Apply now to go to Google I/O 2019, which will cost you $1,150 if you get in

Google I/O 2019 is months away at this point but is closer than you might think. Today, registration applications are open if you’d like to try your luck at attending one of the biggest events of the year when it comes to all things Google.

Remember, this is an application to register, not an actual registration. Google will randomly select registrants from the no doubt thousands and thousands of applications it will receive from people all around the world.

You have until February 27, 2019, at 5:00 P.M. PST to get your application in.

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Before you rush off to try your luck, keep in mind that if you do get into Google I/O 2019, it’s going to cost you a pretty penny: a single ticket is $1,150. If you are currently an active full-time student, professor, faculty, or staff of a high school or higher education institution, you could get a discounted ticket which knocks down the price to $375.

To fill out the application, you’ll need to give Google your credit card information. Google will place a temporary deposit hold on your account to complete the application. If you get in, the full ticket price will then be charged. If you don’t get in, the deposit hold will get returned to you within seven days after February 27.

Click the button below to try your luck!

‘Reverse search warrants’ for Google data becoming a privacy nightmare

GPS Location Navigation Icon

  • Reverse search warrants are becoming more commonplace.
  • Minnesota, in particular, is using reverse search warrants more and more, which raises questions of public privacy.
  • Reverse search warrants are requests made to Google for sometimes massive amounts of public data to help solve crimes.

In Minnesota, there have been at least 22 so-called “reverse search warrants” granted since August 2018. A new report from MPR News dives deep into the new trend of police requesting reverse search warrants from local judges, and how these warrants could potentially be a huge violation of public privacy.

A normal search warrant requires probable cause and a named suspect for approval. However, reverse search warrants instead ask for data related to the general public in a certain area at a certain time. Using this general data, police look for clues and anomalies and work backward from there, hoping to eventually identify suspects for crimes.

In most cases, reverse search warrants are issued to Google due to that company having the largest database of information related to location data through the smartphones we all carry around with us every day.

In one Minnesota case, in particular, police requested a reverse search warrant related to an in-home invasion and burglary. The judge in charge of the warrant decision took all of 10 minutes to decide to issue the request to Google. Google then provided the police with anonymized smartphone data for the following:

  • Every smartphone used in a six-hour window in several square miles surrounding the neighborhood home.
  • Every smartphone used in a 33-hour window in several square miles surrounding a grocery store owned by the victims, which is in a dense urban area.

MPR News doesn’t disclose how many different data points Google provided police, but judging from the requests it would likely be thousands or possibly even over a hundred thousand data points — meaning thousands and thousands of people.

Google is handing over thousands of smartphone data points to help police officers narrow down suspects.

Using this information, the police got to work trying to pinpoint anomalies in the data. They eventually discovered that one particular smartphone was in the vicinity of the house where the crime was committed around the time it would have started. That smartphone moved away from the house right before the 911 call was made, making the owner of the phone a suspect.

Since the data was all anonymized by Google before giving it to the police, the police then had to obtain another warrant requesting Google to give them the name and related information connected to that smartphone.

As stated at the top of this article, Minnesota police have done this at least 22 times since August.

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It’s easy to see how this is a privacy and civil rights nightmare. In the case of this burglary, the smartphone in question could have been owned by a neighbor who was standing in his own backyard adjacent to the victim’s home. He could have been out there for a bit after hearing a strange noise, then have gone back into his house right before the 911 call was made. In that case, police would have obtained the data of an innocent man and possibly taken him in for questioning based on that data. That would likely end up on a police blotter, further tarnishing that man’s reputation.

That’s just one hypothetical example of how dangerous these methods can be.

MPR News

The MPR News article also mentions that the way police officers ask for these reverse search warrants can be confusing for judges. For example, in the case mentioned above, the police requested the data by giving the judge GPS coordinates instead of a map. When a judge sees nothing but GPS coordinates, they likely won’t have much of an idea of what they mean. But if the judge got to see a map and thus have a good idea of just how wide a net the police were casting, they might have balked. As mentioned earlier, the judge only took 10 minutes to approve the reverse search warrant.

