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Google expands ‘about this result’ feature for search results

The company wants to help users find out why its algorithm surfaces certain results

Google has updated its “about this result” feature in Search and will now provide context about how and why a particular result was retrieved. 

The “about this result” information box was added earlier this year to make it easier for users to vet sources they aren’t familiar with and provide additional “peace of mind” when searching. Now, Google wants to give users a little more insight into how its algorithm works so they can get the most out of the search engine. 

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    DOJ says it’s still investigating Google’s acquisition of Fitbit

    Google says the agency’s time limit for delivering a decision has passed

    Google announced on Thursday that its acquisition of Fitbit was complete, saying the deal would bring more sophisticated devices to the wearables market. However, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) now says its investigation into the acquisition hasn’t yet wrapped. 

    In a statement to various media outlets, the DOJ said it’s still looking into the possible effects of the deal. Regulators previously expressed concern that Google could use Fitbit’s large swath of user data to personalize ads. 

    “The Antitrust Division’s investigation of Google’s acquisition of Fitbit remains ongoing. Although the Division has not reached a final decision about whether to pursue an enforcement action, the Division continues to investigate whether Google’s acquisition of Fitbit may harm competition and consumers in the United States.” 

    The agency added that it is “committed to conducting this review as thoroughly, efficiently, and expeditiously as possible.” 

    But Google said in a statement that although the DOJ’s investigation is ongoing, the agency’s time limit for delivering a decision has passed. For this reason, Google said it felt comfortable finalizing the deal.  

    “We complied with the DOJ’s extensive review for the past 14 months, and the agreed upon waiting period expired without their objection,” the company said. “We continue to be in touch with them and we’re committed to answering any additional questions. We are confident this deal will increase competition in the highly crowded wearables market, and we’ve made commitments that we plan to implement globally.” 

    At this point, there’s no official word on whether the DOJ intends to take legal action against Google or Fitbit. 

    Google announced on Thursday that its acquisition of Fitbit was complete, saying the deal would bring more sophisticated devices to the wearables market. H...
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    Google completes its acquisition of Fitbit

    The company has assured regulators that it will protect consumers’ privacy

    Google announced on Thursday that it has completed its $2.1 billion acquisition of wearables maker Fitbit. 

    The deal was first announced in November of 2019 and spurred an investigation into what Google planned to do with Fitbit users’ data. Fitbit has health data on more than 28 million users, and European regulators were concerned that the tech giant could use that data to help personalize ads. 

    However, Google assured regulators that the deal was “about devices, not data” and promised not to use Fitbit data if the deal was approved. 

    “This deal has always been about devices, not data, and we’ve been clear since the beginning that we will protect Fitbit users’ privacy,” Rick Osterloh, Google’s Senior Vice President of devices and services, said in a statement.

    “We worked with global regulators on an approach which safeguards consumers’ privacy expectations, including a series of binding commitments that confirm Fitbit users’ health and wellness data won’t be used for Google ads and this data will be separated from other Google ads data,” he added.

    Privacy commitments secured

    European regulators investigating the deal gave it the green light last month after receiving commitments from Google regarding data privacy. 

    "Google will continue to protect Fitbit users' privacy and has made a series of binding commitments with global regulators, confirming that Fitbit users' health and wellness data won't be used for Google ads and this data will be kept separate from other Google ad data," Chief Executive James Park said in a letter to Fitbit users Thursday.

    Park said the acquisition will enable Fitbit to “do even more to inspire and motivate you on your journey to better health.” 

    “We’ll be able to innovate faster, provide more choices, and make even better products to support your health and wellness needs. On our own, we pushed the bounds of what was possible from the wrist, pioneering step, heart rate, sleep and stress tracking. With access to Google’s incredible resources, knowledge and global platform, the possibilities are truly limitless.” 

    Google announced on Thursday that it has completed its $2.1 billion acquisition of wearables maker Fitbit. The deal was first announced in November of...
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    Google workers join forces to establish a members-only labor union

    Organizers feel they can gain support due to reported workplace abuses

    More than 200 Google and Alphabet workers have banded together, trumpeting their intention to form a labor union -- The Alphabet Workers Union -- which will be open to both employees and contractors.

    Its goal will be to tackle ongoing issues like disparity in pay, mistreatment, and controversial government contracts -- many of the issues that a group of U.S. senators pushed Google to stop in 2019. 

    The structure of the union will be members-only. While going that route doesn’t allow the union to negotiate a new contract for its workforce, it will allow it to speak for any employee who seeks to participate, including temporary workers, contractors, and vendors.

    “We’ve had enough”

    While the organizing effort is still in its infancy and built mostly out of Google/Alphabet workers in the San Francisco Bay Area, its organizers are confident that the story they have to tell will help their effort spread.

