The Dark Ages of Search; Apps track your location every 3 minutes; 3 Charts That Show Why We’re Addicted to Our Phones; How to Enable and Delete Cookies on Your Browser; Riff Lets Friends Add Clips To Collaborative Videos; Microsoft finally gets it right with the Surface 3; Google cracks down on browser ad injectors; Everything you need to know about Device Protection in Android 5.1; RadioShack update: User data is safe for now; PlayStation Plus members, these are your free games for April; HBO is headed to Sling TV this month; Google’s ARC now runs Android apps on Chrome OS, Windows, Mac, and Linux; 5 Video Games You’ll Want to Buy in April; RSA Conference 2015 bans booth babes; TunnelBear (free).
The Dark Ages of Search – It’s obvious that search is broken when you actually try to find something online besides a shopping site, fake review site, or something Google owns or wants to promote. A recent investigation of the company by the FTC found all sorts of violations of the public trust. Of course that seems like no big deal in an era of payday loans, massive national banks that are “too big to fail,” phony fees tacked on to pretty much everything, consumer fraud, illegal spam, fake drugs, militarized local police, falling wages, slipshod quality control, and endless scams in every part of society. Why does anyone expect Google to be above it all and give us search results that are on the up and up? Well, there is one reason.
Wearing GPS ankle monitor is a search, yet apps track your location every 3 minutes – The Supreme Court said tracking a person via GPS ankle bracelet, to know geolocation at all times, qualifies as a ‘search’ and could violate the Fourth Amendment, yet Android apps track and can share your location every three minutes. GPS gives location and if you have a smartphone then your location is shared a ridiculous number of times per hour by apps, according to a recent study (pdf) conducted by Carnegie Mellon University. At one point in the study, 23 Android smartphone users would receive a daily “privacy nudge” that provided “concise privacy-relevant information” about how many times their location, phone contact lists, calendar or call logs had been shared. One user was notified, “Your location has been shared 5,398 times with Facebook, Groupon, GO Launcher EX and seven other apps in the last 14 days.”
Facebook’s Newest App Riff Lets Friends Add Clips To Collaborative Videos – Shoot a video of up to 20 seconds in Riff, and give it a title that instructs others what they should add to it like “Make A Funny Face” or “Birthday Wishes For Johnny” or “Adventures Of Mr. Banana.” Friends will see the video on Riff and get a notification inviting them to contribute, with each clip tacked on at the end. The contributors’ friends are then invited to add scenes, too. Here’s a look at what it’s like to use Riff:
3 Charts That Show Why We’re Addicted to Our Phones – A new report from Pew Research Center takes a sobering look at why many Americans just can’t be without their smartphones.
How to Enable and Delete Cookies on Your Browser – Take control of a tiny bit of your online privacy by blocking, deleting, and allowing only select cookies.
Twitch adds YouTube-style persistent player to its mobile apps, as streaming battle ramps up – Twitch isn’t adding this feature just to be nice. If YouTube is planning to game streaming as rumored, Twitch needs to up its own game.
Microsoft finally gets it right with the Surface 3 – The new Surface 3 from Microsoft delivers a solid compromise between power and price that hits the sweet spot for many consumers.
Google’s ARC now runs Android apps on Chrome OS, Windows, Mac, and Linux – ARC is an early beta though so Google has kept the project’s reach very limited—only a handful of apps have been ported to ARC, which have all been the result of close collaborations between Google and the app developer. Now though, Google is taking two big steps forward: it’s allowing any developer to run their app on ARC via a new Chrome app packager, and it’s allowing ARC to run on any desktop OS with a Chrome browser.
NASA launches web tool for exploring asteroid Vesta – NASA has launched a new web tool that is akin to Google Earth, only it allows Internet goers to explore the asteroid Vesta. Vesta is said to be one of the largest asteroids in our solar system, and it was studied by the spacecraft Dawn from summer 2011 to late summer 2012. The web tool includes a lot of data that was gathered by the spacecraft during its mission, which the user can select as desired in the course of things. Included with the tool are “standard keyboard gaming controls”, 3D topography that can be exported, and more.
