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Facebook’s new Portal increases privacy, but is still searching for a reason to exist

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The timing of the original Portal’s launch was less than ideal. The company reportedly pushed things back as the Cambridge Analytica scandal hit full broil, only to be hit with another data breach disclosure. If there’s a lesson to be learned with this year’s sequel, it’s that there may just not be a good time for the company to release a camera-mounted piece of home hardware.

If nothing else, the seemingly endless parade of bad publicity has had the knock-on effect of making the company particularly proactive about privacy in a way the competition lacks. One of my main complaints about Google’s Nest Hub Max is the lack of a physical camera shutter. The original Portal, meanwhile, came with a small piece of plastic that clipped over the camera.

“It was a nice thought, but, practically, users might lose that, and it’s not always visible and available for users who want to cover the camera gracefully,” Facebook Director, Product Management Micah Collins told TechCrunch. “So we wanted to make sure that was a very integral and communicative part of the design.”

Portal Call 1

The new version of the device swaps that in-box piece of plastic for a three-position physical button. All the way to right is open and ready for business. The middle covers the camera with a built-in physical shutter while keeping the mic on. Going all the way to the left disconnects both the camera and microphone. That also turns on a red LED, letting you know definitely both are off. For my own purposes, that middle setting is getting the most use. I suspect I won’t be alone on that front, either.

Of course, disabling the camera sort of defeats the primary purpose of the device. At its heart, the Portal is a home video conferencing product. The inclusion of things like Alexa smart display functionality and music services like Spotify and Pandora are nice, but they’re kind of bonuses. No one is buying a Portal because it’s a more compelling smart screen than an Echo Show or Google Nest Hub Max.

Facebook’s value proposition is its own ecosystem. It’s the implicit understanding that, if you’re a person who is on the internet, odds are you’ve already opted in to Facebook, Facebook Messenger and now WhatsApp. That’s where the device attempts to set itself apart.

The first generation did get a leg up with some very clever AI camera panning, zooming and framing. It was a great feature and one it would be nice to see incorporated into devices like the Echo Show, where the video chat experience leaves something to be desired. Google, meanwhile, adopted something similar for the Nest Hub Max (while the original, smaller device still lacks a camera), which surely has taken some of the wind out of Facebook’s sails here.

Alexa B

“Nest has done a fine job,” Collins says, diplomatically. “We’re really happy they followed our lead in that sense of trying to deliver a richer calling experience.”

One gets the feeling Facebook is very much trying to wrap its brain around what its differentiator is here, and the new version of the Portal doesn’t do much to clarify that mission statement. While the company insisted to me that the growing family of devices are a play in and of themselves, it’s hard to shake the notion that the Portal family operates better as a kind of reference design for how third-party hardware manufacturers might better integrate its services into their own designs.

I’m not suggesting, of course, that Facebook can’t break away from this paradigm. The Microsoft Surface line presents a model for moving from reference to viable product. At the moment, however, there’s not a lot to recommend Facebook’s offerings, particularly with the external cloud of privacy offerings.

That said, there are things that can be taken away from this generation. The picture frame design, while far less interesting and aesthetically pleasing than its predecessor, does point to what is likely the future of these devices: a push to more seamlessly blend in with their surroundings. As the novelty of the category begins to wear off, more users are likely to choose function over form.

There’s also the clever kickstand. I’ll admit, I was a little baffled when I took the plug out of the box, but the rigid bit jutting from the back allows you to flip between portrait and landscape mode, depending on the source on the other end (mobile versus another Portal device), which would otherwise appear with letterboxing on the sides.

Alexa A

The Portal includes some other nice touches. The company’s adding additional AR Effects and Story Time stories. Like the rest of the Alexa-powered smart displays, Portal lacks a YouTube app, though you can access that through the built-in browser. It’s an inconvenient workaround, but good to have nonetheless, given how key a service like YouTube feels to a smart display like this.

Otherwise, the less universal Facebook Watch is your primary video source here. There are 14 apps currently listed in the onboard store, including those that are already pre-installed. The list includes big names like CNN, Food Network, Pandora, Spotify and iHeartRadio. Beyond that, you’re going to be relying on the built-in browser, requiring a lot of typing on an upright screen.

The price is certainly decent. At $179, I can’t imagine Facebook is making a ton of money on these. In fact, it’s not entirely clear why Facebook is making the Portal at all, outside of the stock line of “want[ing] to connect the world.” Perhaps once it figures out that, it will have a reason why the rest of us should get on board.

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What can ChatGPT do?

