Chats in Google Messages are about to get even more secure

Google has announced that it's bringing end-to-end encryption to group chats in the Google Messages app. The security upgrade is heading to beta users first before being rolled out more widely.

End-to-end encryption means no one, not even Google, can read the content of messages. It's already supported in the Google Messages app for one-to-one chats, but now (via The Verge) it's going to be added to group conversations as well.

“End-to-end encryption is starting to roll out for group chats and will be available to some users in the open beta program over the coming weeks,” Google says. “This shouldn’t even be a thought – just an expectation and something anyone texting should not have to worry about.”

From SMS to RCS

In the same announcement blog post, Google revealed that the ability to quickly react to a message with any emoji is coming to Google Messages soon as well. At the moment, only a selection of emojis can be used as reactions.

Alongside a mention of these new features, Google also continued to push hard for RCS (Rich Communication Services) to become the new standard for everyone – the technology, an upgrade on SMS, is now widely available but has yet to be adopted by Apple on its iPhones.

Google's post also acknowledged the 30th anniversary of the SMS, a milestone which emphasizes how old the technology is as well as how overdue we now are for a standard that can fully replace it.


Analysis: SMS should really be history

The arrival of SMS three decades ago helped to transform the way that we communicate with each other – even if the messages were limited in terms of characters, and many phones could only store a limited number of texts at any one time.

Now, apps like WhatsApp and Slack have taken us far, far beyond those limitations. Messages can be much longer and include photos, videos or audio, and we can even tell when recipients have opened up the messages we send them.

It's benefits like these that make RCS a worthwhile upgrade, improving the security of messages and making features such as group chats much better. Google didn't create the standard, but it is heavily promoting it.

However, whenever an iPhone user texts an Android user, SMS is still the protocol used. Google wants that to change, but it's unlikely that Apple ever will – Apple knows that iMessage is one of the key reasons that people stick with iPhones.

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Brave, DuckDuckGo just gave you another way to flip Google the middle finger

Brave has announced that its web browser will now allow users to bypass AMP pages hosted by Google, which it claims are harmful to both privacy and the state of the web.

The new De-AMP feature will instead funnel web users to content hosted directly on the publisher’s website, minimizing the opportunity for additional tracking and meddling to take place.

Not to be outdone, rival privacy software company DuckDuckGo rushed to Twitter to reveal that its apps and extensions now offer similar functionality, but the specifics of the implementation are not yet clear.

Google’s AMP troubles

Rolled out in 2015, AMP (short for accelerated mobile pages) is a system whereby stripped-back versions of trending web pages are preloaded and served up via Google servers.

When AMP was first announced, Google said it beleived the system would help ensure rich web content such as video and animation would load rapidly and behave consistently across all platforms, thereby improving the web experience.

However, the scheme has come under criticism from publishers and privacy advocates alike, who say AMP gives Google yet more signals to gobble up in support of its digital advertising business, creates confusion as to the source of information and forces publishers to build their websites to Google’s desired spec.

“AMP harms users’ privacy, security and internet experience, and just as bad, AMP helps Google further monopolize and control the direction of the web,” wrote Brave, in a blog post.

And in a Twitter thread, DuckDuckGo presented a similar justification for its decision to move against the initiative.

“AMP technology is bad for privacy because it enables Google to track users even more,” said the firm. “And Google uses AMP to further entrench its monopoly, forcing the technology on publishers by prioritizing AMP links in search and favoring Google ads on AMP pages.”

Since the launch of AMP, a number of publishers (including Future plc., parent to TechRadar Pro) have abandoned the system. And now, browser vendors like Brave and DuckDuckGo are coming out with their own tools to help web users bypass AMP altogether.

“Where possible, De-AMP will rewrite links and URLs to prevent users from visiting AMP pages altogether,” explained Brave. “And in cases where that is not possible, Brave will watch as pages are being fetched and redirect users away from AMP pages before the page is even rendered, preventing AMP/Google code from being loaded and executed.”

Brave’s De-AMP feature is now available in both Nightly and Beta versions of its browser and will be enabled by default in the next full public release. TechRadar Pro is awaiting further specifics about DuckDuckGo’s efforts.

