'Don't be evil' has long been Google's motto, enshrined in its code of conduct while the firm casually rebuffs a litany of Right to be Forgotten requests and antitrust probes, while eroding individual privacy down to a wafer-thin margin.
But since Google created its own parent company in the form of Alphabet, the motto now applies only to the core divisions of the search firm, such as YouTube and Android, while other areas have a new set of rules to follow.
Revealed on its investor pages Alphabet's code of conduct includes rules dictating that employees should "avoid conflicts of interest", "obey the law" and the pithy "ensure financial integrity and responsibility".
"Employees of Alphabet and its subsidiaries and controlled affiliates should do the right thing - follow the law, act honourably and treat each other with respect," it said.
We could extrapolate from this that Alphabet's employees are now allowed to be evil so long as it is legal. Somewhere someone is rubbing their hands in glee.
X, Alphabet's experimental division, also falls under this new code of conduct, and those with an active imagination could foresee a future of drones and driverless cars doing what they please on public highways, given that it is now legal for them to do so.
Alphabet also offers its senior members a kind of get-out-of-jail clause just in case they act evilly and against the law.
"Any waivers of this code for directors or executive officers must be approved by our board," the code of conduct said.
There are clear demarcations between the rules to which Google and Alphabet employees must adhere, notably over pets. Google has declared itself pro-canine: "We like cats, but we're a dog company."
Alphabet has no preference on pets, but will no doubt frown on employees bringing in endangered white rhinos, what with their movement strictly prohibited.
Perhaps this could see a strong separation in the division. Google may end up sporting a workforce of nice yet reckless do-gooder dog lovers, akin to the calamity prone Wallace of Gromit fame.
While Alphabet's future ranks could be formed of disciplined, cat-stroking evil geniuses, adept in working legal loopholes. Think lawyers merged with Connery-era Spectre Bond villains.
The definition of cool is abstract at best; one person's Rolls Royce is another's Reliant Robin. But that has not stopped The Centre for Brand Analysis deciding which companies have the ‘coolest' brand.
Possibly with too much time on its hands, the Centre has compiled a list of the top 20 cool brands of the year, embracing a range of sectors such as technology, fashion and cars. Sadly, waste disposal, sanitation and tone distribution were not considered.
Technology dominated the list, and the likes of Apple, Spotify, Google, Instagram, Sonos and YouTube made it into the top 20.
Surprising absolutely no one in the world who hasn't been living under a rock for the past decade, Apple took the number one spot. The company won the coolest brand for the fourth year running, no doubt fuelled by Jony Ive's rather fetching, if over-enthused about, product designs.
If Apple is as cool as a bath full of liquid nitrogen, Ray-Ban is the equivalent of a dip in the Arctic ocean while cradling a penguin, as the sunglasses company took the second spot.
One-time hippy commune and world's largest mud convention, Glastonbury, took the bronze medal, giving it the cool factor equivalent of ice-skating naked in a hailstorm.
Netflix, Nike, Instagram and YouTube also featured in the top 10, gaining the cool factor of having a massage from a yeti.
James Bond fans will be distraught to discover that Aston Martin, maker of the most beautiful cars to grace the planet, took only the tenth position.
That's right, the chariot of Britain's beloved fictional spy is held in less regard than a social media site known for pictures of people's food.
Google will be licking its wounds as it came outside the top 10, in the respectable position of twelfth but some way behind rival Apple.
Virgin Atlantic represented the world of transport at position 19, the cool equivalent of eating ice cream really fast, probably owing to its in-flight film service and cabin crew in Vivienne Westwood-designed uniforms.
Many technology and tech-related brands made it into the cool list, so perhaps the lack of diversity in the sector will be eroded as more women and under-represented groups turn their attention to the world's coolest tech brands.
02 Sep 2015
Fresh from announcing the creation of a new company called Alphabet to oversee the various weird and wonderful units that form Google, the company has now unveiled a new playful logo.
Tamar Yehoshua, vice president of product management at Google, said in a blog post that the redesign was an effort to create a logo that was more suited to the numerous ways in which people reach Google’s services.