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ChatGPT Explained

ChatGPT is a large language model developed by OpenAI that is trained on a massive amount of text data. It is capable of generating human-like text and has been used in a variety of applications, such as chatbots, language translation, and text summarization.

One of the key features of ChatGPT is its ability to generate text that is similar to human writing. This is achieved through the use of a transformer architecture, which allows the model to understand the context and relationships between words in a sentence. The transformer architecture is a type of neural network that is designed to process sequential data, such as natural language.

Another important aspect of ChatGPT is its ability to generate text that is contextually relevant. This means that the model is able to understand the context of a conversation and generate responses that are appropriate to the conversation. This is accomplished by the use of a technique called “masked language modeling,” which allows the model to predict the next word in a sentence based on the context of the previous words.

One of the most popular applications of ChatGPT is in the creation of chatbots. Chatbots are computer programs that simulate human conversation and can be used in customer service, sales, and other applications. ChatGPT is particularly well-suited for this task because of its ability to generate human-like text and understand context.

Another application of ChatGPT is language translation. By training the model on a large amount of text data in multiple languages, it can be used to translate text from one language to another. The model is able to understand the meaning of the text and generate a translation that is grammatically correct and semantically equivalent.

In addition to chatbots and language translation, ChatGPT can also be used for text summarization. This is the process of taking a large amount of text and condensing it into a shorter, more concise version. ChatGPT is able to understand the main ideas of the text and generate a summary that captures the most important information.

Despite its many capabilities and applications, ChatGPT is not without its limitations. One of the main challenges with using language models like ChatGPT is the risk of generating text that is biased or offensive. This can occur when the model is trained on text data that contains biases or stereotypes. To address this, OpenAI has implemented a number of techniques to reduce bias in the training data and in the model itself.

In conclusion, ChatGPT is a powerful language model that is capable of generating human-like text and understanding context. It has a wide range of applications, including chatbots, language translation, and text summarization. While there are limitations to its use, ongoing research and development is aimed at improving the model’s performance and reducing the risk of bias.

** The above article has been written 100% by ChatGPT. This is an example of what can be done with AI. This was done to show the advanced text that can be written by an automated AI.

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Google December Product Reviews Update Affects More Than English Language Sites? via @sejournal, @martinibuster

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Google’s Product Reviews update was announced to be rolling out to the English language. No mention was made as to if or when it would roll out to other languages. Mueller answered a question as to whether it is rolling out to other languages.

Google December 2021 Product Reviews Update

On December 1, 2021, Google announced on Twitter that a Product Review update would be rolling out that would focus on English language web pages.

The focus of the update was for improving the quality of reviews shown in Google search, specifically targeting review sites.

A Googler tweeted a description of the kinds of sites that would be targeted for demotion in the search rankings:

“Mainly relevant to sites that post articles reviewing products.

Think of sites like “best TVs under $200″.com.

Goal is to improve the quality and usefulness of reviews we show users.”

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Google also published a blog post with more guidance on the product review update that introduced two new best practices that Google’s algorithm would be looking for.

The first best practice was a requirement of evidence that a product was actually handled and reviewed.

The second best practice was to provide links to more than one place that a user could purchase the product.

The Twitter announcement stated that it was rolling out to English language websites. The blog post did not mention what languages it was rolling out to nor did the blog post specify that the product review update was limited to the English language.

Google’s Mueller Thinking About Product Reviews Update

Screenshot of Google's John Mueller trying to recall if December Product Review Update affects more than the English language

Screenshot of Google's John Mueller trying to recall if December Product Review Update affects more than the English language

Product Review Update Targets More Languages?

The person asking the question was rightly under the impression that the product review update only affected English language search results.

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But he asserted that he was seeing search volatility in the German language that appears to be related to Google’s December 2021 Product Review Update.

This is his question:

“I was seeing some movements in German search as well.

So I was wondering if there could also be an effect on websites in other languages by this product reviews update… because we had lots of movement and volatility in the last weeks.

…My question is, is it possible that the product reviews update affects other sites as well?”

John Mueller answered:

“I don’t know… like other languages?

My assumption was this was global and and across all languages.

But I don’t know what we announced in the blog post specifically.

But usually we try to push the engineering team to make a decision on that so that we can document it properly in the blog post.

I don’t know if that happened with the product reviews update. I don’t recall the complete blog post.

But it’s… from my point of view it seems like something that we could be doing in multiple languages and wouldn’t be tied to English.

And even if it were English initially, it feels like something that is relevant across the board, and we should try to find ways to roll that out to other languages over time as well.