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Brave, DuckDuckGo just gave you another way to flip Google the middle finger

Brave has announced that its web browser will now allow users to bypass AMP pages hosted by Google, which it claims are harmful to both privacy and the state of the web.

The new De-AMP feature will instead funnel web users to content hosted directly on the publisher’s website, minimizing the opportunity for additional tracking and meddling to take place.

Not to be outdone, rival privacy software company DuckDuckGo rushed to Twitter to reveal that its apps and extensions now offer similar functionality, but the specifics of the implementation are not yet clear.

Google’s AMP troubles

Rolled out in 2015, AMP (short for accelerated mobile pages) is a system whereby stripped-back versions of trending web pages are preloaded and served up via Google servers.

When AMP was first announced, Google said it beleived the system would help ensure rich web content such as video and animation would load rapidly and behave consistently across all platforms, thereby improving the web experience.

However, the scheme has come under criticism from publishers and privacy advocates alike, who say AMP gives Google yet more signals to gobble up in support of its digital advertising business, creates confusion as to the source of information and forces publishers to build their websites to Google’s desired spec.

“AMP harms users’ privacy, security and internet experience, and just as bad, AMP helps Google further monopolize and control the direction of the web,” wrote Brave, in a blog post.

And in a Twitter thread, DuckDuckGo presented a similar justification for its decision to move against the initiative.

“AMP technology is bad for privacy because it enables Google to track users even more,” said the firm. “And Google uses AMP to further entrench its monopoly, forcing the technology on publishers by prioritizing AMP links in search and favoring Google ads on AMP pages.”

Since the launch of AMP, a number of publishers (including Future plc., parent to TechRadar Pro) have abandoned the system. And now, browser vendors like Brave and DuckDuckGo are coming out with their own tools to help web users bypass AMP altogether.

“Where possible, De-AMP will rewrite links and URLs to prevent users from visiting AMP pages altogether,” explained Brave. “And in cases where that is not possible, Brave will watch as pages are being fetched and redirect users away from AMP pages before the page is even rendered, preventing AMP/Google code from being loaded and executed.”

Brave’s De-AMP feature is now available in both Nightly and Beta versions of its browser and will be enabled by default in the next full public release. TechRadar Pro is awaiting further specifics about DuckDuckGo’s efforts.

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Google Docs is having some serious issues with its new “inclusive language” warnings

Google is nothing if not helpful: the search giant has built its reputation on making the internet more accessible and easier to navigate. But not all of its innovations are either clever or welcome. 

Take the latest change to Google Docs, which aims to highlight examples of non-inclusive language through pop-up warnings. 

You might think this is a good idea, helping to avoid “chairman” or “fireman” and other gendered language – and you'd be right. But Google has taken things a step further than it really needed to, leading to some pretty hilarious results.

Inclusive?

A viral tweet was the first warning sign that perhaps, just perhaps, this feature was a little overeager to correct common word usages. After all, is “landlord” really an example of of “words that may not be inclusive to all readers”? 

As Vice has ably demonstrated, Google's latest update to Docs – while undoubtedly well-intentioned – is annoying and broken, jumping in to suggest corrections to some things while blatantly ignoring others. 

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A good idea, poorly executed 

The idea behind the feature is well-meaning and will likely help in certain cases. The execution, on the other hand, is poor. 

Vice found that Docs suggested more inclusive language in a range of scenarios, such as for “annoyed” or “Motherboard”, but failed to suggest anything when a speech from neo-Nazi Klan leader David Duke was pasted in, containing the N-word. 

In fact, Valerie Solanas’ SCUM Manifesto – a legendary piece of literature – got more edits than Duke's speech, including suggesting “police officers” instead of “policemen”. 

All in all, it's the latest example of an AI-powered feature that seems like a good idea but in practice has more holes than a Swiss cheese. 

Helping people write in a more inclusive way is a lofty goal, but the implementation leaves a lot to be desired and, ultimately, makes the process of writing harder. 

Via Vice

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This Google Sheets update should stop you messing up formulas at last

Google Sheets is looking to help spreadsheet users everywhere with the launch of a new tool that will let you write formulas faster and better.

