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Mobile apps could be abused to make expensive phone calls (Jeremy Kirk/PC World)

A security precaution skipped in mobile applications such as Facebook’s Messenger could be abused to make an expensive phone call at a victim’s expense, a developer contends. Phone numbers often appear as links on a mobile device. That is possible by using a Uniform Resource Identifier (URI) scheme called ”tel” to trigger a call. URI schemes are a large family of descriptions that can tell a computer where to go for a certain resource, such as launching a mail application when an email address is clicked. Andrei Neculaesei, a full-stack developer with the wireless streaming company Airtame in Copenhagen, contends there’s a risk in how most native mobile applications handle phone numbers. If a person clicks on a phone number within Apple’s mobile Safari browser, a pop-up asks if a person wants to proceed with a call. But many native mobile applications, including Facebook’s Messenger and Google’s +, will go ahead and make the call without asking, Neculaesei wrote on his blog . Mobile apps can be configured to display a warning, but on most applications it’s turned off, Neculaesei said via email on Thursday. He found a malicious way to abuse the behavior. He created a Web page containing JavaScript that caused a mobile application to trigger a call after someone merely viewed the page. The JavaScript automatically launches the phone number’s URI when the page is opened.

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This: Why Atlantic Media is funding a social platform for sharing links, one at a time (Caroline O’Donovan/Nieman Lab)

Andrew Golis wanted to build a network for sharing stories that would provide relief from our contemporary content cascade. By now, you might have heard that Atlantic Media’s Andrew Golis is incubating a small social network inside the company. Golis came to Atlantic Media as entrepreneur-in-residence a little over a year ago, eventually taking over The Wire as general manager in January. But for the last two months, he’s been working on This , a social network that only lets users share a single link a day. (For more on that name, check out Kyle Chayka’s “A History of This^, #This, and This.” And though it officially uses a period at the end of its name — This. — come on .) So far, This has been invitation-only, open to a slowly growing handful of media types. But last week, Golis decided to tell the wider public a little about the project: This. is an attempt to build on the rebellions against The Stream that are popping up all over. We love content recommendations from people we trust, but we can’t keep up, we feel constantly distracted, and are increasingly aware of how narrow “nowness” is a primary definition of value. The retro cool of newsletters , the success of niche #longform communities, the Explainer trend, Clickhole : they’re all reactions to our frustrations with The Stream. This. is an attempt to build a platform where influence comes from taste, instead of sheer volume (in both the quantity and loudness senses). The central gambit for This — that limited access to a platform can effectively elevate the digital dialogue — is an intriguing one. “One of the huge benefits of the one-a-day is it inflates the perceived value, both for the person sharing it and the person coming to it,” Golis says

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FDA approves AliveCor’s heart arrhythmia-detecting app algorithm (Mark Sullivan/VentureBeat)

Above: AliveCor's ECG app. Image Credit: AliveCor While the step counters and run tracker apps of the world get most of the attention, a growing number of apps in the marketplace are serving serious clinical needs. One is AliveCor ‘s AliveECG app, which will soon run an algorithm that detects atrial fibrillation (AF), a serious type of heart arrhythmia that’s often a precursor to stroke. For people with a history or heart trouble, or atrial fibrillation specifically, the app and the algorithm could provide a life-saving early warning system. San Francisco-based AliveCor went through a rigorous process with the Food and Drug Administration to prove the accuracy and efficacy of the algorithm. The FDA is particularly interested in reviewing apps that provide any type of actionable, diagnostic information to users, as AliveCor’s app clearly does. Above: AliveCor’s heart monitor nodule attached to an iPhone. Image Credit: AliveCor The AliveECG app runs on a smartphone. The patient places their hand over an AliveCor nodule device that fits over the back of the phone. The app then measures the electric signals being transmitted by the heart and radiating through the fingers, detected by the nodule.

