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Google’s Sundar Pichai pitches privacy for folks who can’t afford Apple

Google’s Sundar Pichai pitches privacy for folks who can’t afford Apple

In keeping with the current privacy-conscious zeitgeist, Google says it’s coming up with new ways to lock down your personal data while using its products.

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At the Google I/O developers’ conference, CEO Sundar Pichai said users will be able to manage their data by tapping their profile picture at the top of mobile search pages. This data portal will include access to the auto-deletion tool that Google announced last week.

Google is also working on an Incognito Mode for Maps, similar to the one that’s long existed in Chrome. While using Maps in Incognito Mode, Google says it won’t link any searches or navigation to your account. (Of course, you can also just disable Google’s location tracking altogether.) An Incognito Mode is coming to Google’s Search apps later this year as well.

As for Android, Google already announced that the Android Q update will let users cut off location data from apps that aren’t being actively used. Now, Google says it will remind users if an app is collecting location data in the background, and will let users change each app’s permissions through the  “Location” menu in settings. Android’s Settings menu is also getting an updated “Privacy” section, letting users check on activity data, ad preferences, and more.

Most interestingly, Pichai mentioned a new imitative called “Federated Learning,” which involves training AI models directly on users’ devices, then sending back updates to Google. The idea is to minimize or avoid sending users’ personal data to the cloud; Pichai gave the example of Google’s Gboard keyboard-learning popular slang from users without having to transmit everything that users type. It’s still early days for this type of machine learning, though, and it’s unclear exactly where else Google plans to use it.

Although Pichai didn’t mention Apple by name in his privacy pitch, he did suggest that privacy shouldn’t be a luxury product, and it’s not exactly a secret that Apple’s devices cost a bit more than most Android phones and Windows PCs.

“We strongly believe that privacy and security are for everyone,” he said, “not just a few.”

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