Google has today announced that Google Hangouts now has its very own website, meaning you no longer need to go through Google+ or Gmail to start chatting. The new website lets you sign in directly to Hangouts – found at hangouts.google.com/ – and lets you see your contacts and your older conversations. It also has three large buttons for video calls, phone calls or sending messages, and of course if you do use Google’s other services, you can access them through the Hangouts website too. “From our new site you’ll be able to take advantage of the best of Hangouts in the browser, along with an inspiring image to get you through the day,” said Jordanna Chord, manager of the Hangouts growth team, on a Google+ post. Google has been slowly revamping all its Hangouts services, with updates to its Hangouts app last week hitting Android , while iOS saw an update a month ago. The new website for Hangouts also takes on Facebook’s Messenger service, which is also now a standalone app that doesn’t require a Facebook account and is accessible through an app and the web. Via VentureBeat
Facebook’s late Friday disclosure that a data analytics company with ties to the Trump campaign improperly obtained — and then failed to destroy — the private data of 50 million users is generating more unwanted attention from politicians, some of whom were already beating the drums of regulation in the company’s direction. On Saturday morning, Facebook dove into the semantics of its disclosure, arguing against wording in the New York Times story the company was attempting to get out in front of that referred to the incident as a breach. Most of this happened on the Twitter account of Facebook chief security officer Alex Stamos before Stamos took down his tweets and the gist of the conversation made its way into an update to Facebook’s official post . “People knowingly provided their information, no systems were infiltrated, and no passwords or sensitive pieces of information were stolen or hacked,” the added language argued. I have deleted my Tweets on Cambridge Analytica, not because they were factually incorrect but because I should have done a better job weighing in. — Alex Stamos (@alexstamos) March 17, 2018 While the language is up for debate, lawmakers don’t appear to be looking kindly on Facebook’s arguably legitimate effort to sidestep data breach notification laws that, were this a proper hack, could have required the company to disclose that it lost track of the data of 50 million users, only 270,000 of which consented to data sharing to the third party app involved. (In April of 2015, Facebook changed its policy, shutting down the API that shared friends data with third-party Facebook apps that they did not consent to sharing in the first place.) While most lawmakers and politicians haven’t crafted formal statements yet (expect a landslide of those on Monday), a few are weighing in. Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar calling for Facebook’s chief executive — and not just its counsel — to appear before the Senate Judiciary committee. Facebook breach: This is a major breach that must be investigated. It’s clear these platforms can’t police themselves.