The company has launched “intelligent corrections” for formulas in Google Sheets, context-aware fixes that it says help you improve and troubleshoot many different kinds of formulas.

“Now, you can write formulas faster and with higher confidence with formula corrections,” the company wrote in a Google Workspace blog post announcing the news.

Google Sheets formulas

Going forward, when writing a formula into Sheets, the new feature will analyze it and see if any improvements could be made. If so, a suggestion box will appear with details on a new version that can replace the current formula, including the ability to accept or reject it.

Google says the new addition can help with a number of common formula issues, including VLOOKUP errors, missing cells in range input, and locking ranges when applying formulas across cells.

The new feature is rolling out now, and will be enabled by default for all Google Workspace customers, as well as legacy G Suite Basic and Business customers, and users with personal Google Accounts. It can be disabled if it proves too much of a hindrance, by going to Tools > Enable formula corrections or from the three-dot menu of the suggestion dialog box.

The announcement follows a similar update in August 2021 which saw Google Sheets introduce intelligent formula suggestions, with the program able to offer ideas based on the data in question and the user’s initial input.

Google said that the new formula suggestions will make it easier to write new formulas accurately and help make data analysis quicker and easier.

The company also recently revealed that it was increasing the cell limit in Google Sheets from up to five million cells to up to ten million cells.

The new limit isn't just for newly-created files either, but also existing and imported files, meaning you can expand to your heart's content. 

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You can finally get unlimited Google Photos storage but there’s a catch

A new Google One membership is on the way, offering users unlimited Google Photos cloud storage – however it’s only available to T-Mobile customers in the US, and it’ll cost $ 15 per month. 

Google Photos delivers one of the best photo cloud storage services – ideal for users who upload a lot of high-res images. T-Mobile’s latest Google One membership plan, which the mobile network provider says is launching soon, will also give users 2TB of cloud storage across Gmail and Google Drive. This matches the current top-tier Google One subscription package offered to all Google account holders.

What makes the mobile brand’s announcement unique is that not even Google is giving away unlimited Photos storage for high-quality uploads. 

The One membership

It wasn’t that long ago that Google Photos used to offer unlimited high-quality uploads – a promise it had kept since its unveiling in 2015. 

However back in June 2021, the company started limiting basic users to just 15GB free cloud storage across Google Photos, Drive, and Gmail. 

In a move that mirrors Apple’s own iCloud expanded storage subscription options, media-heavy users looking to expand or upgrade their cloud storage options must join the Google One subscription service. 

Google One is billed as ‘one membership to get more out of Google’. The packages, which are available on a Basic, Standard, and Premium subscription tier, includes perks like expanded Google Drive cloud storage and a VPN for Android and iOS – all of which can be shared with up to five family and friends.  

Finding the right Google One plan

The newest option builds on T-Mobile’s two existing Google One packages: $ 5 a month nets customers 500GB of storage, while a monthly fee of $ 10 delivers 2TB of cloud storage without unlimited Google Photos. 

However, if it makes you feel better, note that T-Mobile’s unlimited photo and video storage plan is only available to the main account holder. 

T-Mobile’s unlimited Google Photos plan will be available from April 26 2022. 

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Proton launches a privacy-first alternative to Google Calendar for Android

Building on its VPN and secure email service, Proton has launched an encrypted calendar app for Android as part of its mission to create a better internet where privacy is the default.

Proton Calendar first launched on desktop back in 2020 and last year, the company released a beta version of its encrypted mobile calendar app.

Share your thoughts on Cybersecurity and get a free copy of the Hacker’s Manual 2022. Help us find how businesses are preparing for the post-Covid world and the implications of these activities on their cybersecurity plans. Enter your email at the end of this survey to get the bookazine, worth $ 10.99/£10.99.

While securing your calendar may not be the first thing that comes to mind in regard to protecting your privacy, it actually contains loads of personal data including who you meet and where you meet. As this information deserves the same level of protection as your email and files, Proton has stepped up to create the most secure calendar around.

Unlike other calendar apps, all of the event details including event names, participants, locations, notes and descriptions in Proton Calendar are fully encrypted to prevent others from gaining access to your schedule.

