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Texting Turns 25 Years Old

December 5, 2017 by  
Filed under Mobile

Texting celebrated a milestone birthday this past Sunday, ICYMI.

The first text message was sent on Dec. 3, 1992, by British engineer Neil Papworth to Richard Jarvis, an executive at British telecom Vodafone, who was attending his company’s holiday party in Newbury, England.

Typed out on a PC, it was sent to Jarvis’s Orbitel 901, a mobile phone that would take up most of your laptop backpack, and read: Merry Christmas. But Jarvis didn’t send a reply because there was no way to send a text from a phone in those days.

Although Papworth is credited with sending the first text message, he’s not the so-called father of SMS. That honor (or blame) falls on Matti Makkonen, who initially suggested the idea back in 1984 at a telecommunications conference.

But texting didn’t take off over night. First it had to be incorporated into the then-budding GSM standard. Makkonen feels the technology actually was launched in 1994 when Nokia unveiled its 2010 mobile phone, the first device that let people easily write messages.

Today, about 97 percent of smartphone owners use text messaging, according to Pew Research, and along the way, a new set of sub-languages based on abbreviations and keyboard-based imagery has evolved. More than 561 billion text messages were sent worldwide in June 2014, about 18.7 billion texts sent every day, according researcher TextRequest.

Texting has become so popular that most Americans would rather type it than say it. US smartphone users are sending and receiving five times as many texts compared with the number of phone calls each day, according to the International Smartphone Mobility Report by mobile data tracking firm Infomate.

Apple’s iOS 11.2 Adds Apple Pay Cash

December 5, 2017 by  
Filed under Mobile

Apple’s new iOS 11.2 software update became available on Saturday, adding Apple Pay Cash and faster wireless charging to supported iPhones.

For anyone with an iPhone 6 or later, the update’s Apple Pay Cash feature opens up the ability to send cash to friends and family over iMessage. While I didn’t see the feature immediately turned on after updating my own iPhone to iOS 11.2, when it does appear it should work similarly to Paypal’s Venmo service.

Anyone with the iPhone 8, iPhone 8 Plus or iPhone X can look forward to faster wireless charging, with the update release specifically noting improvements when using third-party chargers. That’s pretty much every Qi wireless charger currently out, as Apple’s own AirPower charging mat is planned for a 2018 release.

Other improvements and fixes listed by Apple include:

  • Improves video camera stabilization
  • Adds support in Podcasts to automatically advance to the next episode from the same show
  • Adds support in HealthKit for downhill snow sports distance as a data type
  • Fixes an issue that could cause Mail to appear to be checking for new messages even when a download is complete
  • Fixes an issue that could cause cleared Mail notifications from Exchange accounts to reappear
  • Improves stability in Calendar
  • Resolves an issue where Settings could open to a blank screen
  • Fixes an issue that could prevent swiping to Today View or Camera from the Lock Screen
  • Addresses an issue that could prevent Music controls from displaying on the Lock Screen
  • Fixes an issue that could cause app icons to be arranged incorrectly on the Home Screen
  • Addresses an issue that could prevent users from deleting recent photos when iCloud storage is exceeded
  • Addresses an issue where Find My iPhone sometimes wouldn’t display a map
  • Fixes an issue in Messages where the keyboard could overlap the most recent message
  • Fixes an issue in Calculator where typing numbers rapidly could lead to incorrect results
  • Addressed an issue where the keyboard could respond slowly
  • Adds support for real-time text (RTT) phone calls for the deaf and hard of hearing
  • Improves VoiceOver stability in Messages, Settings, App Store and Music
  • Resolves an issue that prevented VoiceOver from announcing incoming Notifications

WhatsApp Now Allows Deleting Of Accidental Messages

November 1, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

You’ve just sent someone the wrong message and begin to panic.

Calm down. Much like Gmail’s Undo Send feature, WhatsApp now lets you delete messages you sent by mistake, according to a WhatsApp support article spotted by The Next Web.

