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Tag Archives: datemodified

Google to give Chrome users an opt-out to ‘forced login’ after privacy backlash

Google has responded  to blowback about a privacy hostile change it made this week, which removes user agency by automating Chrome browser sign-ins, by rowing back slightly — saying it will give users the ability to disable this linking of web-based sign-in with browser-based sign-in in a forthcoming update (Chrome 70), due mid next month. The update to Chrome 69 means users are automatically logged into the browser when they are signed into another Google service, giving them no option to keep these digital identities separate. Now Google is saying there will be an option to prevent it pinning your Chrome browsing to your Google account — but you’ll have to wait about a month to get it. And of course for the millions of web users who never touch default settings being automatically signed into Google’s browser when they are using another Google service like Gmail or YouTube will be the new normal. Matthew Green, a cryptography professor at Johns Hopkins, flagged the change in a critical blog post at the weekend — entitled Why I’m done with Chrome — arguing that the new “forced login” feature blurs the previously strong barrier between “never logged in” and “signed in”, and thus erodes user trust. Prior to the Chrome 69 update, users had to actively opt in to linking their web-based and browser-based IDs. But Google’s change flips that switch — making the default setting hostile to privacy by folding a Chrome user’s browsing activity into their Google identity. In its blog post Google claims that being signed in to Chrome does not mean Chrome sync gets turned on. So it’s basically saying that despite it auto-linking your Chrome browsing and (Google) web-based activity it’s not automatically copying your browsing data to its own servers, where it would then be able to derive all sorts of fresh linked intel about you for its ad-targeting purposes. “Users who want data like their browsing history, passwords, and bookmarks available on other devices must take additional action, such as  turning on  sync,” writes Chrome product manager Zach Koch. But in his blog post, Green is also highly critical of Google’s UI around Chrome sync — dubbing it a dark pattern , and pointing out that it’s now all too easy for a user to accidentally send Google a massive personal data dump — because, in a fell swoop, the company “has transformed the question of consenting to data upload from something  affirmative  that I actually had to put effort into — entering my Google credentials and signing into Chrome — into something I can now do with a single accidental click”. “The fact of the matter is that I’d never even heard of Chrome’s “sync” option — for the simple reason that up until September 2018, I had never logged into Chrome. Now I’m forced to learn these new terms, and hope that the Chrome team keeps promises to keep all of my data local as the barriers between “signed in” and “not signed in” are gradually eroded away,” Green also wrote. Hence his decision to dump Chrome. (Other browsers are certainly available, though Chrome accounts for by far the biggest chunk of global browser usage .) Responding to what Koch colorlessly terms “feedback” about the controversial changes, he says Google is going to “better communicate our changes”

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Google launches its group planning feature for Maps

Earlier this year, Google announced its revamped Google Maps, which puts a stronger emphasis on discovery. Some of the features the company announced back then have already launched, including many of the promised discovery and exploration tools, but the one feature that was still missing was group planning. But you won’t have to wait much longer to collaboratively plan your outings with friends in Google Maps because today, these collaboration tools are finally launching. The basic problem Google is trying to solve here probably feels familiar to everybody who has ever tried to get a group of more than two people to decide on where to go for dinner — or any other outing, really. It usually takes way too many text messages to get everybody to agree. Now, however, you’ll be able to create a list of places in Google Maps and then share those with your friends. And then, like in any good democracy, your friends can vote on where to go. Group members can also veto places by removing them from the shortlist and add other ones that they’d prefer (nobody said democracy was easy, right?). Once you have created a list, you can share it just like any other link and your friends will be taken right to Google Maps on mobile or the web to join in the planning fun. Google Maps goes beyond directions

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Qualcomm doubles down on claims that Apple stole chip secrets for Intel

If you happen to crack open that fancy little iPhone XS casing on your new phone, you’ll notice there’s a dwindling amount of Qualcomm chips in there and that they’re increasingly being replaced by Intel hardware. The swap is representative of the cooling state of affairs between the two as the companies’ legal teams battle over Apple’s refusal to pay royalties that Qualcomm claims it is owed. Today, Qualcomm doubled down on its claims that Apple was stealing chip secrets from Qualcomm tech and feeding it to Intel engineers. CNBC reports: Qualcomm has unveiled explosive charges against Apple for stealing “vast swaths” of its confidential information and trade secrets for the purpose of improving the performance of chip sets provided by Qualcomm competitor Intel, according to a filing with the Superior Court of California. The allegations are contained in a complaint that Qualcomm hopes the court will amend to its existing lawsuit against Apple for breaching the so called master software agreement that Apple signed when it became a customer of Qualcomm’s earlier this decade. The newly filed documents amend an earlier suit by the company, claiming that Intel engineers working with Apple have been using Qualcomm source code. Qualcomm sues Apple, alleging it shared chip code with Intel

