Hashtag Trending Jan.30- Google’s Bard may be reading your email; Siri to get an AI makeover? The demise of the floppy disk

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Google’s Bard could be reading your email, rumours that Siri will finally get an AI makeover, the NSA is once again under pressure to stop buying your browser data from data brokers and we mourn the demise of the floppy disk. Anyone born after the year 2000 may have to google that one. 

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These and more top tech stories on this edition of Hashtag Trending

I’m your host Jim Love, CIO of IT World Canada and Tech News Day in the US.

9to5Google.com, a site that monitors all things Google is reporting that they have seen the latest version of Google Allo and that it looks like that Bard may be integrated with Google Messages.

From one standpoint, that sounds like good news as it will allow a greater degree of integration and email users can have greater access to AI to assist them in using and managing email. 

It appears that Bard will be able to draft messages, identify images and do other cool things like suggest books, offer recipes and more. 

So whether you need a well written message about why you are calling in sick or if you need a vegan meal for lunch, Bard is there for you. 

From the samples, Bard will interact with you so that Bard generates a response. You get a cute sparkle thing happening and you can give it a thumbs up or down. You can also copy, forward or star that message.

But how does Bard know about your email? How does it learn?  

That’s where the story gets a little fuzzy. According to 9TO5 Google, “chats with Bard are not end-to-end encrypted.” 

Now that’s a real surprise for all of us who thought that our mail was encrypted in transit and at rest. 

Turns out that might not be the case. Not only can Bard read your email, but apparently trained human reviewers can also see it. Reviewed data is “disconnected from your account and retained for up to 3 years.” 

And while Bard is processing somebody’s email, I’m still processing the thought of what happens to privacy?

Companies can say all they want about their AI not learning from our personal data, but I have to cry BS on that one.  Google claims it won’t use your email to train its models, but that’s kind of irresistible, isn’t it? How else does it learn from those thumbs up and down if it has no context. And what do those human trainers read, if not your email?

Unless the AI is run on your phone and never pings any data back to the mothership for processing, somewhere, this AI is reading my email.

This is going to take on even more importance as Apple joins the AI sweepstakes as well.

This is as much as I could figure as we went to press. We’ll keep digging and keep you up to date as we find out more. 

And I stand to be corrected by Google or anyone else smarter than me out there, which is a pretty big group. 

Sources include: Forbes, 9TO5Google

See one, play one, as we say in cribbage. 

A story in Apple Insider today reported that Apple’s iOS 17.4 beta has “signs for an AI-improved Siri and that Apple could announce an AI-powered version of Siri as soon as June. 

Apple is reported to be testing four different AI models including its own in-house large language model.  From what we’ve heard, they aren’t going to use ChatGPT, but they may be using it to test how well their own AI is doing. 

Apple also seems to be trying to figure out what gets processed on the device versus what happens on the server.

This is going to be a big question. Apple has always had Vegas rules for the iPhone. What happens on your iPhone is supposed to stay on your iPhone. 

Apple has been buying up AI companies that have particular expertise in smaller AI processing, suitable for a phone. But will they be able to make that work? 

But outside of the rumour mill, Apple is notoriously closed mouth about its product development. So we’ll find out if they really have been falling behind or if this is another sneak attack from Apple – let everyone else lead and then come to market with something that nobody saw coming.

The upcoming iOS 18 release is already being described as one of the biggest releases in Apple history. This should make Apple’s world wide developer conference in June a must see. 

Sources include: Apple Insider and TechCrunch

So what’s the big deal about the data on your device? Well, as it turns out, the NSA in the U.S. thinks it’s worth enough to buy your browser records. Yup. 

We covered this story a few months back, given the news about AI on your phone, and a recent announcement, it’s come to the forefront again. 

A U.S. Senator has formally requested that the NSA stop buying personal data from data brokers. There are questions about how that data is obtained in the first place, whether it was obtained legally.  

For years the NSA has been intercepting metadata from phones and internet communications. Supposedly they cannot spy on U.S. citizens (Canadians are probably fair game) but there is no doubt that in monitoring the great Maple Syrup conspiracy that they catch some Americans in the back and forth.

But it turns out that they don’t have to monitor traffic to get personal information when they can just buy it from data brokers, without permission from a judge or even informed consent. 

If it was all above board, they certainly didn’t advertise what they were doing. The practice became known a few months ago – as I noted, we covered it. 

And in response to this, and presumably pressure from this senator and others, the US Federal Trade Commission is suggesting that buying and selling unlawfully obtained data will no longer be tolerated. 

Which makes you want to ask – how much data out there is lawfully captured?

Sources include: The Register

And just so you don’t think that it’s only Google and Apple who may be facing the heat from regulators, OpenAI has once again drawn attention from Italy’s data protection authority. You may remember that the Italian authority is pretty aggressive – they had OpenAI in their sites a while ago, but the company addressed their concerns, especially allowing users to decline consent for their data to be used to train AI models. 

Well, the regulator said they would allow OpenAI to operate but would “continue their investigation.”  And they are back, saying that there are still privacy violations, although they did not elaborate. 

Presumably they did tell OpenAI who now has 30 days to respond.

Sources include: Axios

And for something completely different, Amazon cancelled its 1.4 billion acquisition of Roomba maker iRobot, due to opposition from European antitrust regulators.

This deal dates back to mid-2022 when Amazon announced a 1.7 billion dollar price tag, hoping to add the robot vacuum cleaner to its list of household automation products including Ring and Alexa.

The deal had been approved in the UK and was being looked at by the U.S. Federal Trade Commission but the EU opposition was apparently more than Amazon could take. The company said in a statement,  Undue and disproportionate regulatory hurdles discourage entrepreneurs, who should be able to see acquisition as one path to success, and that hurts both consumers and competition—the very things that regulators say they’re trying to protect.”

Amazon will pay 94 million to iRobot whose shares fell on the announcement by 18 per cent.

And that sucks….

Sources include: Axios

And finally, a few moments of silence for the floppy disk. And I felt about this story like you do about hearing some old movie star has died and you say to yourself, “I didn’t know he was still alive.” 

But apparently, Japan has kept the floppy drive alive because it was required for filing official documents. In fairness, they did get with the times and allow submission by CD-ROMS.

But when the announcement came in 2022, that the Japanese government was phasing them out, a government minister was said to have asked “where can you buy floppy disks these days.” 

As it turns out, there was some guy, I think in the U.S. who recycled old drives for his company floppydisk.com  If you hurry, you can probably still buy a box of 50 recycled disks for $19.95 US. 

As we say in Canada – bargain.

Sources include: Tom’s Hardware

Hashtag Trending goes to air 5 days a week with a special weekend interview show we call “the Weekend Edition.”

You can get us anywhere you get audio podcasts and there is a copy of the show notes at itworldcanada.com/podcasts 

I’m your host, Jim Love. Have a Terrific Tuesday!

The post Hashtag Trending Jan.30- Google’s Bard may be reading your email; Siri to get an AI makeover? The demise of the floppy disk first appeared on IT World Canada.


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