The Facebook-owned messaging app tested the feature throughout this year and will release it gradually for real to WhatsApp users over the next week. It will let you delete messages up to seven minutes after you send them from individual or group chats.

You can delete a message by tapping and holding on it, then choosing Delete from the menu. From there, tap Delete for Everyone to make the message on your end and the receiving end disappear too. Note that when you do this, the message will be replaced in your recipient’s chat by one saying “This message was deleted.”

There are a few caveats, including that both you and others need to be using the latest version of WhatsApp. People may see your message before it’s deleted, and WhatsApp noted that “you will not be notified if deleting for everyone was not successful.”

Dropbox Debuts ‘Showcase’ New Product Aimed At Freelancers

October 20, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

Dropbox has rolled out a new portfolio feature, Showcase, designed to help independent workers and small teams of professionals display and share documents more easily.

The idea is that freelance workers such as architects and designers can store content in Showcase before sharing information with clients. Documents are arranged in a branded portfolio in a “secure and polished way,” with customizable layouts, said Dropbox director of product, Vishal Kapoor. It is also possible to add text captions to files to introduce content topics to help create a narrative around what’s being shared.

Dropbox, which recently rebranded to appeal to “creatives,” has identified a large target audience: it is estimated that 35% of the U.S. workforce is now freelance, a group that as of 2016 totaled to 55 million people.

“Dropbox has quite a following in creative and media companies,” said ESG senior analyst Terri McClure. “Showcase complements that really well – it’s really nice for when a story needs to accompany files or other collateral. In the creative space, it is really important to control the narrative and set the stage for discussions.”

Showcase is aimed at overcoming some of the problems users face when sharing documents. For example, a marketing consultant might want to know if their client has actually opened more than just the first of a batch of five files. With Showcase they can track who has viewed, downloaded or commented on documents within the portfolio.

Files stored in Showcase are synced with Dropbox, meaning that any changes are instantly updated.

While Showcase is targeted at independent workers, it is just as suited to small teams of people within large companies, said Kapoor.

“Say a large enterprise has sales and marketing that are collaborating with each other. When the work is done they share it internally within the organization or externally outside of the organization,” he said. “We think that Showcase is not just limited to independent workers, but scales very well.”

Showcase is launching as part of a new pricing tier: Dropbox Professional. This also includes Dropbox Smart Sync, unveiled earlier this year, which lets users view all of their Dropbox documents from a single device, whether they are stored locally on a hard drive or in the cloud.

“There are millions of freelancers and self-employed small business users that need many of the features previously available only in the business plans,” said ESG’s McClure. “This fixes that.”

The Professional tier is available for $199 a year and includes 1TB of storage. It offers data protection and security features such as two-step authentication and remote-wipe, as well as priority chat support.

Slack, Oracle Collaborating On Chatbots

October 9, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

Slack is highlighting a deal that will allow its team messaging tool to act as the interface for a range of Oracle business applications.

The deal has advantages for both companies, offering Oracle a new method of engagement with its sales, HR and ERP apps and handing Slack a chance to boost its presence in large organizations.

Slack has made significant efforts to court large corporate customers as the collaboration software market continues to grow. It launched its Enterprise Grid in January, has added new features such as shared channels and threaded messages, and partnered with other enterprise software providers such as ServiceNow.

The tie-up with Oracle should is aimed at furthering these ambitions.

 “If Slack can become the preferred messaging client for Oracle customers (and [is] pushed via Oracle’s sales channels) then it could help seed Slack adoption within Oracle shops,” said Alan Lepofsky, vice president and principal analyst at Constellation Research.

After it’s fully launched in the next few months, customers will be able to deploy bots within Slack using Oracle’s Intelligent Bot Service allowing end users to retrieve information without switching applications. For example, an employee could ask an Oracle bot to look-up a colleague’s company profile using natural language understanding, with the results posted directly to Slack.

“This is just the first step in our partnership with Oracle, and we look forward to much more to come,” Slack said in a blog post. The company envisions more interactive bots down the road.