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Zoosk debuts Photo Verification on iOS to confirm authenticity of profile photos (Issie Lapowsky/Wired)

Zoosk Online dating site Zoosk is rolling out a new feature that lets users verify the authenticity of profile pictures. The explicit goal, according to CEO Shayan Zadeh, is to prevent daters from posting photos of themselves when they were 10 years younger or 20 pounds lighter. Such a feature may save online daters a lot of undue disappointment, but it could also teach other online platforms an important lesson. Many people crave anonymity online. This has driven the explosive growth of apps like Secret, Yik Yak, and Whisper, and it has powered the self-destructing-message craze launched by Snapchat. And yet, this move toward anonymity has come at a cost, creating a perfect storm for online trolls, scammers, and impostors to wreak havoc on the rest of us. If you’ve been paying attention to the news lately, you know that the trolls have been behaving particularly badly, filling sites from Twitter to Gawker with hateful and gruesome content. As a result, these companies have been forced to figure out in real time how to stop the trolls without running every last Tweet and online comment past an internal review board first. With its new Photo Verification service, Zoosk seems to be taking a responsible and proactive approach to the problem, offering its upstanding members a means of protecting themselves against the bad ones. If it works, it could serve as a model for other platforms web-wide. It may save online daters a lot of undue disappointment, but it could also teach other online platforms an important lesson

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Majority Of Digital Media Consumption Now Takes Place In Mobile Apps (Sarah Perez/TechCrunch)

U.S. users are now spending the majority of their time consuming digital media within mobile applications, according to a new study released by comScore this morning. That means mobile apps, including the number 1 most popular app Facebook, eat up more of our time than desktop usage or mobile web surfing, accounting for 52% of the time spent using digital media. Combined with mobile web, mobile usage as a whole accounts for 60% of time spent, while desktop-based digital media consumption makes up the remaining 40%. Apps today are driving the majority of media consumption activity, the report claims, now accounting for 7 our of every 8 minutes of media consumption on mobile devices. On smartphones, app activity is even higher, at 88% usage versus 82% on tablets. App Users The report also details several interesting figures related to how U.S. app users are interacting with these mobile applications, noting that over one-third today download at least one application per month. The average smartphone user downloads 3 apps per month. However, something which may not have been well understood before is that much of that download activity is concentrated within a small segment of the smartphone population: the top 7% of smartphone owners accounting for nearly half of all the download activity in a given month.

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Opera Mini becomes default browser for Microsoft’s fading feature phones (Gregg Keizer/Computerworld)

Gregg Keizer August 21, 2014 (Computerworld) Opera Software and Microsoft have struck a deal that will replace Nokia's Xpress browser with Opera Mini on Microsoft's dying line of feature phones. Also on Thursday, Opera announced its second-quarter earnings, saying that revenue was up 38% year-over-year, to $101 million for the period. "The agreement with Opera will enable us to provide continuity of service as we transition from Xpress Browser to Opera Mini," Rich Bernardo, who leads the legacy phone business at Microsoft, said in a statement Thursday. "We have signed a strategic licensing deal with Microsoft. We are basically taking over the browser building department in Nokia," Opera CEO Lars Boilsesen said during a news conference today that focused on the firm's second-quarter earnings. "This means that Opera Mini becomes the default browser for Microsoft's feature phone product lines and the Asha phones product." The Microsoft-Opera deal covers feature phones based on the Series 30+, Series 40 and Asha platforms. Current owners of those phones "will be encouraged to upgrade" from Xpress -- Nokia's home-grown browser that uses Mozilla's "Gecko" engine -- to Opera Mini. New phones will come with Opera Mini pre-installed as the default. That encouragement will start in October, although Opera has not said what will happen if users decline Opera Mini and want to stick with Xpress. Boilsesen said that the encouragement would come "in different ways." Like Xpress, Opera Mini relies on an infrastructure of back-end servers that aggressively compress the data before it's sent to the browser.

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Apple removes Secret app from Brazilian App Store for not conforming with local laws (Mike Beasley/9to5Mac)

Following a recent ruling that Apple would have ten days to remove the anonymous social app Secret from its Brazilian App Store, Apple has complied with the order. The justification for the removal, according to a source close to the situation, can be found in section 22.1 of the App Store Guidelines : Apps must comply with all legal requirements in any location where they are made available to users. It is the developer’s obligation to understand and conform to all local laws As noted by the judge, the Brazilian constitution prohibits anonymous freedom of expression, which essentially makes Secret and other apps like it illegal with that country. Like this: Like Loading...