“Today we’re introducing a new logo and identity family that reflects this reality and shows you when the Google magic is working for you, even on the tiniest screens,” he said.
“As you’ll see, we’ve taken the Google logo and branding, which were originally built for a single desktop browser page, and updated them for a world of seamless computing across an endless number of devices and different kinds of inputs (such as tap, type and talk).”
"You’ll see the new design roll out across our products soon. Hope you enjoy it!"
In a back-slapping video Google showed how it has evolved its services over time and that the four colours used across its services are indicative of its brand.
Google is using its search engine to uncover potential tech talent, it has been revealed, after a coder secured a job at the firm by entering a particularly technical query.
Max Rosett explained on The Hustle website that he was embarking on a career change and, as part of his research, turned to Google to solve a problem. This was when the magic started.
“One morning, while working on a project, I Googled 'python lambda function list comprehension'. The familiar blue links appeared, and I started to look for the most relevant one. But then something unusual happened,” he said.
"The search results split and folded back to reveal a box that said: 'You’re speaking our language. Up for a challenge?' I stared at the screen. What? After a moment I decided, yes, I was most definitely up for a challenge.”
From there Rosett explained that he was engaged in a series of coding challenges via Google's foo.bar webpage.
“I won’t post the problem here, but solving it required a bit of knowledge about algorithms. I had the option to code in Python or Java. I set to work and solved the first problem in a couple hours. Each time I submitted a solution, foo.bar tested my code against five hidden test cases,” he said.
"Once my solution passed all of those tests, I could submit it and request a new challenge. Over the next two weeks, I solved five more problems. After I solved the sixth problem, foo.bar gave me the option to submit my contact information."
A recruiter then called Rosett and, after he went through a more traditional one-to-one interview process, he ended up being hired by Google.
"Three months ago, I thought I wasn’t ready to apply for a job at Google. Google disagreed," he said.
20 Mar 2015
Back in December 2013 when Amazon announced it was going to start trailing the use of drones to provide rapid delivery of certain items a few eyebrows were raised.
Not only was the idea somewhat fanciful but the fact it was announced in the run-up to Christmas and so would gain Amazon plenty of digital column inches was also notable.
However, it appears Amazon wasn't just out to grab headlines and has now secured permission from the Federal Aviation Administration to fly such devices.
Specifically it received an “experimental airworthiness“ for “unmanned aircraft (UAS)” certificate, with some provisos.
“All flight operations must be conducted at 400 feet or below during daylight hours in visual meteorological conditions. The UAS must always remain within visual line-of-sight of the pilot and observer. The pilot actually flying the aircraft must have at least a private pilot’s certificate and current medical certification.”
Amazon must also provide monthly data to the FAA on topics including the number of flights conducted, pilot duty time per flight, unusual hardware or software malfunctions, any deviations from air traffic controllers’ instructions, and any unintended loss of communication links.
“The FAA includes these reporting requirements in all UAS experimental airworthiness certificates,” it added.
Amazon is not the only tech company to take to the skies, with Google and Facebook both donning their flying jackets to test the use of hot air balloons and gliders to deliver the internet to far-flung regions of the globe.
In the UK the rise of drones is causing some concerns among the powers that be, with a House of Lords report suggesting a full database of users and flights should be created to help track their use.
The number of people tapping away on smartphones in public is evidence of how deeply technology has penetrated everyday life.
But technology has now entered the afterlife following the news that Facebook will provide the ability to appoint ‘heirs' to manage an account when its owner dies.
The company explained how a ‘legacy contact' can be added to an account, allowing the assigned person to write a final post to be displayed on the deceased's timeline.
The account will then become a digital memorial which Facebook claims will allow other users to "pay tribute to the deceased".
Legacy contacts will also have the option to change the account's profile picture, meaning that the departed will have relinquished control over their final image.
Those looking to set up a legacy contact will need to pick a trustworthy friend who doesn't take advantage by adding an embarrassing picture to the memorialised profile.
More disturbing still is the ability for the heir to respond to new friend requests, opening up the potential for confusion, disruption to grieving, and rumours of a user's death being greatly exaggerated.
Those concerned about digital skeletons in the closet will be relieved to know that legacy contacts are not granted permission to sift through private Facebook messages.