Keybase Unveils End-to-End Message Encryption Service

September 26, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

Keybase has rolled out a Slack-style team messaging service that promises to protect private communications with end-to-end encryption.

The company launched in 2015 with the aim of making encryption technology more accessible to consumers. Its latest service, Keybase Teams, has a look similar to Slack with features such as chat rooms and channels. Admins can add set up groups of users to work on a particular project, and encrypted files can be uploaded and shared.

An early release version of the software is now available for download for desktops and mobile devices.

The key advantage, Keybase said, involves enhanced security and privacy.

End-to-end encryption means that only the sender and receiver of a message can view the information being shared. The goal is to prevent ‘man in the middle’ attacks and block any third parties from viewing the data.

Most of the popular team messaging tools such as Slack and Microsoft Teams encrypt data at rest and in transit, rather than end-to-end. Cisco, however, has already added full encryption to its Spark platform.

In a blog post, Keybase said that end-to-end encryption is important as it “means you don’t have to worry about server hacks. Alternatively, you can lie awake at night…fearing a breach of your company’s messaging history. What if your team’s history got stolen from Slack and leaked or published?”

Keybase said its messaging tool will not just protect communications from external snooping, but also block sub-teams in the same organization from gaining access to private information. The company cited work involving, for example, a devops team and board of directors: “From passing around technical secrets to discussing more tender business dealings, these groups will want data that can’t be decrypted by others inside their own company.”

 

Skype, WhatsApp Calls Allowed Again In Saudi Arabia

September 22, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

The Saudi government has rescinded its ban on calls made through online apps on Thursday but will monitor and censor them, a government spokesman said.

All online voice and video call services – such as Microsoft’s Skype, Facebook’s WhatsApp and Messenger, and Rakuten’s Viber – that satisfy regulatory requirements were set to become accessible overnight.

However, on Thursday morning, Viber appeared to remain blocked inside the kingdom, and WhatsApp worked only when connected to a wireless network.

 Adel Abu Hameed, a spokesman for telecoms regulator CITC, said on Arabiya TV on Wednesday that new regulations were aimed mainly at protecting users’ personal information and blocking content that violated the kingdom’s laws.

Asked if the apps could be monitored by the authorities or companies, he said: “Under no circumstances can the user use an application for video or voice calling without monitoring and censorship by the Communications and Information Technology Commission, whether the application is global or local.”

YouTube Introduces Fan Sponsorship Service

September 21, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

YouTube Gaming fans will now be able to directly donate money to their favorite eligible creators with sponsorships, the company announced.  A monthly $4.99 payment gives fans perks such as custom emoji and access to exclusive live chats. Fans can also purchase digital goods directly from the channels.

In order to be eligible, creators must be over 18 years old and have a Gaming channel which is monetized and enabled for live streaming. The channel must also have over 1,000 subscribers.

Early tests of YouTube Gaming sponsorships proved successful. According to the company, GameAttack, for example, makes most of its channel revenue through sponsorships and Super Chat (in which live stream participants can pay to pin their comments). And Rocket Beans got 1,500 sponsors on the first day.

YouTube on Tuesday also began testing out sponsorships with non-gaming creators on YouTube’s main app.

With the launch of sponsorships and the growth of other revenue-generating features such as YouTube Red and Super Chat, YouTube is ending paid channels, which offered monthly subscriptions for some channels but didn’t see much success. Less than 1 percent of creators use it today, according to the company.

European Court Rules On Worker’s Email Privacy

September 6, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

Companies must inform employees in advance if their work email accounts are being monitored and such checks must not unduly infringe workers’ privacy, the European Court of Human Rights ruled on Tuesday.

In a judgment in the case of a man fired 10 years ago for using a work messaging account to communicate with his family, the judges found that Romanian courts failed to protect Bogdan Barbulescu’s private correspondence because his employer had not given him prior notice it was monitoring his communications.

