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Privacy is not a problem for Google! Everything you need to know about Google’s Keynote I/O 2019

What did Google announced in the annual two-hour keynote at the Google I/O Conference? If you didn’t have time to watch it all, we’ve watched it for you and summed it up in this article.

Slavica Grgić

May 8, 2019

Google Keynote I/O is technically a developers conference, but tech geeks all over the world gather to watch it, guessing what Google will present this year. Privacy is still a big issue and Google recognized what the users want.

We already wrote about the changes in the privacy settings Facebook rolled out at the beginning of this year. Since the Cambridge Analytics scandal, Facebook invested a lot of effort in overcoming security and privacy issues and improving the existing tools. With the new European Parliament Elections on the horizon, Facebook has been making big changes to the way political ads will be displayed on this social media network.

Google decided to up the game and let users decide what they wish to share with them, making the privacy settings more accessible and more transparent. As Josh Constine from Techcrunch noted, Facebook still lags behind Google on the security issues:

“For Facebook,  privacy is a talking point meant to boost confidence in sharing, deter regulators, and repair its battered image. For Google, privacy is functional, going hand-in-hand with on-device data processing to make features faster and more widely accessible.”

So, what did Google announced in the annual two-hour keynote at the Google I/O Conference? If you didn’t have time to watch it all, we’ve watched it for you and summed it up in this article.

📲 Google Pixel 3a and 3a XL

We’ve heard the rumors about the new, more affordable versions of its Pixel 3 phones, and they were indeed revealed at the Keynote I/O conference. Google has been struggling to keep the sales of the smartphones up, as well as the rest of the industry. Pixel 3 sales figures were not amazing and the 2 more affordable smartphones should improve those numbers.

Some compromises needed to be made to reach the lower price point, but other than that, Google offered a great piece of hardware with a supreme camera and Android P out of the box. The sales of two new Google Pixel smartphones should start shortly, and only the time will tell will the users fell in love with them.

👂 Duplex on the web (new functionalities)

Google Duplex is now available on the web.

Last year Google introduced Google Duplex, your digital assistant that can book restaurant reservations and appointments for you, the world got a personal assistant that can actually help you with your everyday tasks. In this year’s Keynote I/O presentation, Google’s CEO Sundar Pichai presented on stage how Google Duplex works. It is now available in 44 States in the US and it can pre-fill the forms for you, leaving you with more time for other tasks.

Voice recognition model was shrunk down to half a gigabyte, making it small enough to fit on your phone. Before the update, you had to have a quality internet connection to use the Voice Assistant, and with this update, you’ll be able to use Voice Assistant’s functionalities even with a bad internet connection or offline.

👁 New functionalities of Google Lens

Google Lens is Google’s AI-powered technology that uses your smartphone camera not only to detect objects but to contextualize information, search for them or translate for you. Since the release in 2017, it is constantly being upgraded to understand and do even more.

On the Keynote, new functionalities of Google Lens were presented. Now Google Lens can search for exact dishes on a menu and surface photos of that dish based on your Google Maps information.

Some magazines like the Bon Appétit Magazine partnered with Google Lens to provide the interactive experience to the readers.

🗺 Incognito mode in Google Maps

New incognito mode in Google Maps.

Incognito mode in Google Maps will prevent saving your destination searches or routes to the device you’re using or to your Google account history. Privacy has been of great importance on this year’s keynote, and this is one way Google is enabling users to know what data about them is being saved.

⌨ Live captions and live transcribe

Android devices will soon be able to caption media, video calls or even videos you’ve recorded. This function will especially be helpful to speech-impaired persons, helping them make phone calls without having to speak or listen. Live Relay uses on-device speech recognition and text-to-speech conversion, allowing a phone to listen and speak on someone’s behalf.

📱 Android Q

New Android was introduced, and it can be downloaded starting today. The biggest change it’s brining is the new dark theme which will save your battery life. Google also added a new feature called the Focus Mode which allows you to select particular apps you don’t want to use during the specific time.

🏠 New Google Next Hub Max

New Nest Hub Max was introduced, offering a security camera, smart display, and loudspeakers in a single gadget. With a built-in camera, it will offer new ways to communicate. With the rise of voice searches, users will use devices like this to search, communicate and even shop.

🔎 What about privacy?

Google made progress on privacy issues, moving to a functional approach, going hand-in-hand with on-device data. You’ve probably felt like you’re being followed once, being bombarded with the ads on any page you visit. As we spend more time online, we want to be more private. And users are not buying empty promises as they used to, recognizing the discern between promises and delivery.

Kevin Roose, Tech Columnist for NYT summed it up in his tweet.

For Sundar Pichai, work on privacy and security is never done. Google has been steadily working on making privacy setting more accessible in the past ten years, starting with the Chrome incognito mode. Nowadays, not only you can use your Android device as a physical security key, bringing those safety up for all the Google accounts you might be using, you can also choose do you want your web and app activity deleted after 3 or 18 months. A new auto-delete feature will become available in the following weeks.

🕵 New privacy settings

In the midst of the Keynote I/O, Google announced new privacy settings on the series of their products. Chrome announced the plans to improve cookie controls. It will help protect user privacy and choice on the web. Chrome is planning to make it easier for users to block or clear cookies in a third-party context.

Chrome has enabled users to block cookies, but this function will enable them to say when to store them and when to not.

Ads transparency

We already mentioned Facebook’s attempts to make the ads more transparent, and Google is on the same road of enabling users to know what data is used for ads personalization and by whom.

That’s why today we’re committing to a new level of ads transparency. We want to give users more visibility into the data used to personalize ads and the companies involved in the process.

Prabhakar Raghavan
SVP, Google Ads & Commerce

With tools like My Activity, Ad Setting, Why this Ad and Mute this Ad, Google is making it easy for people to find out why an ad is being shown to them or switching off individual factors that are used for ads.

🥊 Google vs. Facebook on privacy

Pichai didn’t need to resort to grand promises, he simply defended Google’s approach to data and privacy. Don’t forget, Google also collects data to make its services better and more useful. Not only it makes it more useful directly for you, but the acronymed data allows Google to improve the products for all the users. It can be grouping the pictures in the albums or predicting what is the next thing you’re going to write. With ferrated learning, a new approach to machine learning invented by Google, products like Gboard get better, faster—without collecting data from your device.

According to the new study by Edison Research, Facebook has been losing users in the United States, and the privacy scandals have certainly not been helpful to the public image of the biggest social media network.

Google is not afraid that he will lose profit this way. Privacy is not a PR strategy like we’ve seen in other cases, but much more. It is an essential part of every product, foundations of building a user-first technology.

I think you’ll also find these articles interesting! 👇 💁

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