So I’m not particularly surprised that you see changes in Germany.

But I also don’t know what we actually announced with regards to the locations and languages that are involved.”

Does Product Reviews Update Affect More Languages?

While the tweeted announcement specified that the product reviews update was limited to the English language the official blog post did not mention any such limitations.

Google’s John Mueller offered his opinion that the product reviews update is something that Google could do in multiple languages.

One must wonder if the tweet was meant to communicate that the update was rolling out first in English and subsequently to other languages.

It’s unclear if the product reviews update was rolled out globally to more languages. Hopefully Google will clarify this soon.

Citations

Google Blog Post About Product Reviews Update

Product reviews update and your site

Google’s New Product Reviews Guidelines

Write high quality product reviews

John Mueller Discusses If Product Reviews Update Is Global

Watch Mueller answer the question at the 14:00 Minute Mark

[embedded content]

Searchenginejournal.com

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Survey says: Amazon, Google more trusted with your personal data than Apple is

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survey-says:-amazon,-google-more-trusted-with-your-personal-data-than-apple-is-–-phonearena
 

MacRumors reveals that more people feel better with their personal data in the hands of Amazon and Google than Apple’s. Companies that the public really doesn’t trust when it comes to their personal data include Facebook, TikTok, and Instagram.

The survey asked over 1,000 internet users in the U.S. how much they trusted certain companies such as Facebook, TikTok, Instagram, WhatsApp, YouTube, Google, Microsoft, Apple, and Amazon to handle their user data and browsing activity responsibly.

Amazon and Google are considered by survey respondents to be more trustworthy than Apple

Those surveyed were asked whether they trusted these firms with their personal data “a great deal,” “a good amount,” “not much,” or “not at all.” Respondents could also answer that they had no opinion about a particular company. 18% of those polled said that they trust Apple “a great deal” which topped the 14% received by Google and Amazon.

However, 39% said that they trust Amazon  by “a good amount” with Google picking up 34% of the votes in that same category. Only 26% of those answering said that they trust Apple by “a good amount.” The first two responses, “a great deal” and “a good amount,” are considered positive replies for a company. “Not much” and “not at all” are considered negative responses.

By adding up the scores in the positive categories,

Apple tallied a score of 44% (18% said it trusted Apple with its personal data “a great deal” while 26% said it trusted Apple “a good amount”). But that placed the tech giant third after Amazon’s 53% and Google’s 48%. After Apple, Microsoft finished fourth with 43%, YouTube (which is owned by Google) was fifth with 35%, and Facebook was sixth at 20%.

Rounding out the remainder of the nine firms in the survey, Instagram placed seventh with a positive score of 19%, WhatsApp was eighth with a score of 15%, and TikTok was last at 12%.

Looking at the scoring for the two negative responses (“not much,” or “not at all”), Facebook had a combined negative score of 72% making it the least trusted company in the survey. TikTok was next at 63% with Instagram following at 60%. WhatsApp and YouTube were both in the middle of the pact at 53% followed next by Google and Microsoft at 47% and 42% respectively. Apple and Amazon each had the lowest combined negative scores at 40% each.

74% of those surveyed called targeted online ads invasive

The survey also found that a whopping 82% of respondents found targeted online ads annoying and 74% called them invasive. Just 27% found such ads helpful. This response doesn’t exactly track the 62% of iOS users who have used Apple’s App Tracking Transparency feature to opt-out of being tracked while browsing websites and using apps. The tracking allows third-party firms to send users targeted ads online which is something that they cannot do to users who have opted out.

The 38% of iOS users who decided not to opt out of being tracked might have done so because they find it convenient to receive targeted ads about a certain product that they looked up online. But is ATT actually doing anything?

Marketing strategy consultant Eric Seufert said last summer, “Anyone opting out of tracking right now is basically having the same level of data collected as they were before. Apple hasn’t actually deterred the behavior that they have called out as being so reprehensible, so they are kind of complicit in it happening.”

The Financial Times says that iPhone users are being lumped together by certain behaviors instead of unique ID numbers in order to send targeted ads. Facebook chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg says that the company is working to rebuild its ad infrastructure “using more aggregate or anonymized data.”

Aggregated data is a collection of individual data that is used to create high-level data. Anonymized data is data that removes any information that can be used to identify the people in a group.

When consumers were asked how often do they think that their phones or other tech devices are listening in to them in ways that they didn’t agree to, 72% answered “very often” or “somewhat often.” 28% responded by saying “rarely” or “never.”

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