Email privacy has become a hotly contested issue as more people use work addresses for personal correspondence even as employers demand the right to monitor email and computer usage to ensure staff use work email appropriately.

Courts in general have sided with employers on this issue.

 The company had presented him with printouts of his private messages to his brother and fiancée on Yahoo Messenger as evidence of his breach of a company ban on such personal use.

Barbulescu had previously told his employer in writing that he had only used the service for professional purposes.

The European court in Strasbourg ruled by an 11-6 majority that Romanian judges, in backing the employer, had failed to protect Barbulescu’s right to private life and correspondence.

The court concluded that Barbulescu had not been informed in advance of the extent and nature of his employer’s monitoring or the possibility that it might gain access to the contents of his messages. The company was not named in the ruling.

The court also said there had not been a sufficient assessment of whether there were legitimate reasons to monitor Barbulescu’s communications. There was no suggestion he had exposed the company to risks such as damage to its IT systems or liability in the case of illegal activities online.

“This set of requirements will restrict to an important extent the employers’ possibilities to monitor the workers’ electronic communications,” said Esther Lynch, confederal secretary of the European Trade Union Confederation.

The ruling could lead to more clarity on the scope of corporate discipline, said James Froud, partner at law firm Bird & Bird.

“We may see a shift in emphasis, with courts requiring employers to clearly demonstrate the steps they have taken to address the issue of privacy in workplace, both in terms of granting employees ‘space’ to have a private life whilst clearly delineating the boundaries,” he said.

Apple Unveils New iMessage Business Chat Feature

June 12, 2017 by  
Filed under Mobile

Businesses are about to get a lot more chatty with Apple’s iOS 11.

Apple, at it’s Worldwide Developers Conference, announced its new iMessage Business Chat feature that allows companies connect directly with you in its texting app. It gave more details Friday during a developer session about how the service will work.

With the iMessage Business Chat, which is built into the upcoming iOS 11 mobile software, you’ll be able to ask questions, learn more about products and services, troubleshoot problems, and make purchases using Apple Pay. You could, for instance, chat with an Apple Store bot to ask for advice about which iPhone to buy and then even make the purchase without ever leaving the iMessages app.

“It’s easy for them, and it’s easy for you,” Apple said during an explanatory video on the service.

It’s not just Apple and other retailers who will use Business Chat. Your bank, wireless provider, airline and anyone else who signs up for Apple’s service could have chatbots of their own. Imagine being able to message with your airline to rebook your flight after a cancellation instead of waiting in a long customer service line or sitting on hold for ages.

Business Chat comes as Apple tries to make the software running its phones, tablets and computers even smarter. Apple was first to market with a digital voice assistant, Siri, but Siri’s capabilities have lately lagged those of the Google Assistant, Amazon Alexa and other smart assistants. As iPhone hardware sales slow, it will become more important for Apple to build its expertise in areas like artificial intelligence, the software that lets machines act more like humans.

Apple To Unveil Expanded Features For Siri

June 5, 2017 by  
Filed under Mobile

Apple Inc is expected to unveil plans this week to make its Siri voice assistant work with a larger variety of apps, as the technology company looks to counter the runaway success of Amazon.com Inc’s competing Alexa service.

But the Cupertino, California company is likely to stick to its tested method of focusing on a small amount of features and trying to perfect them, rather than casting as wide a net as possible, according to engineers and artificial intelligence industry insiders.

Currently, Apple’s Siri works with only six types of app: ride-hailing and sharing; messaging and calling; photo search; payments; fitness; and auto infotainment systems. At the company’s annual developer conference next week, it is expected to add to those categories.

Some industry-watchers have also predicted Apple will announce hardware similar to Amazon’s Echo device for the home, which has been a hot-seller recently. Apple declined comment.

But even if Siri doubles its areas of expertise, it will be a far cry from the 12,000 or so tasks that Amazon.com’s Alexa can handle.

The difference illustrates a strategic divide between the two tech rivals. Apple is betting that customers will not use voice commands without an experience similar to speaking with a human, and so it is limiting what Siri can do in order to make sure it works well.