Flickr lets photographers set their work free with Public Domain, CC0 tags – Because not every picture needs to turn a profit, Flickr is making it easier for photographers to distribute their work with no strings attached.
A year after its demise, Windows XP still has more users than Windows 8 and 8.1 combined – With the upcoming anniversary of Windows XP reaching the end of its life, the OS still has more users than Windows 8 and Windows 8.1 combined. According to NetMarketShare, Windows XP still holds a market share of 16.94% as of March 2015. In the same report it shows that Windows 8 and Windows 8.1 hold a combined market share of 14.07%. While Windows XP narrowly holds on to its pole position, its gradual decline suggests that users are finally ready to let go of the antiquated operating system.
Admin rights to blame for 97 percent of critical Microsoft flaws – Report – An analysis of Microsoft Patch Tuesday bulletins suggests that 97 percent of all reported critical security vulnerabilities could have been mitigated simply by removing administrator rights. So what does a user lose if they are stripped of admin rights? Avecto explains admin rights to typically include the ability to install, modify and delete software and files, in addition to adjusting system settings. Normally, admin rights should not be granted on a majority of employee machines. The reason, the report pointed out, is because user accounts with those types of admin privileges are the primary targets for exploitation by malware, as they provide unrestricted access to an endpoint.
Google cracks down on browser ad injectors after shocking study – More than 100,000 Chrome users have complained to Google about extensions injecting ads into their browser windows since January 1, 2015 alone, and now The Chocolate Factory is moving to block the worst offenders. Ad injectors are extensions – or occasionally standalone apps – that replace native advertising on web pages with whatever the software’s creator wants you to see. They can range from being simply annoying to a serious security risk, as was seen in the Lenovo Superfish debacle. Google isn’t planning to get rid of all ad injectors, however. If the software tells the user exactly what it’s doing and it doesn’t interfere with website-specified advertising, then the Chocolate Factory will show some leeway.
RadioShack update: User data is safe for now, while Sprint co-branding is in the works – The user data could still be sold someday, though, and the union of two troubled companies may or may not pay off. Stay tuned as the drama unfolds!
Obama signs bill to allow sanctions be placed on ‘malicious’ hackers – Taking dead aim at “malicious cyber attackers”, President Obama today signed into law a bill that will allow those who target US companies for things like DDoS attacks to have sanctions imposed upon them. In announcing the bill, Homeland Security and Counterterrorism chief Lisa Monaco said “by freezing assets of those subject to sanctions and making it more difficult for them to do business with U.S. entities, we can remove a powerful economic motivation for committing these acts in the first place”.
Firefox 37 enhances security – Mozilla has released Firefox 37.0. This update includes security fixes for four critical, two high, five moderate and one low impact vulnerability. Among the new and changed features that enhance security are improved protection against site impersonation, opportunistic encryption of HTTP data (for instances where legacy content disallows migration to HTTPS), disabled insecure TLS version fallback, improved certificate and TLS communication security by removing support for DSA, and (for developers) a new Security Panel included in Network Panel. One new feature that could improve Firefox usability in the long run is Heartbeat, a system for collecting feedback from the user population.
Everything you need to know about Device Protection in Android 5.1 – Android’s new Device Protection system can keep a thief from using your phone, but it won’t work without the proper settings. In addition, it can backfire if you sell your phone without disabling Device Protection first. There are definitely some things you need to know.
GitHub 1, China 0, as sustained cyberattack ends after five days – The code-sharing website is back up and running after a week-long attack crippled its services. The attack was blamed on Beijing, an allegation it didn’t actually deny.