Finally, in the specific home invasion case discussed here, police didn’t even really need the reverse search warrant: without Google’s help, based on vehicle descriptions and a confidential informant, the police narrowed down a list of suspects without using the Google data. However, the Google data will help their case and could help determine if the suspects were part of other crimes in the area.

What do you think? Are reverse search warrants a valuable tool to protect the public, or is this a violation of our privacy? Let us know what you think in the comments.

NEXT: Google’s new permissions policy could cripple popular sex workers’ safety app

We asked, you told us: Playmojis are fun, but you don’t use them

Google Pixel 3 Love Playmoji

Augmented reality, much like virtual reality, never really took off the way that many believed it would. While some are using it in creative ways, most people aren’t walking around holding their smartphones in front of their faces, augmenting the world around them.

Despite this, Google continues to work on its AR Playground platform. For example, in just the last two weeks, the Silicon Valley company has released two new Playmoji packs.

So we decided to ask you, do you use Google’s Playmoji? Here’s what you had to say.

Do you use Playmoji?

Results

Unsurprisingly, 39 percent of those who participated in this week’s poll stated that they have never used Playmoji. Following that, 24 percent of the votes marked that they’ve used Playmoji once or twice and six percent said they use it all of the time.

As a Pixel owner, I can honestly say that I’ve used Playmoji when new AR packs were released, but I’ve never taken out my phone and dropped Iron Man into the scene because I thought it would enhance my photos. For me, the AR technology is fun to play with, but it isn’t something I would use once a day, week, or even month.

The sentiment towards Playmoji appears to remain unchanged for non-Pixel owners. While nine percent of the voters said they would use Google’s AR stickers, 22 percent said they wouldn’t.

As Google is rumored to be working to bring its AR Playground platform to other Android handsets, this statistic makes me believe the company’s efforts might be wasted.

Noteworthy comments

Here are some of the best comments from last week’s poll explaining why they voted the way that they did:

  • I showed it to my (young) son a couple of years ago with the Star Wars characters and that was that.
  • Basically it [Playmoji] is the new Google+ that is just gimmick, a pain to use, doesn’t solve any real problem and only creates a marginal entertainment value that hurts the battery more than anything else.
  • I really love the Childish Gambino pack!!! I use it sometimes when I remember BUT it uses a LOT OF BATTERY. It is fun and, sometimes, people feel surprise on how well it is implemented… BUT, you know, it is not useful at all (it’s more like a game that you play sometimes when you a bored)
  • My kids (5 & 3 yr old boys) love it.

That’s it for this week, everyone. As always, thanks for voting, thanks for the comments, and don’t forget to let us know what you thought of the results below.

Chrome feature might let you link directly to specified text on a page

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A potential new Google Chrome feature is making its way to the Canary version of the browser (via Chrome Story). The new feature will allow users to share links to specific sections of web pages, even those pages which don’t have anchor links.

Let’s say you want to send an email to someone with a reference to a piece of data within a long news article. If you wanted to point the email recipient to a particular spot on the shared page, how would you do it? Unless the information you want to share has an anchor link attached to it, there’s no easy way to share a URL that points someone to a very specific part of a page.

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This new Chrome feature would solve that problem by enabling a user to highlight a section of text and then create a custom URL that points directly to that one section. The feature will be called Scroll to Text, so named because it would load the URL as usual and then scroll to a specific piece of text on that page automatically.

The code commit related to Scroll to Text just appeared, so it will be a while before it makes it to the Canary build of Google Chrome. If it has a successful run in Canary, it will make its way to the beta version of Chrome, and then, hopefully, to the stable build most of us use.

Since most people stuck in a situation where Scroll to Text would be helpful usually just take a screenshot or ask people to use CTRL-F when they arrive at a page, this will likely save a lot of headaches.

NEXT: One month test: Can a Chromebook replace my main computer?

Deal: Buy the Pixel 3 or Pixel 3 XL from Target, get a $300 gift card

Google Pixel 3 XL deal Target

For a limited time, buying the Google Pixel 3 or Pixel 3 XL from Target nets you a $300 Target gift card. The promotion is similar to the deals that Verizon and Best Buy currently offer on the two Pixel 3 smartphones.

