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Google did not forget about privacy at I/O 2022

Its annual developer conference saw new security features and some callbacks too.

Google introduced several measures to make its products secure-by-default and private-by-design at its I/O Developer Conference 2022, according to a blog post by the company. It also announced two new tools which allow users to control how their data is used by the company.

The first one lets users ask to purge their contact details — phone numbers, home, and email addresses — from Google Search results. This option can be used in the coming months by clicking on the three dots next to individual Google Search results, the company wrote.

Secondly, it introduced the ‘My Ad Centre’ which will permit users to control the ads they watch while using Google products. They will now be able to pick the ads they want to see more or less of and decide whether they want to personalise their ads. But these controls will only be rolled out later in the year.

“My Ad Centre gives you even more control over the ads you see on YouTube, Search, and your Discover feed, while still being able to block and report ads,” read the post by Google’s SVP for core systems and experiences Jen Fitzpatrick.

Google is a company whose model is cataloguing information and providing data to its users in a simplified manner. With these announcements, it seems to be moving towards using the information it collects from its users responsibly and offering users insight into how their personal data is processed by the company.


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Google’s tools to guard against cyber threats

The tech giant wrote that people are increasingly worried about the safety of their data online, and underscored the following measures for better protection:

  • Virtual Cards: The company has announced virtual cards for Chrome and Android. “When you use autofill to enter your payment details at checkout, virtual cards will add an additional layer of security by replacing your actual card number with a distinct, virtual number,” read the post. Users will not need to enter details like CVV at checkout manually, and one can manage them at pay.google.com. The feature will be rolling out in the US for Visa, American Express, and Mastercard in the summer. Google did not say whether it will be available in other parts of the world.
  • Account Safety Status: Google has also added safety status to apps so users do not have to worry about the security of their Google Account. It will sport a simple yellow alert icon on users’ profile picture that will flag actions they should take to secure their account.
  • Phishing protections in Google Workspace: The company has extended its phishing and malware protections from Gmail to Google Docs, Sheets, and Slides.
  • Automatic 2-Step Verification: Google is inching towards a passwordless option with 2-Step Verification (2SV) auto enrollment to help users instantly boost the security of their Google Accounts and reduce their risk of getting phished.

Offering Privacy-by-Design

Google wrote about the introduction of Protected Computing — a “toolkit of technologies” that manages how, when, and where data is processed to technically ensure the privacy and safety of users’ data. It does so by implementing the following measures:

  • Minimising data footprint: Google will use techniques like edge processing and ephemerality to shrink the amount of personally identifiable data.
  • De-identifying data: By blurring and randomising identifiable signals in addition to a bunch of anonymisation techniques, the company will strip users’ identities from the data. It also adds statistical noise to it.
  • Restricting access: No one will be able to access sensitive data as a result of technologies like end-to-end encryption and secure enclaves. Not even Google can access this sensitive data.

Update on Privacy Sandbox

Google also provided an update on its Privacy Sandbox. It said that it was testing trial versions of the Privacy Sandbox APIs in Chrome. “One of these is Federated Credential Management, a new way for browsers to support logins with any identity provider without relying on third-party cookies or libraries, making it easier for users to sign in or sign up on your site,” the company announced.

The company said that it will provide more updates on its Privacy Sandbox later this year.

Privacy Sandbox is a 2019 project by Google that restricts the use of activity-tracking cookies and instead, offers alternative tracking mechanisms outlined in a set of proposals that Google has dubbed ‘Privacy Sandbox’. Multiple marketers and publishers had criticised the move for being anti-competitive and a complaint was filed with the CMA, which triggered an investigation in January 2021.

Google announced in January this year that it was pulling the plug on Federated Learning of Cohorts (FLoC) and replacing it with Topics— a new Privacy Sandbox proposal for interest-based advertising, as per a blog post by Vinay Goel, Product Director, Privacy Sandbox, Chrome.

“Topics was informed by our learning and widespread community feedback from our earlier FLoC trials, and replaces our FLoC proposal,” the blog read.

Google began working on FLoC as an alternative to third-party cookies which the Chrome browser will be phasing out by 2023. The company said that it was launching a developer trial of Topics in Chrome soon for website developers and the ads industry that includes user controls.

Google Wallet for Android

The company rolled out Google Wallet which will be available in over 40 countries at first with plans to expand access to all Android users globally. Kevin Flanagan of Google explained that the company’s wallet will be able to store all kinds of credit and debit cards but it will not be limited to just cards.

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What are its functions? “Users will be able to quickly access their passes when they need them, and (they) will never have to worry about selecting which cards to carry in their Google Wallet. They can store their loyalty cards, gift cards, maybe some special offers or event tickets, boarding passes, transit tickets, or vaccine cards.

Flanagan explained that Google Wallet will be a common platform that makes it easier for device makers to provide a digital wallet on every Android device. He added that Google Wallet will be accessible from the device lock screen and from the pulldown shade.

Flanagan also said that the company is working on allowing users to store their driver’s licence in the Google Wallet. He added that the company has provided developers with Generic Passes API to digitise passes of any kind.

How will Google protect sensitive financial data?

Google said that its Wallet comes laced with privacy and security controls. “While it brings all of the security features of Android as its first line of defence, such as authentication, find my phone, remote data wipe, and more, users can rest easy knowing that their valuables stored in Google Wallet are safe and secure,” Flanagan said.

Flanagan informed that payments made using the Wallet are encrypted and card information is never shared with third parties. ”Privacy controls allow users to maintain full control over their data with transparency about what is shared and who has access to it.”

This post is released under a CC-BY-SA 4.0 license. Please feel free to republish on your site, with attribution and a link. Adaptation and rewriting, though allowed, should be true to the original.

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Written By

I cover several beats such as Crypto, Telecom, and OTT at MediaNama. I can be found loitering at my local theatre when I am off work consuming movies by the dozen.

MediaNama’s mission is to help build a digital ecosystem which is open, fair, global and competitive.

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