IBM And Apple Release Eight More Enterprise Apps For Healthcare, Airlines And More – Apple and IBM’s partnership that has the companies working together to produce enterprise-friendly apps has expanded yet again with the addition of eight more apps designed for iOS devices, including the iPhone and iPad, bringing the total number of MobileFirst apps up to now 22. The new apps are focused on the healthcare and industrial products industries, following prior announcements that saw the release of apps specific to banking and finance, travel and transportation, energy and utilities, law enforcement, retail, insurance, and more.
Judge rejects AT&T claim that FTC can’t stop unlimited data throttling – A federal judge has rejected AT&T’s claim that it can’t be sued by the Federal Trade Commission, which is trying to put a stop to the carrier’s throttling of unlimited data plans. The FTC sued AT&T in October 2014, saying the company deceived customers by offering unlimited data plans and then throttling data speeds once customers hit certain usage thresholds, such as 3GB or 5GB in a month. AT&T claimed in January that because it is a common carrier, it isn’t subject to FTC jurisdiction. In a decision out of US District Court in Northern California yesterday, Judge Edward Chen refused to dismiss the lawsuit.
GoDaddy Pops Nearly 31% As It Opens For Trading, Raising $460M In Its IPO – Web hosting company GoDaddy is going strong in its first day as a public company. The company, which yesterday priced its IPO at $20 per share with plans to sell 23 million shares, raised some $460 million today as it saw its stock pop over 30% in its debut on the NYSE, opening at $26.15. Trading under the GDDY ticker, at the time of writing, GoDaddy’s stock has continued to rise and is currently at 30% above its opening price, working out to a market cap of $6.3 billion. GoDaddy originally expected to price its offering at between $17 and $19 per share.
Cricket Wireless partners with Amazon for BYOD kit – Cricket has announced a new partnership with Amazon that will open up the carrier to those who prefer to bring their own device. Under the partnership, Cricket Wireless has introduced a Bring Your Own Device Universal SIM Card Activation Kit; it is being offered through Amazon which, presumably, is hoping consumers will pick up a new tablet or smartphone while on the retailer’s site. As you’d expect, the SIM activation kit includes all the things one needs to activate a smartphone on the carrier’s network, including adapters to make sure the SIM card fits any particular phone.
Games and Entertainment:
PlayStation Plus members, these are your free games for April – April is finally here and so are the new games for PlayStation Plus members. If you’ve been clamoring for something new to play, Sony has just unveiled titles for the PS4, PS3, and PS Vita.
Mario Kart 8 gets a new DLC pack and a speed boost at 200cc! – Mario Kart has gone through innumerable incarnations, and Nintendo Wii U’s Mario Kart 8 is about to get even more fun. Nintendo is adding a slew of new features in its latest paid DLC Pack 2, including new race tracks, new bikes, and more. There’s also a free software update for the game coming soon. Also incoming are nine additional amiibo figures like Sonic, Pac-Man, and Mega Man. Tapping the amiibo figure on the Wii U touchpad unlocks new Mii Racing Suits themed accordingly.
HBO is headed to Sling TV this month – Sling TV wants to free you of the cable shackles that bind you. HBO is aiming for the same effect, as their recent Apple TV deal highlighted at Apple’s latest gathering. The two, it seems, would be a match made in heaven. Like so much other cable content already has, a new report says HBO is headed to Sling TV. In a deal with Dish Network, who operate Sling TV, HBO is said to offer up their service to the Internet TV service, and will also provide HBO NOW to Dish.
New expansion for Xbox One exclusive ‘Sunset Overdrive’ launches – The newest downloadable expansion for the Xbox One exclusive third-person action game “Sunset Overdrive” has launched, adding an entirely new area to the game. In addition to the expansion pack, a new achievement worth 200 gamerscore has been added. Players can obtain the “Worst Job in the Kingdom” achievement by completing the “Floating Garbage” mission in or under the par time of 15 minutes. The expansion also adds nine of its own achievements. The expansion costs $10 on its own, though it is also included in the game’s season pass, which costs $20 and includes the game’s previous two add-ons.
