Google on Wednesday used its annual developers conference to demonstrate its commitment to protect people from cyberthreats, as well as provide more options for users to anonymize themselves in its world-leading Search product.
Among the most important projects is the search giant’s promise to bring password-less technology to people. Google plans to auto-enroll users in two-factor authentication, a technique that should help reduce the risks posed by phishing, the company said at its I/O conference. The addition of 2FA follows news last week that the FIDO Alliance, which includes Microsoft and Apple, as well as Google, was working to phase out passwords on websites and apps.
Google also said it’ll launch virtual credit cards for the Chrome browser and the Android mobile operating system later this year. The technology works by substituting a virtual credit card number for the actual number, which is stored on the browser or on a device. The virtual card is recognized by retailers, allowing them to process transactions without seeing the real number. The process means that if a retailer is hacked, cyberthieves will get a bogus virtual number that won’t be of much use. Virtual cards will launch in the US first and will come to Chrome for iOS later.
Google used the developers conference, which was held near its headquarters in Mountain View, California, to unveil significant changes to its marquee search product. The changes are designed to address long-standing concerns that the tech giant collects too much information about people who use its search service, in order to deliver personalized advertising, the core of its revenue.
Called Protected Computing, the new tools will help users anonymize themselves online and have better control in minimizing their data footprint. Protected Computing changes how, when and where data is processed. It’ll shrink the amount of personally identifiable data that’s collected and use randomization methods to obscure links between a user’s identity and data. Protected Computing will also use end-to-end encryption to prevent anyone, including Google, from seeing sensitive data.
Keeping sensitive data hidden requires that people have better control over how they may appear in Search. Last month, Google said it had released new tools to remove personally identifiable information from Search to make it easier for people to remove details such as phone numbers, home addresses and email addresses. This feature will be available in the next few months in the Google App.
Google is also giving people more control over the ads they see. With the My Ad Center, users will be able to customize the types of ads they see on YouTube, Search and their Discover feeds. Google hopes that ads will be less annoying if people can control the types they see. For Google and companies that use it for advertising, giving people more control should allow the businesses to provide more-relevant ads. (Google has already allowed users to limit sensitive ads around pregnancy or weight loss.)
Google also said it would bring its safety status notification system to apps. People will see a yellow alert icon on their profile picture in apps to encourage them to take steps to improve their security, such as patching potential holes. Phishing protection is also expanding beyond Gmail and heading to Google Workspace, including Docs, Sheets and Slides.