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The Horological Machine 9 puts a rocket on your wrist

If you’ve been keeping up with watchmaker MB&F you’ll be familiar with their Horological Machine series, watches that are similar in construction but wildly different when it comes to design. This watch, the HM9, is called the Flow and hearkens back to roadsters, jets and 1950s space ships. gallery ids="1719823,1719822,1719821" The watch, limited to a run of 33 pieces, shows the time on a small forward-facing face in one of the cones. The other two cones contain dual balance wheels. The balance wheel is what causes the watch to tick and controls the energy released by the main spring. Interestingly, MB&F added two to this watch in an effort to ensure accuracy. “The twin balance wheels of the HM9 engine feed two sets of chronometric data to a central differential for an averaged reading,” they wrote. “The balances are individually impulsed and spatially separated to ensure that they beat at their own independent cadences of 2.5Hz (18,000bph) each. This is important to ensure a meaningful average, just as how a statistically robust mathematical average should be derived from discrete points of information.” There are two versions, called the Road and Air, and they cost a mere $182,000 (tax not included). Considering nearly every piece of this is made by hand — from the case to the curved crystal to the intricate movement — you’re essentially paying a team of craftsman a yearly wage just to build your watch. While it’s no Apple Watch, the MB&F HM9 is a unique and weird little timepiece. While it’s obviously not for everyone, with enough cash and a little luck you can easily join a fairly exclusive club of HM9 owners.

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Google’s blanket ban of cryptocurrency ads ends next month

Google is rolling back its ban on cryptocurrency advertisements – following a similar move made by Facebook earlier this summer, CNBC reports. Google in March was among the first of the major platforms to announce it would no longer run ban cryptocurrency ads, due to an abundance of caution around an industry where there’s so much potential for consumer harm. Facebook , Twitter , and even Snapchat had also banned cryptocurrency ads, for similar reasons. But Facebook moved away from its blanket ban this June , when it said it would no longer ban all cryptocurrency ads, but would rather allow those from “pre-approved advertisers” instead. It excluded ads that promoted binary options and initial coin offerings (ICOs), however. Google is now following suit with its own policy change. The update was announced today, we’ve confirmed. Google’s policy still bans ICOs, wallets and trading advice, CNBC reports, citing Google’s updated policy page which points to a list of banned products. But the October 2018 policy update says that “regulated cryptocurrency exchanges” will be allowed to advertise in the U.S. and Japan. To do so, advertisers will have to be certified with Google for the specific country where their ads will run, a process that begins in October. The policy will apply to all accounts that advertise these types of financial products, Google says. Banning cryptocurrency ads on the part of the major platforms was a good step in terms of consumer protection , due to the amount of fraud and spam in the industry. According to the FTC, consumers lost  $532 million to cryptocurrency-related scams in the first two months of 2018.

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You’ll now need a subscription to get the best of Microsoft Office

Microsoft released Office 2019  for Windows and macOS this week, the latest version of its regular, non-subscription productivity suite. It’s the kind of Office that, 10 years ago, you would’ve bought in a shrink-wrapped package at Office Depot. But it’s really not the version of Office that Microsoft would like you to buy — or that you probably want to have. That’s because at this point, Office 2019 is basically a limited version that doesn’t include the most interesting new features of its Office 365 subscription counterpart. “We are really working very hard to position Office 365 in all its flavors — ProPlus for the commercial users — as very different from these versions of Office that have a year number in them,” Microsoft’s corporate VP for Office and Windows Jared Spataro told me. “Office 2019, all the features that we released in it, had previously been released in Office 365. So our way of talking about the cloud versions of Office 365 is that they’re connected, that this breathes life into them.” Spataro also noted that Microsoft wants users to remember that the connected Office 365 apps will offer higher productivity because of their cloud connectivity and a higher degree of security. He also argues that these versions deliver a lower total cost of ownership. Back when Microsoft launched Office 2016, those releases were essentially snapshots (“carbon copies,” Spataro called them) of the regularly updated Office 365 versions, which get monthly updates and feature releases. For the first time now, the on-premises version of Office only provides a subset of the full functionality, with a lot of missing functionality, because virtually all of the most interesting new features — including all the machine learning smarts that are now rolling out to Office 365 — will be missing from Office 2019. “I think there will be some confusion,” Spataro acknowledged. “It’ll take us some time to train people that the year number doesn’t mean it’s the best version.” In a way, though, this makes sense, given that a lot of the new functionality that Microsoft is now building into Office 365 only works because it’s connected to the cloud