5 Video Games You’ll Want to Buy in April – Yet another month of highly anticipated video game releases is upon us, and a short but sweet selection of excellent titles are scheduled to hit store shelves in the coming weeks. Click on the slideshow links above or below to take a look at our picks for April’s hottest video game titles.
Off Topic (Sort of):
RSA Conference 2015 bans ‘booth babes’, says to dress professionally – The inclusion of so-called “booth babes” at tech and similar events has been a long-standing tradition, but one that has been falling out of favor in recent years, being regarded as unnecessary or offensive, among other things. Some have rallied to end the practice, which is meant to entice event goers toward some particular booth or product, and those efforts are slowly paying off, with some events and companies banning the practice. Latest to the ban list is the RSA Conference 2015, which has said that everyone who attends must adhere to a business dress code.
Applause from this desk!
These maps show why internet is way more expensive in the US than Europe – More than a quarter of Americans cannot go online at home to pay bills, check their children’s grades at school, apply for jobs, or research health issues. They don’t have what has become a crucial service for participation in modern society: internet service at home. The proportion of households with internet service had been rising steadily for decades, according to the Pew Research Center, until the past few years when the adoption rate slowed. One reason? The high cost of broadband, and the lack of competition that leads to those high prices.
Over 40 US tech leaders urge legislators to “forbid” LGBT discrimination – A letter posted to the Human Rights Campaign blog on Wednesday, signed by CEOs and executives representing 42 tech companies across the United States, urged legislators around the country to update their states’ civil rights laws in the wake of Indiana’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act. The letter’s co-signers included the CEOs of Twitter, eBay, Lyft, Airbnb, Square, about.me, Tumblr, and Evernote, along with high-ranking executives at Cisco, YCombinator, and Zynga. It also included the signatures of Salesforce CEO Mark Benioff and Yelp CEO Jeremy Stoppelman, both of whom had already written open letters emphatically opposing the RFRA, but it did not include a signature from Apple CEO Tim Cook, who had already written a similar call to other states’ legislatures over the weekend in a Washington Post op-ed.
NYPD cop reassigned after passenger films xenophobic rant on Uber driver – A New York Police Department detective has been transferred from his position on the Joint Terrorism Task Force after a video of his xenophobic tirade against an Uber driver surfaced online. Det. Patrick Cherry is in hot water following his rant Monday that was filmed by a backseat passenger and uploaded to social media. As of Tuesday, the 3.5-minute-long video was viewed nearly 800,000 times on YouTube alone. The officer at one point pounds the vehicle with his hand and blurts to the driver, who is of unknown nationality, “I don’t know what fucking planet you’re on,” according to the video. Tuesday’s reassignment of Cherry is the latest development in which citizen videos uploaded to YouTube have gotten NYPD cops in hot water.
Global executions – Reported executions by state governments in 2014
Let’s Make ‘Off The Grid’ A Thing Of The Past – We live in a world where there are nearly as many cell phone subscriptions as people on Earth, where we can instantly see a real-time view of streets or buildings halfway across the planet, and where our TVs, homes and cars get smarter by the day. The level of connectivity that we currently enjoy could barely have been imagined even a decade ago, and yet the reality is that even today we are connected to less than one-quarter of the entire planet.
Something to think about:
“The great thing about getting older is that you don’t lose all the other ages you’ve been.”
– Madeleine L’Engle
Today’s Free Downloads:
TunnelBear – TunnelBear wants to bring the benefits of VPN to everyone with their simple application for PC, Mac, iOS and Android devices.
Browse privately – Secure your data and hide your IP address behind a bear.
Experience the Internet as if you’re in another country – A TunnelBear can “tunnel” you around censorship and blocked sites to another country of your choosing.
Zap creepy trackers – Block the website trackers (ads, analytics, scripts, social buttons) that track everything you and your family do online.
A TunnelBear is really, really simple – On. Off. On. Off. You get the idea.