New and current Verizon subscribers are eligible for the $300 Target gift card. They must buy either Pixel 3 phone with device financing and have until the end of Saturday, February 16 to take advantage of the promotion.

Also, Target doesn’t offer the Clearly White or 128GB models. Lastly, those interested in the deal must visit a Target store — you can pick up the Pixel 3 online, but you won’t get the gift card.

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The phones themselves aren’t discounted, but it’s hard to say no to a $300 gift card when you’re getting an excellent device in return. To quickly recap, the Pixel 3 features a 5.5-inch AMOLED display, industry-leading 12 megapixel camera, Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 845 processor, 4GB of RAM, 64GB of storage, a 2,915mAh battery, and Android 9 Pie.

The Pixel 3 XL is mostly the same phone, save for the larger 6.3-inch AMOLED display and 3,430mAh battery.

You can check out the deal at the link below.

Google is trying to stop a private sale of 5G spectrum

  • An alliance of satellite companies wants to conduct a private sale of 5G spectrum.
  • However, Google and a few other organizations don’t want to see important 5G spectrum auctioned privately.
  • The matter will likely end up in court.

The C-Band Alliance — a collective made up of four satellite companies — is trying to sell some of its wireless spectrum, which could be used for 5G connections. However, the C-Band Alliance is looking to make the sale private, something other organizations — including Google — don’t want to happen (via The Information)

Traditionally, spectrum sales like this are performed by the Federal Communications Commission, with part of the profits from the sale going to the U.S. Treasury. Thus, the C-Band Alliance knows it could potentially make more money from making the sale private.

However, an unregulated private spectrum sale could result in one company buying up all the spectrum which could tip the market into the favor of that one company. Google, Charter Communications, and other telecommunications groups oppose the private sale — and are ready to go to court over the opposition.

With the importance of 5G spectrum becoming ever more apparent as we get closer to its eventual rollout, Google and the other opposers believe a private spectrum sale puts too much power into unregulated hands.

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Companies that license spectrum shouldn’t have “the ability to hold the FCC hostage essentially in order reallocate spectrum for a higher and better use,” said Staci Pies, a senior policy counsel at Google.

“We think that an FCC auction is really the fastest, fairest, most efficient way to get spectrum out and make it available to all different kinds of players, including Charter,” said Colleen King, vice president of regulatory affairs for Charter Communications, adding, “We don’t think backroom deals by four private companies allows that.”

Meanwhile, a lobbyist for the C-Band Alliance brushes the oppositions aside, proclaiming that companies like Charter don’t want to see the private sale happen because it knows 5G service is a threat to its cable business.

Analysts expect the matter to go to court eventually. It’s likely that the courts would side with the opinion of the FCC, which would likely fall on the side of having a traditional, government-regulated auction for the spectrum.

NEXT: Why I hope AT&T loses the 5G E lawsuit

A bunch of 4K movies are on sale for $5 on Google Play Movies

Google Play Movies Deal

Google regularly holds deals on movies, but this week’s sale is almost too good to pass up. In addition to some hit blockbusters being discounted, Play Movies is selling some 4K films for just $5!

Below are just a handful of the 4K movies available for only $5 for a limited time:

This list of movies is just the tip of the iceberg. The Hobbit trilogy, The Shining, The Matrix, We’re The Millers, Fist Fight, and more can also be had for $5. Crazy Rich Asians is available for $10, Ready Player One is $11, and Deadpool for $15. 

Click on the button below to find the entire list of movies included in this deal from Google Play Movies. 

Google will bring free Wi-Fi to the Philippines

During its ongoing Google for Philippines conference, Google announced it will expand its Google Station program to include the Philippines.

Google Station provides free Wi-Fi hotspots to populated areas in developing countries, such as bus stations and airports. Countries in the Google Station program include India, Mexico, Indonesia, Nigeria, Thailand, and now, the Philippines.

In the Philippines, Google Station will go live in 50 locations by the end of February. Most of the locations will be in Manila and Quezon City, though there are plans to include under-served and additional high-density areas throughout 2019.