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Tinder in India launches ‘My Move,’ a Bumble-like feature where women chat first

Tinder in India is now rolling out a new feature that allows women to make the first move. The setting, called “My Move,” is similar to the core feature in rival dating app Bumble, which is currently enmeshed in multiple lawsuits with Tinder parent Match Group. Match sued Bumble for patent violations following failed acquisition attempts that would have made Bumble another Match Group brand along with Tinder, Plenty of Fish, OKCupid, Match.com, and others. In February this year, Tinder confirmed it would later begin to test a new option that would allow women to choose when to start a conversation, but said this would not the default setting, as it is in Bumble. Instead, Tinder would allow women to decide whether or not they wanted this feature toggled on, it explained then. The company hadn’t yet rolled out the option at the time, but said it would come in a future update as a test, ahead of a public debut. According a report from Reuters  out this morning, which TechCrunch has also confirmed, Tinder has been quietly testing “My Move” in India for several months, and intends to roll out it out worldwide if all goes well. The company says it’s formally announcing the feature’s arrival in India today. It’s first available to users in India on iOS, Tinder tells us. To use the feature, women go into the app’s settings to enable it with a toggle switch. Once turned on, only they can start a conversation with their matches.

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New tech uses Wi-Fi to count people through walls

Whether you’re trying to figure out how many students are attending your lectures or how many evil aliens have taken your Space Force brethren hostage, Wi-Fi can now be used to count them all. The system, created by researchers at UC Santa Barbara, uses a single Wi-Fi router outside of the room to measure attenuation and signal drops. From the release: The transmitter sends a wireless signal whose received signal strength (RSSI) is measured by the receiver. Using only such received signal power measurements, the receiver estimates how many people are inside the room — an estimate that closely matches the actual number. It is noteworthy that the researchers do not do any prior measurements or calibration in the area of interest; their approach has only a very short calibration phase that need not be done in the same area. This means that you could simply walk up to a wall and press a button to count, with a high degree of accuracy, how many people are walking around. The system can measure up to 20 people in its current form. The system uses a mathematical model to “see” people in the room based on signal strength and attenuation. The system uses off-the-shelf components and they’ve tested it in multiple locations and found that their total accuracy is two people or less with only one Wi-Fi device nearby. Bodies and objects essentially absorb Wi-Fi as they move around in rooms, allowing the system to find discrete things in the space. Sadly it can’t yet map their position in the room, a feature that could be even more helpful in the future.

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Chef launches deeper integration with Microsoft Azure

DevOps automation service Chef today announced a number of new integrations with Microsoft Azure. The news, which was announced at Microsoft Ignite conference in Orlando, Florida, focuses on helping enterprises bring their legacy applications to Azure and ranges from the public preview of Chef Automate Managed Service for Azure to the integration of Chef’s InSpec compliance product with Microsoft’s cloud platform. With Chef Automate as a managed service on Azure, which provides ops teams with a single tool for managing and monitoring their compliance and infrastructure configurations, developers can now easily deploy and manage Chef Automate and the Chef Server from the Azure Portal. It’s a fully managed service and the company promises that businesses can get started with using it in as little as thirty minutes (though I’d take those numbers with a grain of salt). When those configurations need to change, Chef users on Azure can also now use the Chef Workstation with Azure Cloud Shell, Azure’s command line interface. Workstation is one of Chef’s newest products and focuses on making ad-hoc configuration changes, no matter whether the node is managed by Chef or not. And to remain in compliance, Chef is also launching an integration of its InSpec security and compliance tools with Azure. InSpec works hand in hand with Microsoft’s new Azure Policy Guest Configuration (who comes up with these names?) and allows users to automatically audit all of their applications on Azure. “Chef gives companies the tools they need to confidently migrate to Microsoft Azure so users don’t just move their problems when migrating to the cloud, but have an understanding of the state of their assets before the migration occurs,” said Corey Scobie, the senior vice president of products and engineering at Chef, in today’s announcement. “Being able to detect and correct configuration and security issues to ensure success after migrations gives our customers the power to migrate at the right pace for their organization.”