Amazon puts no such restrictions on Alexa, wagering that the voice assistant with the most “skills,” its term for apps on its Echo assistant devices, will gain a loyal following, even if it sometimes makes mistakes and takes more effort to use.

The clash of approaches is coming to a head as virtual assistants that respond to voice commands become a priority for the leading tech companies, which want to find new ways of engaging customers and make more money from shopping and online services.

 

NSA Says Its Ending Controversial Surveillance Program

May 2, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

The U.S. National Security Agency will end the practice of sifting through emails, texts and other internet communications that mention targets of surveillance.

The change, which the NSA announced last week, halts a controversial tactic that critics said violated U.S. citizens’ privacy rights.

The practice involved flagging communications where a foreign surveillance target was mentioned, even if that target wasn’t involved in the conversation. The announcement means the NSA will stop collecting this data.

“Instead, this surveillance will now be limited to only those communications that are directly ‘to’ or ‘from’ a foreign intelligence target,” the NSA said in a statement.

As part of that change, the NSA will delete most of the internet communications that were collected using this surveillance tactic.

The agency said it decided to stop some of the activities because of technological constraints, U.S. citizens’ privacy interests, and difficulties with implementation.

The NSA said it made the change after reporting several incidents in which it inadvertently collected citizens’ communications while using this tactic. The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, which oversees the agency’s spying powers, has issued an order approving the agency’s narrower approach to data collection, the NSA said.

Privacy advocates applauded the move.

“This change ends a practice that could result in Americans’ communications being collected without a warrant merely for mentioning a foreign target,” said U.S. Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon, in a statement.

He plans to introduce legislation banning this kind of data collection.

Former NSA contractor Edward Snowden tweeted: “This is likely the most substantive of the post-2013 NSA reforms, if the principle is applied to all other programs.”

The NSA change specifically involves its upstream surveillance collection, and not the agency’s PRISM program, which allegedly spies on U.S. citizens.

Google Must Turn Over Emails Stored Abroad, Says U.S. Judge

February 7, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

Google has been ordered by a federal court in Pennsylvania to comply with search warrants and provide customer emails stored abroad, in a decision that is in sharp contrast to that of an appeals court in a similar case involving Microsoft.

Magistrate Judge Thomas J. Rueter of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania ruled Friday that the two warrants under the Stored Communications Act (SCA) for emails required by the government in two criminal investigations constituted neither a seizure nor a search of the targets’ data in a foreign country.

Transferring data electronically from a server in a foreign country to Google’s data center in California does not amount to a seizure because “there is no meaningful interference with the account holder’s possessory interest in the user data,” and Google’s algorithm in any case regularly transfers user data from one data center to another without the customer’s knowledge, Judge Rueter wrote.

He added that when Google produces the electronic data in accordance with the search warrants, and the government views it, the invasion of the account holder’s privacy — the searches — will take place in the U.S.

In the Microsoft case, which was cited by Google, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit in New York quashed a warrant that would have required the company to disclose contents of emails stored on a server in Ireland. The court said in its opinion that the SCA under which the warrant was served “does not authorize courts to issue and enforce against U.S.‐based service providers warrants for the seizure of customer e‐mail content that is stored exclusively on foreign servers.”

The architecture of Google’s system that partitions user data into shards does not let the company establish with any certainty which foreign country’s sovereignty would be implicated when the company accesses the communications to produce it in response to a legal process, making it difficult for law enforcement to look for other means such as Mutual Legal Assistance Treaties (MLATs) between countries to get access to the data.

“Google admits that the location of the data could change from the time the Government applies for legal process to the time when the process is served upon Google,” the Judge wrote.

The Email Privacy Act Re-introduced To Protect U.S. Citizens

January 12, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

A bill has been reintroduced in the U.S. House of Representatives that would require law enforcement agencies to obtain a warrant before they dig into users’ emails and other communications in the cloud that are older than 180 days.