Proton Calendar for Android

Proton Calendar for Android includes a full set of advanced features and functionalities so it can easily replace Google Calendar or any other calendar app you may currently be using.

With Proton Calendar installed on your Android smartphone, you can easily switch between day, schedule and month view to see your calendar as you like and Proton has also created a widget which you can add to your home screen for a bird’s eye view of your upcoming events.

Proton has even included both a light and dark mode with the option to easily switch between the two as well as the ability to set multiple reminders on your phone and by email to ensure you’re always on time.

For those interested in switching to Proton Calendar, there are two ways to do so. First off, you can import your existing calendar by using Easy Switch from the settings menu of your ProtonMail account. However, you can also import a local calendar file with the .ics file extension directly into Proton Calendar.

Once your events arrive in Proton Calendar, they are automatically encrypted to help keep your data, plans and whereabouts private.

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Proton launches a privacy-first alternative to Google Calendar for Android

Building on its VPN and secure email service, Proton has launched an encrypted calendar app for Android as part of its mission to create a better internet where privacy is the default.

Proton Calendar first launched on desktop back in 2020 and last year, the company released a beta version of its encrypted mobile calendar app.

Share your thoughts on Cybersecurity and get a free copy of the Hacker’s Manual 2022. Help us find how businesses are preparing for the post-Covid world and the implications of these activities on their cybersecurity plans. Enter your email at the end of this survey to get the bookazine, worth $ 10.99/£10.99.

While securing your calendar may not be the first thing that comes to mind in regard to protecting your privacy, it actually contains loads of personal data including who you meet and where you meet. As this information deserves the same level of protection as your email and files, Proton has stepped up to create the most secure calendar around.

Unlike other calendar apps, all of the event details including event names, participants, locations, notes and descriptions in Proton Calendar are fully encrypted to prevent others from gaining access to your schedule.

Proton Calendar for Android

Proton Calendar for Android includes a full set of advanced features and functionalities so it can easily replace Google Calendar or any other calendar app you may currently be using.

With Proton Calendar installed on your Android smartphone, you can easily switch between day, schedule and month view to see your calendar as you like and Proton has also created a widget which you can add to your home screen for a bird’s eye view of your upcoming events.

Proton has even included both a light and dark mode with the option to easily switch between the two as well as the ability to set multiple reminders on your phone and by email to ensure you’re always on time.

For those interested in switching to Proton Calendar, there are two ways to do so. First off, you can import your existing calendar by using Easy Switch from the settings menu of your ProtonMail account. However, you can also import a local calendar file with the .ics file extension directly into Proton Calendar.

Once your events arrive in Proton Calendar, they are automatically encrypted to help keep your data, plans and whereabouts private.

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You can now join a video call straight from Google Docs

Joining a Meet video call is now easier than ever thanks to a new feature that will allow users to join directly from Google Docs, Sheets or Slides.

The Google Workspace update allows users to join a video conferencing call with just a click, meaning there's no need to scrabble around for a calendar invite or email.

Going forward, Google Docs users will see a new icon next to the “Share” button, allowing them to join a Meet video call directly from their document.

Google Docs video calls

The new taskbar will house a full list of all the video calls and meetings a users has scheduled, including dates and times, with the join button showing once a meeting is live.

As mentioned, it will be present not just in Google Docs, but also Sheets and Slides, giving users multiple ways to join.

Google Docs join a Meet call

(Image credit: Google Workspace)

Google says this new approach will also allow users to have the content they are working on open and within sight whilst on a call, rather than needing to juggle multiple apps or browser windows.

The tool was first announced last month, but is now rolling out to all Google Workspace customers, as well as legacy G Suite Basic and Business users now. It will be on by default, with users starting to see the changes immediately.

“To help teams do their best work in the hybrid work world, as many of us begin a return to office, we continue to make enhancements to Google Meet to help ensure that video meetings are inclusive and collaborative no matter the location or device preference,” the entry in the Google Workspace update blog states.

 “We hope this feature makes it easier for everyone in the meeting to collaborate in real-time while having a conversation—all from the same tab.”

Google Meet is also set to soon receive a new picture-in-picture mode, which will allow Chrome users to bring up a floating meeting window that sits on top of other browser tabs.

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