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Mozilla’s Firefox Monitor will now alert you when one of your accounts was hacked

Earlier this year, Mozilla announced  Firefox Monitor , a service that tells you if your online accounts were hacked in a recent data breach. All you have to give it is your email address and it’ll use the Have I Been Pwned database to show you if you need to worry and what data was compromised. Today, Mozilla is taking this a step further by also letting you sign up for alerts for when your accounts appear in any (known) breaches in the future. When it first launched, Mozilla considered Firefox Monitor an experimental service. Now, it’s being launched as an official service. If none of your accounts have been hacked yet, consider yourself lucky. That still makes you the perfect user for Firefox Monitor’s new alerting feature, though, because chances are your email address will show up in a future breach sooner or later. Indeed, when Mozilla first asked people about which features they most wanted from a service like this, notifications about future breaches were very high on most people’s list. Mozilla notes that Firefox Monitor is just one of a number of new data and privacy features the organization has on its roadmap for the next few months. It’s clear that Mozilla is positioning itself as a neutral force and overall, that seems to be going quite well, especially given that Google’s Chrome browser is facing a bit of a backlash these days as users are increasingly concerned about their privacy and the vast trove of data Google collects. Firefox will soon start blocking trackers by default

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Salesforce, AWS expand partnership with secure data sharing between platforms

Salesforce and Amazon’s cloud arm, AWS , have had a pretty close relationship for some time, signing a $400 million deal for infrastructure cloud services in 2016, but today at Dreamforce, Salesforce’s massive customer conference taking place this week in San Francisco, they took it to another level. The two companies announced they were offering a new set of data integration services between the two cloud platforms for common customers. Matt Garman, vice president of Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud, says customers looking to transform digitally are still primarily concerned about security when moving data between cloud vendors, More specifically, they were asking for a way to move data more securely between the Salesforce and Amazon platforms. “Customers talked to us about sensitive data in Salesforce and using deep analytics and data processing on AWS and moving them back and forth in secure way,” he said. Today’s announcements let them do that. In practice, Salesforce customers can set up a direct connection using AWS Private Link to connect directly to private Salesforce APIs and move data from Salesforce to an Amazon service such as Redshift, the company’s data warehouse product, without ever exposing the data to the open internet. Further, Salesforce customers can set up Lambda functions so that when certain conditions are met in Salesforce, it triggers an action such as moving data (or vice versa). This is commonly known as serverless computing  and developers are increasingly using event triggers to drive business processes. Finally, the two companies are integrating more directly with Amazon Connect, the Amazon contact center software it launched in 2017 . This is where it gets more interesting because of course Salesforce offers its own contact center services with Salesforce Service Cloud. The two companies found a way to help common customers work together here to build what they are calling AI-driven self-service applications using Amazon Connect on the Salesforce mobile Lightning development platform

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Picfair gives every photographer on its marketplace their own store

Picfair , the photo marketplace that competes with Getty and Shutterstock by giving photographers a fairer deal , is adding a major update to its offering today. The London-based startup is launching Picfair Stores, giving the 35,000 photographers on its marketplace the ability to create their own free independent online store. Customers who buy from a Picfair Store can choose a licensed digital copy or a physical print. “We’re moving beyond being just a new generation stock image marketplace,” Picfair founder Benji Lanyado, who used to be a journalist at The Guardian , tells me. “With stores, and prints, and more… we’re becoming a fully featured commercial ecosystem for photographers. At the heart of it all: the principle that anyone should be able to make money from their images, simply and fairly”. In addition, every image on a photographer’s individual Picfair Store will also be available simultaneously on Picfair’s marketplace, which Lanyado likens to “thousands of local image stores across the globe, with a central Amazon-style megastore they all feed in to”. He reckons it is the first time anyone has combined a marketplace with the added control of website builders, such as Wix or Squarespace, and the on-demand print functionality of Smugmug or Zenfolio, all built with amateur photographers in mind (although the line between amateur and professional is becoming increasingly blurred). “Picfair is uniting all of this. The control of a website builder. The commercial structures of an e-commerce platform. The exposure of a marketplace, with added price control and fair royalty splits,” Lanyado says. Less tech-driven but perhaps equally significant, Picfair has recently launched a photo agency unit , building on top of its bread and butter business of selling image licenses to editorial and marketing companies