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There are 18,796 distinct Android devices, according to OpenSignal’s latest fragmentation report (Paul Sawers/The Next Web)

The much-maligned Android fragmentation problem has blighted the mobile operating system for years, though Google has been steadily taking corrective measures in recent times. The issue? So many different devices and form-factors, running a multitude of Android versions which purportedly cause developers no-end of pain when striving to cater for the increasingly-dominant mobile platform. But how serious is the problem? OpenSignal sheds some light on this today, with its 2014 Android fragmentation report . OpenSignal on Android To recap, OpenSignal is the company behind the eponymous app that creates maps of mobile phone network coverage based on information crowdsourced from smartphone users. It has been available on Android for a while already, though it finally launched a version for iPhone users in 2013. OpenSignal has emerged as one of the biggest independent sources of data on the speed and coverage of mobile phone carriers around the world. Rather than relying on coverage maps provided by networks themselves, OpenSignal gathers this information directly from users and opens it to anyone, so they can see for themselves which ones offer the best coverage where they are. However, a by-product of this is that OpenSignal garners a lot of additional data that offers significant insight into the state-of-play across the mobile realm.

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Wikipedia blocks edits from Congressional IP address again after edits from "obvious transphobe" (Julian Hattem/The Hill)

For the third time this summer, computers in the House have been blocked from editing Wikipedia due to a string of controversial edits. Anonymous users operating from an Internet Protocol (IP) address linked to the House were banned from editing the site for a month late on Wednesday. The action came after a series of edits people using the IP address made to pages on the user-generated encyclopedia about transgender people that many on the site considered offensive. ADVERTISEMENT The final straw came on Wednesday afternoon, when someone from the House edited the page for the Netflix hit show “Orange is the New Black” to change the characterization of an actor from “a real transgender woman” to “a real man pretending to be a woman.” Earlier this week, the account had been used to edit pages for “tranny” — a derogatory term for transgender people — as well as the annual festival Camp Trans and transphobia, the opposition to people who are trans. “An obvious transphobe is using this IP to edit the article on transphobia,” a Wikipedia user  wrote earlier this month , urging administrators to block the account.  “I have no problem with Congressional staffers editing Wikipedia,” another user wrote regarding the person behind the changes. “I have a problem only with YOU  vandalizing Wikipedia.” Someone using the House IP address defended the edits as an attempt to provide fairness on the subject, and said the moves were “official business” endorsed by a member of Congress. “There's nothing illegal about editing Wikipedia to promote official business that has been explicitly authourized sic by the Representative,” someone working in the House wrote in a dispute this week over some of the changes.  “When you have other Representatives trying to push for laws such as the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, or when you have the European Union using neocolonialist methods to impose transgenderism on the nation of Georgia through a visa agreement, it's all the more important.” The change only bans House staffers editing Wikipedia anonymously. People can still update the site by creating an account and logging in. “If you'd like to make good-faith edits, please create an account,” Fran Rogers, the Wikipedia administrator who blocked the account, wrote. The action is the third time the IP address was blocked this summer. In mid-July, the account was banned for 24 hours, days before a 10-day ban was handed down later that month. Both times, the blocks were for “disruptive editing” that seemed in part to be inspired by a Twitter account that automatically updates whenever someone from a congressional IP address edited the online encyclopedia.  Transparency advocates have said that Wikipedia can be a great tool for lawmakers and staffers to explain legislation, but urged them not make edits anonymously, because they are often viewed with suspicion. 

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Google updates voice search, allows users to automatically switch between five languages (Greg Sterling/Search Engine Land)

Twin Design / Shutterstock.com Around the world millions of people are multilingual or partly so. In the US, census data reflect that 20 percent of the population speaks more than one language at home (though this really only captures immigrants). But in what I imagine is something of a speech recognition breakthrough Google’s search app can now understand commands and queries in multiple languages simultaneously. According to a blog post today , multiple language speakers can adjust their settings once (selecting up to five languages) and then simply speak any of 50 languages that Google understands, switching back and forth at will. Previously users could only speak in one language at a time: Now, you can just make a small, one-time change to your settings, and then you can switch back and forth easily. Google will automatically detect which language you’re using. (For now, you need to stick to one language per sentence though.) You can select up to five languages total—enough to satisfy all but the most advanced polyglots. Whether you get a spoken response from Google depends on the language you use and your query (and you’ll see more languages and features added over time). In many countries immigrants and their kids speak the native language but also the adopted country’s dominant language interchangeably, in a mixed linguistic phenomenon that is quite common. Google is seeking to mirror that behavior in its search app. If Google can actually pull this off with accuracy it will be impressive –  n’est - ce pas ? (Stock image via Shutterstock.com .