Legacy contacts can also ask Facebook to permanently delete the account on its owner's death, bypassing the potential for any misunderstanding and inappropriate posting.
At first glance, the addition of legacy contacts on Facebook might seem macabre. But it highlights a growing concern about the status of someone's online information when they die.
Google introduced its take on digital heirs back in 2013, giving users the option to decide on the future of their data when they shuffle of the mortal coil.
The increasing amount of personal information people are pushing onto the internet will no doubt lead to more online services offering the option to assign digital heirs.
This might seem strange to non-digital natives and people who shun social networks, but for active users and future generations, the legacy of personal digital data is likely to receive the same level of consideration as physical possessions in the last will and testament of the deceased.
While the US is benefitting from Google's 1Gbps fibre service, called Fiber, UK citizens will sadly be left behind as the search giant confirms that it has no serious plans to bring its Fiber service to British shores.
Last week, a (clearly unreliable) source informed The Telegraph that Google was in talks with British fibre specialist CityFibre, with the intention of extending the Google Fiber project beyond the US and over to Blighty.
Unfortunately, this discussion broke down as concerns were voiced that CityFibre's existing partnership with BSkyB would be threatened. Despite this curveball, optimistic fibre fans held out hope that Google would lavish the UK with its full-fibre network.
Rumours remained in circulation until a Google spokesperson shot them down telling Engadget: "We have informal conversations with other telecom companies all the time. But we've never had any serious planning discussions about bringing Google Fiber to Britain."
This is a shame as Google Fiber, currently operating in four US cities and with plans to extended it to cover another 34, is a service that could well appeal to those stuck with slow broadband.
What makes the Google Fiber networks so coveted is that they use fibre-optic cabling for the entire network to deliver speeds of 1000Mbps. Comparatively, most of BT's fibre network delivers a 'mere' 76Mbps and rely on old copper wires to connect homes to the street-based cabinets.
Nevertheless there are some fibre projects in the works. In a bid to reduce their dependency on BT Openreach networks, a joint venture between BSkyB, TalkTalk and CityFibre aims to establish a 1Gbps city-wide fibre networking in York.
While the three companies have a vision to roll out the service to other UK cities, for the immediate future Britain has no alternative except to mourn the lack of Google Fiber.
The moment the European Court of Justice ruled that the people of Europe do have a right to be forgotten, the warning bells sounded. What on earth would such a woolly, hard-to-define ruling actually mean in the digital age?
It turns out, as many warned, it’s effectively creating a strange, quasi-censorship system that is forcing Google to remove links to news articles that almost certainly deserve to be in the public domain.
Google protested hard against the ruling but ultimately it must comply with the law. So it has chosen to start removing articles from its indexes, and letting the firms involved know. So far the BBC and The Guardian have reported that pieces have been removed from Google, such as a column by Robert Peston commenting on bankers' woes during the 2007 financial crisis.
It is not clear who made the requests, or why, but Google has decided that it must remove them. It could have possibly deferred the decisions to a legal authority, but instead has chosen to become the judge and jury of the requests it receives.
In many ways this isn’t Google’s fault. With over 50,000 requests piling up, it probably felt compelled to start making some decisions. However, the precedent is worrying.
Like it or loathe it, Google’s reach is huge, and removing a result from the index is a very good way of ensuring bad news is hidden away. While for some there may well be a legitimate reason to want a result removed, for most cases the motives could well be more questionable.
It's already been reported that some have asked for links regarding stories of tax dodgers, paedophiles and dodgy doctors to be removed from the Google search index. Again, the motives for this could come from an honest, understandable stance, but the outcome is worrying.
In effect, the European courts seem to have ended up creating a system of censorship, but rather than being the state that controls it, it is the people that have the right to try and hide themselves, with Google seemingly happy to process requests without question.
There are two points to consider though: firstly, the pressure this situation is creating for the EU could force it to amend its ruling. Secondly, with so many online outlets writing about the articles that are taken down, we could well see the Streisand effect come into play.
Perhaps Google is hoping for both outcomes, in order to show the EU courts how absurd the decision is proving.