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Folks in the Philippines will get 30-minute sessions of free Wi-Fi. They’ll need to sign back in when the sessions end.

Google partnered with telecommunications companies PLDT and Smart Communications for the infrastructure. Google also partnered with Unilever for ads, because someone needs to foot the large bill. Unilever owns over 400 brands and primarily makes cleaning, beauty, personal care, and food products.

Deal: Verizon offers $300 off the Pixel 3 and BOGO deals for Valentine’s Day

If you were thinking of getting that special someone a smartphone for Valentine’s Day, Verizon offers a few deals on the Google Pixel 3, Samsung Galaxy Note 9, LG V40 ThinQ, and more.

Here are the deals:

The highlight deal is $300 off the Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL. This is not an instant discount — it’s spread out across 24 months. That said, you don’t need to add a new line or trade in a device to get the discount.

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If Google’s smartphones aren’t up your alley, buying the Galaxy S9, Galaxy S9 Plus, or Galaxy Note 9 nets you either a free second Galaxy S9 or $800 off the other two phones. Again, the discount is spread out across 24 months and you don’t need to trade in a device. You do have to activate the second phone on a new line, however.

Finally, Verizon also offers either a free LG G7 ThinQ or $750 off the LG V40 ThinQ if you buy either phone. The deals work the same as the Samsung deals.

The deals are available for a limited time. Hit up the links attached above to take advantage of these discounts.

Pixel 3 Night Sight compared to iPhone XS: it’s not really close (Update: Video)

 

Update, February 4, 2019 (5:32 PM ET): Google just published a brief behind-the-scenes video detailing its method for obtaining the low-light photographs discussed in the article below.

The video is reposted above if you want to check it out.

The video shows how Google mounted the Google Pixel 3 next to an iPhone XS so the camera lenses of each device were as close together as possible. It then shows how the photographers took every photo at the exact same time. The video also displays text that promises “no retouching, no filters,” which seems legit when you look at the screenshot below:

Google’s Night Sight — and the Pixel 3’s camera in general — continues to be one of the biggest selling points of the company’s latest smartphone.


Original Article, January 28, 2019 (01:28 AM ET): Night modes are all the rage in the smartphone industry, with Huawei, Google, OnePlus, and Xiaomi offering the option on their devices. Now, Google has compared the Pixel 3’s Night Sight mode to the iPhone XS in a low-light situation (seen above), and there’s a stark difference between the two.

Google’s Night Sight

Google marketing executive Marvin Chow posted the comparison on Twitter, showing “Phone X” on the left, and the Google Pixel 3 with Night Sight on the right. The tiny text on the left tells us that “Phone X” is actually the iPhone XS.

The scene, which shows a model standing in front of a neon-lit scene at night, seems ideal for the Night Sight mode. The Pixel 3 managed to deliver a brighter overall scene, clearly showing the woman’s face, clothing, and other elements. But the buildings in the background were also brighter and more detailed in Google’s photo, save for some blown-out lighting. Heck, you can even see a brighter (but not too noisy) sky in the Pixel 3 snap.

How did the iPhone fare?

Meanwhile, Apple’s phone was much darker overall, as the model seems silhouetted against the neon environment. The woman’s face is almost completely dark, and her clothing doesn’t retain the same rich color as Google’s effort.  The iPhone XS photo managed to tame the lighting in the background though, while Google prioritized the model instead. But based on the fact that we have an obvious subject in the viewfinder, I’d say Google’s phone certainly made the right decision.

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Still, I wonder whether the iPhone XS truly is that bad, almost as if the photographer adjusted exposure on the background instead (or simply didn’t tap on the subject’s face). But if there’s no foul play here, then it’s clearly a big win for Google.

Night mode is becoming one of the most important weapons in a smartphone camera’s arsenal these days, combining multiple exposures with smart algorithms. Apple’s iPhones lack this feature right now, but I wouldn’t be surprised if a future version of iOS offers this functionality. This could be a boon for older iPhones too, giving Apple’s legacy devices a welcome boost in low-light situations. But until then, the Pixel 3 seems to reign supreme when the sun goes down.

NEXT: Why Google bans ad-blockers, but is actually fine with ad-blocking browsers