The Email Privacy Act, reintroduced on Monday, aims to fix a loophole in the Electronic Communications Privacy Act that allows the government to search without a warrant email and other electronic communications that are older than 180 days and stored on servers of third-party service providers such as Google and Yahoo.

“Thanks to the wording in a more than 30-year-old law, the papers in your desk are better protected than the emails in your inbox,” the Electronic Frontier Foundation, digital rights organization, said in a blog post Monday.

The bill was passed by the House last year but stalled in the Senate. U.S. Reps. Kevin Yoder (R-Kan) and Jared Polis (D-Colo) said they are reintroducing the legislation because the Senate failed to act on it before the 114th Congress came to a close.

 If the legislation becomes law, government agencies will have to obtain a warrant based on a showing of probable cause to compel service providers to disclose emails and other electronic communications of Americans, regardless of the age of the mails or the means of storage. In the original version of the legislation, the government also had to notify the person whose account is disclosed, along with a copy of the search warrant and other information, within a stipulated period.

Privacy groups and tech companies backed the legislation when it was first introduced. But it failed to clear the Senate as it was bogged down with amendments such as the requirement of mandatory compliance by service providers without court oversight when law enforcement claimed an emergency as an exception for asking for user data. U.S. Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) proposed an amendment that would expand the information that the FBI can obtain with a National Security letter without prior judicial oversight.

“Government access to communications without oversight of warrants is a dangerous path for any country that supports democratic values,” said Ed Black, CEO and president of the Computer & Communications Industry Association, in a statement Monday.

“Rules on how the government can access electronic communications in criminal investigations have simply not kept up with advances in modern technology. Indeed, US law still treats data stored in the cloud differently than data stored on a local computer,” said Information Technology and Innovation Foundation vice president Daniel Castro in a statement.

Opposition to the bill came previously from a number of agencies, including the Securities and Exchange Commission, which uses administrative subpoenas on service providers to work around people under investigation who don’t keep copies of incriminating mail after sending it or decline to share their content with the SEC.

Were Insiders Aware Of Yahoo Hacking?

November 11, 2016 by  
Filed under Around The Net

yahoo-hq-150x150Yahoo said investigators are exploring the possibility that some people within the company were aware at the time about the late 2014 theft of information of at least 500 million user accounts.

Law enforcement authorities on Monday also “began sharing certain data that they indicated was provided by a hacker who claimed the information was Yahoo user account data,” the company said in a regulatory filing to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. Yahoo said it would “analyze and investigate the hacker’s claim.” It isn’t clear if this data is from the 2014 hack or from another breach.

Forensic experts are also investigating whether an intruder, which it believes is the same “state-sponsored actor” responsible for the security incident, “created cookies that could have enabled such intruder to bypass the need for a password to access certain users’ accounts or account information,”  according to the filing.

“An Independent Committee of the Board, advised by independent counsel and a forensic expert, is investigating, among other things, the scope of knowledge within the Company in 2014 and thereafter regarding this access…,” the company said in the filing Wednesday.

A source familiar with the matter described the investigation as ongoing and said via email it wasn’t yet clear “who knew what/when/what they shared to whom if at all.”

The person also said that the company does not believe it is currently possible for the attackers to forge valid Yahoo Mail cookies.

Yahoo disclosed in late September that the account information was stolen in 2014 by what it described as a state-sponsored actor, though some security experts said it could have been done by a criminal hacker or group of hackers working on their own.

The disclosure of the hack followed an announcement by Verizon Communications that it planned to acquire Yahoo’s operating business for $4.8 billion, but the communications company has said it is evaluating whether the hack had a material impact. Yahoo said in the filing that there are risks that as a result of facts relating to the security incident, Verizon may seek to terminate or renegotiate the terms of its purchase.

The company is facing 23 proposed consumer class-action lawsuits following the hack both in the U.S. and abroad. The company recorded expenses of $1 million related to the hack in the quarter ended Sept. 30.

 

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