In Pursuit of Freedom – The Pushback Continues:
Canada: Anti-terrorism Act: The government has still not made its case – The Harper government’s Anti-terrorism Act went through a final day of committee hearings on Tuesday that was nasty, brutish and short. A single day was plainly not enough to consider clause-by-clause amendments to a bill that will give uncomfortable new powers to the government when it passes in June. And it comes on the heels of a truncated series of meetings where the Conservative members who dominate the public safety committee hijacked the venue to attack, in snide terms, the credibility of witnesses who criticized the many troubling aspects of the bill.
The objects of the Conservative MPs’ puerile insults – “Are you fundamentally opposed to taking terrorists off the street?” was one of their questions – included the Canadian Bar Association and the B.C. Civil Liberties Association. But at least those groups got the chance to be abused by the committee. The government did not even allot time to Canada’s privacy commissioner to testify about a bill that clearly infringes on Canadians’ rights.
How does Bill C-51 do that? It gives government departments the ability to share otherwise protected information about any person or group deemed to be a threat to national security. It transforms our spy service, CSIS, from an intelligence-gathering agency to one with police powers, whose members can “disrupt” threats of terrorism. The government has still not said whether “disrupt” means the power to detain and interrogate, though it has at least said it does not include the power to arrest.
How Big Business Is Helping Expand NSA Surveillance, Snowden Be Damned – Since November 11, 2011, with the introduction of the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act, American spy agencies have been pushing laws to encourage corporations to share more customer information. They repeatedly failed, thanks in part to NSA contractor Edward Snowden’s revelations of mass government surveillance. Then came Republican victories in last year’s midterm Congressional elections and a major push by corporate interests in favor of the legislation.
Today, the bill is back, largely unchanged, and if congressional insiders and the bill’s sponsors are to believed, the legislation could end up on President Obama’s desk as soon as this month. In another boon to the legislation, Obama is expected to reverse his past opposition and sign it, albeit in an amended and renamed form (CISPA is now CISA, the “Cybersecurity Information Sharing Act”). The reversal comes in the wake of high-profile hacks on JPMorgan Chase and Sony Pictures Entertainment. The bill has also benefitted greatly from lobbying by big business, which sees it as a way to cut costs and to shift some anti-hacking defenses onto the government.
For all its appeal to corporations, CISA represents a major new privacy threat to individual citizens. It lays the groundwork for corporations to feed massive amounts of communications to private consortiums and the federal government, a scale of cooperation even greater than that revealed by Snowden. The law also breaks new ground in suppressing pushback against privacy invasions; in exchange for channeling data to the government, businesses are granted broad legal immunity from privacy lawsuits — potentially leaving consumers without protection if companies break privacy promises that would otherwise keep information out of the hands of authorities.
Review body for Canada’s electronic spy agency warns it can’t keep up – The 11-person review body looking into Canada’s massive electronic spy agency worry they can’t keep up with the Communications Security Establishment’s growth.
The Office of the Communications Security Establishment Commissioner has warned that the growth of CSE and fiscal restraint at the commissioner’s office is a “constant concern.”
“Cost sharing related to central agency initiatives and fiscal restraint measures are reducing the flexibility of the office’s available funding,” a report tabled in Parliament Tuesday reads. “CSE, however, is growing and its activities are changing in response to a changing environment.”
CSE Commissioner Jean-Pierre Plouffe has a team of around eight investigators and an annual budget of $2 million. CSE, Canada’s answer to the U.S. National Security Agency, is projected to spend $538.2 million this year, and has over 2,000 employees.
On Monday, another spying overseer, the Security Intelligence Review Committee (SIRC) warned that continued vacancies on its five-person board, the inability to investigate CSIS operations with other agencies, and delays in CSIS providing required information were resulting in “key risks” to its mandate.
The CSE report suggests the commissioner will engage part-time subject matter experts when required to supplement his permanent staff. But it also says that an increase in funding would resolve the “capacity issue” and “provide the necessary assurances to . . . Canadians as to whether CSE is complying with the law and has due regard for the privacy of Canadians.”