Microsoft's AI Mocks Humans by Notching Up Perfect Score in Ms. Pac-Man

If there was ever a doubt that artificial intelligence could one day overtake humans, then what follows should be sign enough that the day isn’t too far away. Microsoft’s AI has managed to hit the one million mark in cult-classic game Ms. Pac-Man, something humans never managed to achieved in the 35 years of the game’s existence.

Maluuba, a deep learning startup that was acquired by Microsoft earlier this year, created an AI system that learned the ways of the game to reach the coveted score of 1 million points by level 201. So, not only does Microsoft’s AI manage to achieve the highest possible score in both human and AI history, it managed to do so before hitting the all-too well known level 256 glitch. In a video posted by Microsoft Research, you can see the AI reach the game’s maximum point value of 999,990 on Atari 2600, after which the game seems to start over.

It will also interest you to know that the highest recorded score in Ms. Pac-Man – by a human, of course – is 266,330 points, as recorded by HighScore.com. This makes Microsoft’s AI look truly remarkable and gives us a glimpse at how machine learning has evolved over time.

Microsoft's AI Mocks Humans by Notching Up Perfect Score in Ms. Pac-ManMaluuba was able to set the new Ms. Pac-Man record using machine learning and breaking up the game into small problems with “a separate reinforcement learning agent for each problem,” which the team calls Hybrid Reward Architecture. Here, individual agents are rewarded based on their assigned task. Through this ‘divide and conquer’ method, the top agent gets a feedback from the little agents to understand which is the best route for Ms. Pac-Man to take to avoid being eaten by ghosts, the video explains.

Recently, Google’s AI AlphaGo once again defeated a human, Ki Jie, at the ancient game Chinese game, Go.

Games like Ms. Pac-Man and Go, though quite old, are revered for their complex gameplay, which is why companies in the field of AI test out their machine learning algorithms on them.Maluuba sees an expansive, practical real-world applications though the Hybrid Reward Architecture used in the game, like helping a company predict which potential customers to target, or advancements in natural language processing.

Google to Stop Scanning Gmail for Creating Targeted Ads

Google said Friday it would stop scanning the contents of Gmail users’ inboxes for ad targeting, moving to end a practice that has fueled privacy concerns since the free email service was launched.

A Google statement said Gmail users would still see “personalised” ads and marketing messages but these would be based on other data, which may include search queries or browsing habits.

Google Cloud senior vice president Diane Greene said in a blog that the free Gmail service would now follow the same practices as its corporate G Suite Gmail.

“Consumer Gmail content will not be used or scanned for any ads personalisation after this change,” Greene said.

“This decision brings Gmail ads in line with how we personalise ads for other Google products. Ads shown are based on users’ settings. Users can change those settings at any time, including disabling ads personalisation.”

Privacy activists have long complained that the scanning of email contents amounts to unwarranted “eavesdropping” on users.

Image result for Google to Stop Scanning Gmail for Creating Targeted AdsThe Internet giant earlier this year reached a settlement in a class action lawsuit in the matter, but a federal judge rejected the deal as inadequate.

US District Judge Lucy Koh ruled in March that the settlement was difficult to understand and “does not clearly disclose the fact that Google intercepts, scans and analyzes the contents of emails sent by non-Gmail users to Gmail users for the purposes of creating user profiles of the Gmail users to create targeted advertising.”

Danny Sullivan, founding editor of the online blog Search Engine Land, called the move a “big change” for Gmail, noting that the scanning of email contents “has been the biggest hit against the services since it began.”

But Sullivan wrote on Twitter: “On the other hand, does it reassure consumers to know that Google has better info now about how to target them than by reading their emails?”

Google to Remove Private Medical Records From Search Results

Alphabet Inc.’s Google has quietly started removing a new category of online content – personal medical records – from its search results, a departure from its typically hands-off approach to policing the web.

