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Google I/O Highlights Privacy Controls, Personalization

Google revealed that it has several updates planned for the near future at its I/O 2019 event. First, the tech giant announced that Duplex, its AI chat agent, will soon expand to help users get things done on the web, such as booking a restaurant.

“We want to build a more helpful Google for everyone,” said CEO Sundar Pichai, according to VentureBeat. “We’re going to be thoughtful [about this].”

Once Duplex on the Web launches on Android later this year, users will be able to give Google Assistant a command like, “Book me a car from Hertz.” The relevant web page will be brought up and automatically filled in with details — including name, payment information, car preferences, trip dates and more — using information from Gmail and Chrome autofill. If additional information is needed, Google Assistant will pause and ask the user to make a selection.

Google also introduced plans for a Chrome update that will give users more transparency about how sites are using cookies, as well as simpler controls for cross-site cookies. The feature, which will launch later this year, will require changes to Chrome, such as modifying how cookies work so that developers must specify which cookies are allowed, and which could be used to track users.

“This change will enable users to clear all such cookies, while leaving single-domain cookies unaffected, preserving user logins and settings. It will also enable browsers to provide clear information about which sites are setting these cookies, so users can make informed choices about how their data is used,” the company wrote in a blog post. “This change also has a significant security benefit for users, protecting cookies from cross-site injection and data disclosure attacks like Spectre and CSRF by default.”

In addition, the tech giant is adding new anti-fingerprinting technology to its browser.

“Because fingerprinting is neither transparent nor under the user’s control, it results in tracking that doesn’t respect user choice,” the blog added. “This is why Chrome plans to more aggressively restrict fingerprinting across the web. One way in which we’ll be doing this is reducing the ways in which browsers can be passively fingerprinted, so that we can detect and intervene against active fingerprinting efforts as they happen.”

Finally, the company has introduced new personalization features for its digital assistant, which will help users choose what to listen to, what to do on the weekend or what to eat. “Picks for You,” which will launch this summer, will allow Google Assistant to respond to questions with answers tailored just for the user. The feature will initially launch with personalized recipes, podcasts and events.

In addition, the service will be able to find the people who are important when users share locations or important events. Google assured that users can edit and delete this information so that they can maintain control over what Google Assistant knows.

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