Google’s 2023 I/O conference is finally here and it brings with it a number of new security and privacy features for users. Let’s take a quick look.
Making the Facebook Papers Public
About This Image
One of the most interesting new features that Google has debuted is “About This Image,” which seeks to assist users in identifying online content that may qualify as disinformation or digitally manipulated/AI-generated content. The feature—which you can see a gif of above—allows the user to see additional context about a particular image, with annotations and links to news sites to keep the user informed. About This Image will tell users when an image was first indexed in Google’s search engine, as well as provide additional information, like if it has been written about by news outlets or tweeted about by journalists. In general, the feature seems designed to help users contextualize imagery, so that they don’t fall for fake news.
Google says it has rolled out a new Safe Browsing API, which is designed to warn users if they are about to visit a malicious website or have come into contact with a malware-laden file. Google says that Safe Browsing uses AI to help it with this task, and says that the new and improved API “speeds up our ability to check and identify compromised sites, catching even more attacks and blocking an additional millions of phishing attempts every month in Chrome and Android.”
Expanded Dark Web Scans
Google has also announced that dark web scans will soon be available, allowing users to see whether their Gmail ID has surfaced in the shadier areas of the internet. Previously, this feature was only available to users who subscribed to Google One, the tech giant’s expanded cloud storage service. Within weeks, however, the service will be available to every user with a Gmail account. Scans can help users to learn if their personal information has been compromised or is being sold a scummy dark web market somwhere.
New Google Play Data Controls
Another solid announcement made Wednesday is that Google is rolling out new data transparency controls for users of its app Play Store. The updates, which will be available via Android 14, will keep users better informed with permissions requests made by their mobile apps. Apps can request an unreasonable amount of access and information once they’ve been downloaded onto your device, and Google seems to be attempting to give users a little bit more control over how to navigate those permissions. The new controls will alert users when an app asks for permission to share their location data with a third party for the purposes of advertising. Google says that you’ll be able to “use this information to decide if you want to approve or decline location sharing for each app so you’re always in control.” At the same time, Google has added a “Data deletion” area to apps’ Google Play Data safety section, which gives users’ the power to request that apps delete their data or accounts.
Though it was previously announced last week, Google’s passkeys are another exciting security development that the company says are now available. Passkeys have been characterized as the successor to the password; instead of a personal phrase or word used for account security, a passkey is a unique cryptographic key stored locally on a user’s device, and can be paired with a biometric identifier to help secure a user’s account. Passwords are obviously still available with Google accounts, though the company says it hopes that the password can one day be completely replaced by the passkey, which it considers a superior form of account security.