Google lists the information it removes from its search results on its policy page. On Thursday, the website added the line: “confidential, personal medical records of private people.” A Google spokeswoman on Friday said that such information is only pulled when the company gets specific requests from individuals.

Google to Remove Private Medical Records From Search ResultsPreviously, Google had only removed webpages with identifying financial information, such as credit card numbers, and with content that violates copyright laws. In 2015, Google bent its longstanding laissez-faire policy by adding “revenge porn” to its removal list – sexually explicit images uploaded without consent. The same approach applies with all these categories: Google will remove information after considering specific requests.

Health records can also appear online without consent. In December, a pathology lab in India mistakenly uploaded the records of over 43,000 patients containing sensitive information, including names and blood tests for HIV. The records were indexed in Google’s search results.

Google has also recently adjusted its tightly-held search ranking system to filter misleading articles, or fake news, following criticism for hosting and promoting the content in results.

EU Said to Fine Google With Record Fine This Week

The EU’s powerful antitrust regulator will slap Google with a record fine as early as Tuesday in another European blow against a US tech giant, sources said.

Led by hard-charging European Commission competition chief Margrethe Vestager, the EU will impose a massive penalty against Google that would break the previous record of EUR 1.06 billion set in 2009 against Intel, the US chipmaker.

More importantly for Google, Brussels will demand that the US tech giant change its business practices to meet the EU’s concerns.

The decision, expected Tuesday or Wednesday, comes a year after Vestager shocked the world and angered the Obama administration with an order that Apple repay EUR 13 billion in back taxes in Ireland.

Sources close to the matter said Google’s fine would range EUR 1.1-2.0 billion. While an EU record, this is well below the maximum possible of about EUR 8.0 billion  or 10 percent of Google’s total revenue last year.

Brussels accuses Google of giving its own online shopping services top priority in search results to the detriment of other price comparison services.

The case is one of three against Google and of several against blockbuster US companies including Starbucks, Apple, Amazon and McDonalds.

In the other Google cases, the EU is examining Google’s AdSense advertising service and its Android mobile phone software.

If confirmed, the fine would come after a long period in which the two sides tried to settle the case amicably.

EU Said to Fine Google With Record Fine This WeekThe cases have stoked tensions with Washington and could now face the wrath of US President Donald Trump, who won office on his “America First” slogan.

“We continue to engage constructively with the European Commission and we believe strongly that our innovations in online shopping have been good for shoppers, retailers and competition,” said Mark Jansen, a spokesman for Google.

The European Commission refused to comment.

The Commission, which polices EU competition policy, launched an initial investigation into Google in 2010 following complaints from rivals such as Microsoft and Trip Advisor that it favoured its own shopping services when customers ran searches.

Claims that practices by Google Shopping harm competition “are wrong as a matter of fact, law, and economics,” Google’s general counsel Kent Walker wrote in response to the EU last year.

Vestager’s predecessor, Joaquin Almunia, made three attempts to resolve the dispute but in each case intense pressure by national governments, rivals and privacy advocates scuppered the effort.

Google Hit by Record EUR 2.42-Billion Fine for Breaching EU Antitrust Rules

The EU hit Google with a record EUR 2.4 billion ($2.72 billion or roughly Rs. 17,541 crores) anti-trust fine Tuesday for favouring its own shopping service, in a fresh assault on a US tech giant that risks the wrath of President Donald Trump.

Hard-charging European Commission competition chief Margrethe Vestager said Google had “abused its market dominance” as the world’s most popular search engine to give illegal advantage to its Google Shopping service.

“What Google has done is illegal under EU antitrust rules. It denied other companies the chance to compete on the merits and to innovate,” Denmark’s Vestager told a news conference.

“And most importantly, it denied European consumers a genuine choice of services and the full benefits of innovation.”

Google now has 90 days to “end this conduct” or face further penalty payments, Vestager said.

The fine broke the previous EU record for a monopoly case against US chipmaker Intel of EUR 1.06 billion in 2009.