    “For far too long, thousands of us at Google — and other subsidiaries of Alphabet, Google’s parent company — have had our workplace concerns dismissed by executives,” Parul Koul, the executive chair of the Alphabet Workers Union, and Chewy Shaw, the union’s vice chair, wrote in a guest editorial in the New York Times on Sunday.

    Koul and Shaw reminded the world that when Google was originally formed, its motto was “Don’t be evil,” then took the company to task for a litany of issues ranging from profiting from ads by a hate group to failing to make necessary changes to meaningfully address retention issues with people of color.

    How much can be accomplished?

    This is not the first time Google/Alphabet workers have joined forces to fight what they consider to be “abuses.” Organized workers at the company were able to get executives to drop Project Maven, the company’s artificial-intelligence program that the Pentagon contracted for, and Project Dragonfly, a strategy to launch a censored search engine in China. 

    Still, the organizers need to prepare for a fight. If the recent past is any indication, Google/Alphabet will not take this effort lightly. Just a month ago, the company was not only accused of violating labor laws by monitoring workers, but by going even further and allegedly retaliating against -- and firing -- workers who were trying to unionize.

    However, Koul and Shaw are confident that the effort can produce some positive results. They point out that some of Alphabet’s subcontractors “won a $15 minimum hourly wage, parental leave, and health insurance” after previous mobilization efforts. 

    “And the practice of forced arbitration for claims of sexual harassment was ended after the November 2018 walkout -- albeit only for full-time employees, not contractors. A few months later, Google announced that it would end forced arbitration for employees for all claims,” the pair wrote.

    More than 200 Google and Alphabet workers have banded together, trumpeting their intention to form a labor union -- The Alphabet Workers Union -- which wil...
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    Google suffers second outage in two days

    Tuesday’s outage affected a ‘significant subset’ of Gmail users

    Consumers and businesses that rely on Google services may have noticed an interruption in service over the last two days.

    The tech giant has confirmed that its Gmail service was interrupted for a time on Tuesday, affecting a “significant subset” of users. Service has now been restored. It follows a larger outage on Monday that affected users worldwide. In addition to Gmail -- Google Docs, YouTube, and many other services went dark for about an hour and a half.

    In Tuesday’s outage, Google said affected users were able to access their Gmail accounts but received error messages and experienced high latency and other unusual behavior. The company said the trouble began at 3 pm ET. DownDetector, a service tracking problems with the internet, reported complaints to its portal peaked around 5 pm ET.

    Affected users received a bounce notification with the error "The email account that you tried to reach does not exist" after sending an email to addresses ending in @gmail.com.

    Consumers using Google’s gaming platform, Stadia, also reported issues that were “prohibiting some users from launching games" before that issue was resolved. Google has not said what caused the outages.

    “The problem with Gmail has been resolved,” Google reported shortly before 7 pm ET Tuesday. “We apologize for the inconvenience and thank you for your patience and continued support. Please rest assured that system reliability is a top priority at Google, and we are making continuous improvements to make our systems better. If you are still experiencing an issue, please contact us via the Google Help Center.”

    Consumers and businesses that rely on Google services may have noticed an interruption in service over the last two days.The tech giant has confirmed t...
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    Google to pushes back employees’ return to offices until September 2021

    The company also wants to try out a ‘flexible workweek’ after the pandemic

    Google has announced that it’s delaying its planned return to the office until September 2021 in light of the continuing COVID-19 pandemic. 

    Google has already pushed its return-to-office date several times: first to January 2021, then to July, and now the company is targeting September. The company is also considering implementing a “flexible workweek” after allowing employees back into the office. 

    In an email to employees over the weekend, Alphabet CEO Sundar Pichai said Google is considering a new policy under which employees would come into the office three days a week and work from home the other days. The days in the office would be known as “collaboration days.” 

    Increasing productivity

    Google executives have long believed that facilitating organic interactions between coworkers, such as in campus cafes and kitchens, can help spur new ideas and boost productivity. 

    “We are testing a hypothesis that a flexible work model will lead to greater productivity, collaboration, and well-being,” Pichai wrote in an email obtained by The New York Times. “No company at our scale has ever created a fully hybrid work force model — though a few are starting to test it — so it will be interesting to try.”

    To keep workers safe, teams would be able to reserve collaboration spaces for up to a dozen people. Larger gatherings would take place outdoors. To lower the risk of coronavirus spreading, the company will be changing up its office designs and making single desks available to employees. 

    Google executives haven’t said whether the company will require employees to take the COVID-19 vaccine before returning to the office. 

    The tech giant has said it is “looking for opportunities in mid-to-late 2021 to help make Covid-19 vaccines available to its workers, but only after high-risk and high-priority people globally have received the vaccines,” according to the New York Times.

    Google has announced that it’s delaying its planned return to the office until September 2021 in light of the continuing COVID-19 pandemic. Google has...
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