highly important for advertisers wondering if viewers are interested enough to take action and press on a link to purchase shoes when seeing an ad, for example.

Companies can drive more than just increased brand awareness which is why advertisers turn to YouTube. The ads on YouTube offer more than just a click to the company website or other social platforms. YouTube wants to expand and provide more performance metrics to advertisers.

It’s still not decided when Google will roll out the new extension to other companies, but you can check out this article for more updates.

YouTube Can Help You Track the Time You Spend Watching Videos

So you found yourself on an endless spiral of adorable animal videos on YouTube. It seems like it’s become the point of no return. Lucky for you, YouTube has come up with a new tool to help you combat those video-watching habits.

On Monday, the company announced a string of new updates to its application that could make people more conscientious of the time that passes while watching videos — this as part of a wellness movement for users.

The digital well-being trend has recently been a focus for large tech companies like Google, Apple, and Facebook. Back in June, for example, Google introduced an update to its app Datally — a tool to assist in users’ data saving habits and to discourage smartphone addiction.

YouTube released its own update to its app that now keeps track of the amount of time one spends watching content. Users can see the breakdown of time by day or by week. The update even allows one to limit the amount of notifications received, silence such notifications, or set a reminder to take a break.

Source: YouTube

“It’s easy to lose track of time when you’re having fun,” a blog post by YouTube explains. And what can be more fun than watching a video of baby pandas rolling down a hill?

While watching YouTube videos grants us access to a world of entertainment, the company explains how their new update is meant to “help people better understand their tech usage, focus on what matters most and disconnect when needed.”

In a time when there’s strict reliance on technology use for leisure, it’s nice to know tech companies are assisting users through means of application updates (such as this) that are ultimately beneficial for one’s well-being.

As Chris Welch from TheVerge puts it:

“[A]cting on the information [and updates provided] is up to you, but at least it’s now readily accessible.”

Google’s Anti-Trust Troubles

When small businesses try to maximize their SEO, they first create a Google Places profile, start a Google+ account, and use Adsense, Youtube, Picasa, and Gmail when needed. Having accounts under these Google owned sites helps businesses show up higher in Google’s search results page. The search engine giant is the number one focus for most SEO since it’s the preferred choice for roughly 90% of mobile and 67% of computer based searches.

The “SEO Ring” according to peakpositions.com

Because of its dominance as a search engine, it is now under investigation by the FTC for possible antitrust violations. Google has acquired over 100 companies since its foundation, many of which are favored in its search algorithm. When Google is used for restaurant search, Google’s Zagat ratings show up first; locations or direction searches prompts results from Google Maps to display first; and video search will favor Youtube over competing sites like Vimeo. The issue with this is that Google’s algorithm doesn’t give other non-Google sites fair coverage even when the content is just as good.

Image courtesy of Mashable.com

Unfortunately if the FTC pursues legal action, their case may not have much of a stance if they choose to use vertical search as the foundation, as antitrust laws are intended to protect consumers, not competitors. It could be difficult to prove how vertical search causes harm to consumers. However, it seems more likely for Google to settle the case with the FTC than take it to court.

It will be interesting to see if and how the FTC plans to regulate search. The last big antitrust case was Microsoft’s in the 1990’s where Internet Explorer was found to constitute a browser monopoly which harmed consumers by limiting their choices and raising barriers to entry for web application developers. The case had a huge impact on Microsoft’s ability to pursue other areas in technology and led to the rise of other competition like Google.

It’s hard to say how it will affect Google and consumers if the FTC decides to pursue legal action. Do you think the FTC should have a say in how search is regulated?

TED-Ed Virtual Classroom Lectures Come to Life

TED, the global organization that specializes in conferences and online inspirational talks, has announced their latest idea – TED-Ed, a website with educational videos that can be customized. Their plan is to use both educators and animators to produce videos for the site which can be used as lectures for students. The site will also have a YouTube channel.

The website follows a growing trend towards digital lecturing.  The appeal of this model is that it allows for physical classroom time to be spent on individual tutoring, student collaboration, and more complex thinking activities. Students also prefer the increased assistance they receive rather than merely listening to a lecture passively. TED plans a full launch of their website by September.