Google said that it “respectfully” disagreed with the EU decision, which followed a seven-year investigation, and was considering an appeal.

“We respectfully disagree with the conclusions announced today. We will review the Commission’s decision in detail as we consider an appeal, and we look forward to continuing to make our case,” Kent Walker, the company’s senior vice president and general counsel, said in a statement.

Google insisted that it “shows shopping ads, connecting our users with thousands of advertisers, large and small, in ways that are useful for both.”

Google Hit by Record EUR 2.42-Billion Fine for Breaching EU Antitrust Rules‘Market dominance’
The decision comes less than a year after Vestager shocked Washington and the world with an order that iPhone manufacturer Apple repay EUR 13 billion in back taxes in Ireland.

Crucially for Google, Brussels has demanded that the US tech giant change the business model for Google Shopping to meet the EU’s concerns.

While an EU record, the amount is below the maximum possible of more than EUR 8 billion or 10 percent of Google’s total revenue of 90 billion dollars last year.

Brussels accuses Google of giving its own online service, Google Shopping, too much priority in search results to the detriment of other price comparison services, such as TripAdvisor and Expedia.

“Google’s market dominance has given the company power to decide the fate of all but the biggest online service providers – in other words nearly every company,” said Fairsearch, a lobby of complainants, in a statement.

The case, launched in 2010, is one of three against Google and of several against blockbuster US companies including Starbucks, Apple, Amazon and McDonalds.

In the other Google cases, the EU is examining Google’s AdSense advertising service and its Android mobile phone software.

The cases have stoked tensions with Washington and could now face the wrath of Trump, the real estate tycoon who won office on his “America First” slogan.

The decision come after a long negotiation period with many twists and turns in which the two sides tried to settle the case amicably.

Vestager’s predecessor, the Spaniard Joaquin Almunia, made three attempts to resolve the dispute but in each case intense pressure by national governments, rivals and privacy advocates scuppered the effort.

Google India to Hold 5,000 Workshops for SMBs Across 50 Cities

Targeting the small and medium business (SMB) enterprises, Google India Private Ltd will hold 5,000 offline workshops over the next three years, a company official said on Tuesday.

Addressing the media in Chennai, Shalini Girish, Director-Marketing Solutions, said the company with its online, offline and mobile training programmes is trying to bridge the digital gap experienced by the SMBs.

Google India to Hold 5,000 Workshops for SMBs Across 50 CitiesShe said the offline training will be conducted jointly with Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI). Over the next three years 5,000 workshops will be held across 50 Indian cities.

According to a study done by Google India and KPMG, digitally engaged SMBs grow twice as fast compared with offline SMBs.

Google Faces Years of EU Oversight on Top of Record Antitrust Fine

Beyond a headline-grabbing EUR 2.4 billion ($2.7 billion) fine EU antitrust regulators have levelled against Google, the Internet giant is likely to be shackled for years by Tuesday’s precedent-setting decision defining the company as a monopoly.

The ruling opens the door for further regulatory actions against more crucial parts of Google’s business – mobile phones, online ad buying and specialised search categories like travel – while easing the standard of proof for rivals to mount civil lawsuits showing Google has harmed them.

So far, investors have shrugged off the EU’s threatened crackdown, with Google’s holding company Alphabet’s shares down 1.8 percent in early US trade amid a continued selloff in technology stocks. The stock has doubled in the two years since European authorities vigorously stepped up investigations of it.

It trades just behind rival Apple as the world’s most valuable stock with a $666 billion (roughly Rs. 42,99,068 crores) market capitalisation.

The real sting is not from the fine for anti-competitive practices in shopping search but the way the EU has thrown the issue back to Google to solve, meaning the company won’t be able to comply through an easy set of technical steps.

In effect, the Commission is forcing Google to demonstrate that rivals have made substantial inroads into its businesses before there is much chance of it being let off the regulatory hook. EU competition chief Margrethe Vestager promised Google was in for years of monitoring to guard against further abuses.

