I attended a Google I/O Extended event on Tuesday at Google’s Kitchener office. It’s a get-together where there are demos, talks, workshops, and networking opportunities centred around watching the keynote live on the screen.
I treat it as an opportunity to keep an eye on what they’re up to this time, and a reminder that I know absolutely no one in the tech scene around here.
The first part of the day was a workshop about how to build Actions for the Google Assistant. I found the exercise to be very interesting.
After the workshop the tech head of the Google Home App stood up and delivered a talk about trying to get manufacturers to agree on how to talk to Google Home and the Google Assistant.
I asked whether these efforts in trying to normalize APIs and protocols was leading them to publish a standard with a standards body. “No idea, sorry.”
Then I noticed the questions from the crowd were following a theme: “Can we get finer privacy controls?” (The answer seemed to be that Google believes the controls are already fine enough) “How do you educate users about the duration the data is retained?” (It’s in the Terms of Service, but it isn’t read aloud. But Google logs every “consent moment” and keeps track of settings) “For the GDPR was there a challenge operating in multiple countries?” (Yes. They admitted that some of the “fine enough” privacy controls are finer in certain jurisdictions due to regs.) And, after the keynote, someone in the crowd asked what features Android might adopt (self-destruct buttons, maybe) to protect against Border Security-style threats.
It was very heartening to hear a room full of tech nerds from Toronto and Waterloo Region ask questions about Privacy and Security of a tech giant. It was incredibly validating to hear from the keynote that Chrome is considering privacy protections Firefox introduced last year.
Maybe we at Mozilla aren’t crazy to think that privacy is important, that users care about it, that it is at risk and big tech companies have the power and the responsibility to protect it.
Maybe. Maybe not.
Just keep those questions coming.