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Google Assistant gets an incognito-like guest mode

Google is launching a few new privacy features today that include a refreshed Safety Center that’s now live in the U.S. and coming soon globally, as well as more prominent alerts when the company expects that your account has been tampered with.

The most interesting new feature, however, is a new Guest mode for the Google Assistant on Google-branded devices. Not to be confused with giving guests access to your Google Chromecast, for example, this new Guest mode is more akin to the incognito mode in your browser. With Guest mode on, which you invoke by saying “Hey Google, turn on guest mode,” the Assistant won’t offer personalized responses and your interactions won’t be saved to your account. It’ll stay on until you turn it off.

Typically, the Google Assistant saves all of your interactions to your account.  You can delete those manually or have Google automatically delete them after 3, 18 or 36 months. You can also prevent it from saving any audio recordings at all.

This new feature will roll out to smart speakers and displays in the coming weeks.

Talking about deleting your data, Google today also announced that you will soon be able to edit your Location History data in the Google Maps Timeline.

Also new: when you now search for “Is my Google Account secure” or use a similar query, Google will start displaying your security and privacy settings for you. That’s actually a useful step forward, given that we’ve reached a point where those settings are often hard to find.

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Google unveils Maps, Search and YouTube features in India to help people combat coronavirus

Google has launched a website dedicated to coronavirus updates in India and tweaked its search engine and YouTube to prominently display authoritative information and locally relevant details about the pandemic from the nation’s Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, the company said on Monday.

Additionally, Google is also showing more than 1,500 food and night shelters in about three dozen cities in India on Google Maps and Search to guide people in need, it said. Millions of migrant workers in India recently started to head to their home towns as their work disappeared after New Delhi ordered a 21-day lockdown across the nation last month to fight the spread of the infectious disease.

People can also find these locations by asking Google Assistant about “food shelters,” for instance, in English and Hindi. Assistant is available to users on smartphones, KaiOS-powered feature phones and through a Vodafone-Idea phone line. (The company said it is working on supporting additional Indian languages.)

The Mountain View-headquartered giant, which counts India among one of its key overseas markets, said it has published COVID-19 Community Mobility Reports to help health officials in the country in their decision-making. The reports capture how traffic and movement across public places such as parks, transit stations and grocery stores have changed in the country in recent weeks.

On Maps, Google has also introduced Nearby Spot on Maps to help people in the nation find local stores that are providing essential items such as groceries.

YouTube and Search are showing consolidated information including the top news stories, links to MoHFW resources, as well as access to authoritative content on symptoms, prevention, treatments and more, Google said. YouTube has additionally also launched a ‘Coronavirus News Shelf’, feature atop the homepage that provides the latest news from authoritative media outlets regarding the outbreak.

In recent weeks, Google’s Pay service, as well as Walmart’s PhonePe and Paytm, introduced simplified ways to donate to Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s fund to fight the coronavirus. Google said people have used its payments service to donate north of $13 million to date.

More to follow…

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Google Assistant now works with Tile to find your lost stuff

Google Assistant is today rolling out support for Tile’s Bluetooth tracker, designed to help you keep up with your often misplaced items — like your keys, purse, wallet, remote, and more. The new integration will allow Google Assistant users on any Nest device to ask questions like, “Hey Google, where is my purse?” They can instruct the Assistant to ring their device” by saying things like “Hey Google, make my backpack ring.”

Variations on these commands are also supported, like, “Hey Google, find my…” or “Hey Google, ring my…”

In addition, you can ask for the location of an item. If the item is in the house, the Assistant will return an appropriate location using Tile’s Bluetooth capabilities, by saying something like “your keys were last seen today at 9 PM near the Kitchen speaker.” If the item is out of Bluetooth range, the Assistant will instead return the item’s last known location, based on Tile’s location services.

Tile leverages its large network of Tile app users as a crowd-finding platform to help when items are missing. To date, the company has sold 22+ million Tile devices worldwide and is locating more than 5 million items per day across 230 countries.

Google announced its partnership with Tile back in September 2019, but had said at the time the feature would launch later that year.

The partnership arrives at a critical time for Tile’s business. Apple is reportedly preparing to launch a Tile competitor, possibly called AirTags, that integrates deeply with iOS. According to the latest forecast from well-known Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo, Apple in the first half of 2020 will introduce the product. But unlike Tile, Apple’s are ultra-wideband tags that promise greater accuracy than Bluetooth LE and Wi-Fi.

Evidence of Apple’s tags was already found in iOS 13 code, as well.

Apple’s plan to move into Tile’s business was one of the examples brought up in a recent congressional hearing about Apple’s anti-competitive practices. At the hearing, Tile general counsel Kirsten Daru commented on how hard it is to compete with Apple.

“You might be the best team in the league, but you’re playing against a team that owns the field, the ball, the stadium, and the entire league, and they can change the rules of the game at any time,” she said.

In this context, Tile’s move to partner with Google isn’t just about expanding its business — it’s also about saving it.

To take advantage of the new feature, you’ll need to set up your Tile to sync with the Google Home app.

Source: TechCrunch