“Just being put on notice can limit Google’s strategic options into the future,” said Matti Littunen, a digital media and online advertising analyst with Enders Analysis in London.

The EU’s 2004 ruling that Microsoft Corp had abused its dominant market position in Windows and other markets is now seen as having curtailed the software giants moves over the subsequent decade to expand more quickly into emerging markets such as online advertising, opening the way for Google’s rise.

Putting the onus on the company underlines regulators’ limited knowledge of modern technologies and their complexity, said Fordham Law School Professor Mark Patterson.

“The decision shows the difficulty of regulating algorithm-based internet firms,” he said. “Antitrust remedies usually direct firms that have violated antitrust laws to stop certain behaviour or, less often, to implement particular fixes.

“This decision just tells Google to apply ‘equal treatment,’ not how to do that”.

Google Faces Years of EU Oversight on Top of Record Antitrust FineWarning shot
The EU ruling is a warning shot for two on-going EU probes into Google’s Android mobile operating system and AdSense ad system, said Richard Windsor, an independent financial analyst who tracks competition among the biggest US and Asian Internet and mobile players, including Google. “If the European Union turns around and says Google can no longer bundle its Google Play app store as a default feature on many Android smartphones, this opens up the market to other handset makers to put their own software and services front and centre on their phones,” he said. Littunen of Enders Analysis agreed, saying while Google may be able to meet EU objections in the AdSense case by making relatively modest changes to its advertising systems to enable website customers to run ads from Google advertising rivals, the Android case has many complicated factors with no easy solution.

More importantly, Google must find ways change its business practices without harming its very lucrative advertising business model, which accounted for around 85 percent of the $90.3 billion (roughly Rs. 5,82,082 crores) in revenue of parent company Alphabet in 2016.

“The EU’s identification of ‘super-dominance’ in Internet search throughout the European Economic Area is confirmed and will provide a cornerstone for assessment of other ongoing cases, especially regarding Android and AdSense,” said Jonas Koponen, competition chief at Linklaters law firm in Brussels.

“This could result in a profound change to the company’s business models,” he predicted. Yet another worry for the company could be a wave of lawsuits in the future.

“We can expect to see a series of damages claims brought by the rivals that were excluded from the market by Google’s conduct,” said Peter Wills, co-head of competition law for Bird & Bird in London, setting the stage for national court battles.

With the EU’s Vestager giving no ground in her record demand last year to collect EUR 13 billion in unpaid taxes from Apple and stopping Google from squeezing out rivals, other tech giants will probably think twice before testing her further.

Google Must Block Some Search Results Globally, Rules Canada's Top Court

Canadian courts can force Internet search leader Google to remove results worldwide, the country’s top court ruled on Wednesday, drawing criticism from civil liberties groups arguing such a move sets a precedent for censorship on the Internet.

In its 7-2 decision, Canada’s Supreme Court found that a court in the country can grant an injunction preventing conduct anywhere in the world when it is necessary to ensure the injunction’s effectiveness.

“The Internet has no borders – its natural habitat is global,” the Supreme Court wrote in its judgment. “The only way to ensure that the interlocutory injunction attained its objective was to have it apply where Google operates – globally.”

Google, a unit of Alphabet Inc, did not immediately reply to a request for comment.

The case stems from claims by Equustek Solutions, a small technology company in British Columbia that manufactures network devices, that distributor Datalink Technologies Gateways relabeled one of its products and sold it as its own online and acquired trade secrets to design and manufacture a competing product.

Google Must Block Some Search Results Globally, Rules Canada's Top CourtIn 2012, Equustek asked Google to remove Datalink search results until the case against the company was resolved. While Google removed over 300 specific web pages associated with Datalink, it did so only on the Canadian version of its search engine.

The Supreme Court of British Columbia subsequently ordered Google to stop displaying search results in any country for any part of Datalink’s websites.