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BlaBlaCar is on the path to profitability

French startup BlaBlaCar just released some interesting metrics. The company has reached profitability if you look at revenue between January 2018 and today. BlaBlaCar forecasts that 50 million people will book a ride on BlaBlaCar in 2018, which represents a 40 percent increase compared to 2017. BlaBlaCar is a marketplace for long-distance rides. People driving from point A to point B can find riders willing to go in the same direction to share the cost of the ride. A few years ago, when BlaBlaCar raised multiple megarounds , co-founder and now president Frédéric Mazzella told me that the company was at a crossroad and had to choose between growth first then profitability, or profitability then growth. It looks like the company has now completed its growth-then-profitability journey. There are now 65 million registered users on the platform, including 15 million users in France. The service is currently live in 22 countries. In France in particular, 40 percent of people aged between 18 and 35 are using BlaBlaCar. While the company is reaching market saturation on this segment, elderly people currently represent a growth opportunity. It is the fastest growing segment and the user base has doubled in six years when you look at this part of the user base in particular — I know, these are some soft metrics so it’s hard to understand if it’s going to impact the company’s bottom line. Foreign countries now represent 75 percent of BlaBlaCar’s revenue. When it comes to features, BlaBlaCar finally started automatically matching people who are departing or arriving from a small city. Drivers don’t have to manually input a list of cities on the way

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Car-sharing network Turo expands service in UK

Turo — the peer-to-peer car-sharing marketplace sometimes referred to as the ‘Airbnb of cars’ — is expanding to the UK. And this time, everyday car owners can actually use it. The San Francisco-based company expanded to the UK once before in 2016. But at the time, the Turo platform was only offered to small rental car companies under its  commercial host program . Now, anyone who owns or leases a 2008 model-year or newer vehicle can list it on the Turo app. The company’s insurance partner Allianz covers all vehicles rented by its pre-approved users. Turo first launched in 2009 as Relay Rides and rebranded with a new name in 2015. Since then, the company has expanded to new markets, including Canada and Germany . Turo now has 8 million users, a third of whom were added this year, according to the company. The UK is the company’s most-searched-for destination outside North America, according to Turo CEO Andre Haddad, who added that British guests in the U.S. and Canada represent its largest portion of international travelers. “This makes us confident that now is the right time to expand here,” Haddad said in a statement. Turo markets itself to car owners as a way to earn extra money and cover the cost of owning their vehicle.

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After extradition to Texas, 3D-printed gunmaker Cody Wilson is out on bail

Last week, after  Hatreon creator and 3D-printed gun activist Cody Wilson was charged with the sexual assault of a minor, he managed to evade arrest briefly in Taipei. On Friday, authorities successfully located Wilson and extradited him back to Texas , booking him into a Harris County jail. Now, Wilson is out on a $150,000 bond . Facing sexual assault charges, 3D-printed gun advocate Cody Wilson evades US authorities Wilson’s arrest in a Taipei hotel on Friday was the result of a collaborative effort between the U.S. Marshals, Taiwan’s police force and the U.S. State Department. His charges stem from an August 22 incident during which Wilson allegedly sexually assaulted a 16-year-old he found on SugarDaddyMeet.com, paying her $500 for sex in a North Austin hotel. The charges are corroborated by security footage showing Wilson himself and a car with a license plate registered to his business. The charges originated from a report by a counselor who had spoken with the 16-year-old girl who identified Wilson and described the alleged assault. Wilson lives in Austin where he owns and operates Defense Distributed, a defense company that conducts research and development “for the benefit of the American rifleman.” He reportedly fled to Taiwan after receiving a tip that authorities sought to arrest him. “This was a collaborative effort that demonstrates the dedication of local, state, federal and international officials working together to bring this fugitive to justice,” U.S.

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