Google and Older Users

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Alphabet/Google needs at least one employee dedicated to vetting their products on a continuing basis for usability by older users — an important and rapidly growing demographic of users who are increasingly dependent on Google services in their daily lives.

I’m not talking here about accessibility in general, I’m talking about someone whose job is specifically to make sure that Google’s services don’t leave older users behind due to user interface and/or other associated issues. Otherwise, Google is essentially behaving in a discriminatory manner, and the last thing that I or they should want to see is the government stepping in (via the ADA or other routes) to mandate changes.

–Lauren–

“Google Experiences” Submission Page Now Available

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Recently in Please Tell Me Your Google Experiences For “Google 2017” Report, I solicited experiences with Google — positive, negative, neutral, or whatever — for my upcoming “Google 2017” white paper report.

The response level has been very high and has led me to create a shared, public Google Doc to help organize such submissions.

Please visit the Google Experiences Suggestions Page to access that document, through which you may submit suggested text and/or other information. You do not need to be logged into a Google account to do this.

Thanks again very much for your participation in this effort!

–Lauren–

Simple Solutions to “Smart TVs” as CIA Spies

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I’m being bombarded with queries about Samsung “Smart TVs” being used as bugs by the CIA, as discussed in the new WikiLeaks data dump.

I’m not in a position to write up anything lengthy about this right now, but there is a simple solution to the entire “smart TV as bug” category of concerns — don’t buy those TVs, and if you have one, don’t connect it to the Internet directly.

Don’t associate it with your Wi-Fi network — don’t plug it into your Ethernet.

Buy a Chromecast or Roku or similar dongle that will provide your Internet programming connectivity via HDMI to that television — these dongles don’t include microphones and are dirt cheap compared to the price of the TV itself.

In general, so-called smart TVs are not a good buy even when they’re not acting as bugs.

Now, seriously paranoid readers might ask “Well, what if the spooks are subverting both my smart TV and my external dongle? Couldn’t they somehow route the audio from the TV microphone back out to the Internet through hacked firmware in the dongles?”

The answer is theoretically yes, but it’s a significantly tougher lift for a number of technical reasons. The solution though even for that scenario is simple — kill the power to the dongle when you’re not using it.

Unplug it from the TV USB jack if you’re powering it that way (I mean, if you’re paranoid, you might consider the possibility that the hacked TV firmware is still supplying power to the dongle even when it’s supposed to be off, and that the dongle has been hacked to not light its power LED in that situation, eh?)

But if you’re powering the dongle from a wall adapter, and you unplug that, you’ve pretty much ended that ballgame.

–Lauren–