In its appeal before the Supreme Court of Canada, Google had argued that the global reach of the order was unnecessary and that it raised concerns over freedom of expression.

The Supreme Court rejected Google’s argument that the right to freedom of expression should have prevented the order from being issued.

“This is not an order to remove speech that, on its face, engages freedom of expression values,” the court wrote in its ruling. “We have not, to date, accepted that freedom of expression requires the facilitation of the unlawful sale of goods.”

The global reach was necessary, according to the court, because if the removed search results were restricted to Canada alone, purchasers both in and out of Canada could easily continue to find and buy from Datalink.

OpenMedia, a Canadian group campaigning for open communications, opposed the ruling.

“There is great risk that governments and commercial entities will see this ruling as justifying censorship requests that could result in perfectly legal and legitimate content disappearing off the Web because of a court order in the opposite corner of the globe,” said OpenMedia spokesman David Christopher.

Google cannot appeal the Supreme Court ruling. If the company has evidence that complying with the order would force it to violate other countries’ laws, including interfering with freedom of expression, it can apply to the British Columbia court to alter the order, the Supreme Court said, noting Google has not made such an application.

Google News Redesigned, Gets Material Design Cards to Improve Readability and Navigation

Google has unveiled a new look for the desktop version of its news reader platform, Google News, in an effort to improve readability, navigation, and include different perspectives. The update has also brought it in line with Google’s Material Design visual aesthetic, which relies heavily on cards. Unlike before, every story gets its own rectangle that helps de-clutter the interface, with a slightly bigger square picture to go with it.

The new homepage has three sections at the top: world headlines, local news, and a “For You” tab that only shows the stuff you care about. The latter two can be personalised once you log in with your Google account; local can be focused on any part of the world, while “For You” is like a social news feed of sorts. Google will also help include more perspectives once you click on a story card, bringing in other pieces that might carry labels such as “Most Referenced”, “Opinion”, “Live Updating”, or “Fact Check”.

06.19.17 before after katrinat.width 1000 Google News

The last of those labels was introduced just last year, and it’s now getting its own box on the new Google News homepage. Available to the right-hand side of the headlines, it’ll show the top fact checked articles that were published recently. Unfortunately for now, the feature is limited to the US edition.

There’s also a new “Full Coverage” page – accessible from the story card – which sorts different types of articles into sections, and includes videos and related topics on the right. The new design is being rolled out over the coming days, so don’t fret if you don’t see it just yet.

8tracks Internet Radio Service Hacked; Details of Millions of User Accounts Stolen

Blame it on bad passwords or the fact that the Internet is just no longer safe, but reports of data breaches seem to have shot up in the past few years. In what seems to be a breach similar to the massive Dropbox and LinkedIn debacles of the past, popular Internet radio service 8tracks has been hacked, potentially leaving millions of accounts vulnerable.

The data breach reportedly gave hackers account details of millions of users dating back to 2008, Motherboard learned from breach notification site LeakBase. The site obtained a dataset of 6 million 8track usernames, email IDs and hashed passwords, out of a total 18 million accounts. It further found that the passwords were hashed using ageing but still widely used SHA1 algorithm, something Google recently cracked, leaving them unsecure.

8tracks Internet Radio Service Hacked; Details of Millions of User Accounts Stolen8tracks is aware of the breach and explained in a blog post that the hashes are difficult to access and can only be done through brute force attacks, which is complex and unlikely. However, the company is still urging its users to change their 8tracks passwords as well as on any other site where they may have used the same password. The Internet radio service informed Motherboard that it would notify its customers and has identified the attack vector used by the hacker, securing the account in question. They also reassure that the stolen data did not include credit card information.

Those using 8tracks may want to change their passwords as well as make sure the same password is not being used elsewhere. It also advised to use a two-factor authentication and password managers like LastPass or 1password, but maybe not OneLogin.