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White House cybersecurity czar brags about his lack of technical expertise (Timothy B. Lee/Vox)

Michael Daniel is the White House's  cybersecurity coordinator , the man who "leads the interagency development of national cybersecurity strategy and policy" for the president. And in a  recent interview with GovInfoSecurity, he argued that his lack of technical expertise gave him an advantage in doing that job. White House cybersecurity czar Michael Daniel (White House) "You don't have to be a coder in order to really do well in this position," Daniel said, when asked if his job required knowledge of the technology behind information security. "In fact, actually, I think being too down in the weeds at the technical level could actually be a little bit of a distraction." "You can get taken up and enamored with the very detailed aspects of some of the technical solutions," he explained, arguing that "the real issue is looking at the broad strategic picture." As Princeton computer scientist (and, full disclosure, my former advisor) Ed Felten  points out , it's hard to imagine senior policymakers with responsibility for other technical subjects making this kind of claim. Imagine a White House economic advisor arguing that experience in the weeds of economic research would be a distraction, an attorney general making that claim about time in a courtroom, or a surgeon general bragging about never having set foot in an operating room. In most parts of government, it's considered a major asset if senior policymakers have experience in the weeds of the topics they work on. The  surgeon general has an MD, as does the  head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention . The  head of the National Institutes of Health has a PhD in chemistry and did groundbreaking research on the human genome.  All three members of the Council of Economic Advisors have PhDs in economics, as does the  head of the Federal Reserve . The  attorney general has a law degree, as do both of his deputies. In contrast, Daniel has degrees in public policy and spent 17 years at the Office of Management and Budget.

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Ouya partners with Xiaomi to bring its games to the Chinese smartphone maker’s streaming boxes and smart TVs (Malathi Nayak/Reuters)

By Malathi Nayak SAN FRANCISCO Thu Aug 21, 2014 5:02pm EDT Lei Jun, founder and chief executive officer of China's mobile company Xiaomi, announces the price of the new Xiaomi Phone 4 at its launching ceremony, in Beijing July 22, 2014. Credit: Reuters/Jason Lee SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - U.S video game service Ouya is turning to Asia to capture the growth that has eluded the startup on its own home turf. The Santa Monica, California-based firm has partnered with Xiaomi Inc to take its games to Chinese living rooms via the smartphone maker's new streaming boxes and "smart" TVs, an Ouya executive and a source at Xiaomi close to the deal told Reuters. Xiaomi, which in three years became China's top smartphone seller ahead of Apple Inc and Samsung, harbors ambitions beyond mobile gadgets. Last year, it expanded into the TV and set-top box business with its "MiBox" and "MiTV." Ouya Chief Executive Julie Uhrman said details are still getting hashed out but it's likely Ouya will get a dedicated channel on Xiaomi software installed on those devices, on which gamers can shop for and download a selection of its independently developed games later this year, Uhrman said. Xiaomi will likely commit to marketing Ouya games, she said. "For the likes of Xiaomi’s MiTV, its set-top boxes and other Android set-top boxes that are entering the market, this could be a turning point..in bringing great content and developers to gamers and into a region that they have never had access to before," Uhrman told Reuters. Ouya, which raised funds on crowdfunding site Kickstarter, began selling a $99 game console based on Google Inc's Android software last year. But sales were disappointing. This year, Ouya started marketing its software as an app through which developers sell games on other hardware makers' devices. But the company, which has over 40,000 developers and more than 900 games on its platform, has sealed few partnerships, such as with Mad Catz Interactive Inc to stream games onto its M.O.J.O console.

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