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Study Finds Android Apps Frequently Using Permissions Granted

December 17, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Mobile

Android apps really take advantage of those permissions they ask for to access users’ personal information: one online store records a phone’s location up to 10 times a minute, French researchers have found. The tools to manage such access are limited, and inadequate given how much information phones can gather.

In a recent study, ten volunteers used Android phones that tracked app behavior using a monitoring app, Mobilitics, developed by the French National Institute for Informatics Research (INRIA) in conjunction with the National Commission on Computing and Liberty (CNIL). Mobilitics recorded every time another app accessed an item of personal data — the phone’s location, an identifier, photos, messages and so on — and whether it was subsequently transmitted to an external server. The log of the apps’ personal information use was stored on the phone and downloaded at the end of the three months for analysis.

The volunteers were encouraged to use the phones as if they were their own, and together used 121 apps over the period from July to September. A similar study last year used a special iOS app to examine the way iPhone apps access users’ personal data.

Many apps access phones’ identifying characteristics to track their users, the researchers said. One of the few options users have to avoid this tracking is a switch in the “Google Settings” app to reset their phone’s advertising ID. That’s not much help, though, as apps have other ways to identify users. Almost two-thirds of apps studied in the three-month real-world test accessed at least one mobile phone identifier, a quarter of them at least two identifiers, and a sixth three or more. That allows the apps to build up profiles of their users for advertising purposes.

Location was one of the most frequently-accessed items of data. It accounted for 30 percent of all accesses to personal information during the test, and 30 percent of the apps studied accessed it at some point. The Facebook app recorded one volunteer’s location 150,000 times during the three-month period — more than once per minute, on average, while the Google Play Store tracked another user ten times per minute at times. Often, the only use apps make of such information is to serve personalized advertising, as was the case with one game that recorded a user’s location 3,000 times during the study.

 

 

Facebook Drops Bing From Search Results

December 15, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Uncategorized

Facebook Inc has discontinued including results from Microsoft Corp’s Bing search engine on its social networking site.

The move, confirmed by a company spokesperson, comes as Facebook has revamped its own search offerings, introducing a tool on Monday that allows users to quickly find past comments and other information posted by their friends on Facebook.

The decision may reflect the increasing importance that Facebook sees in Web search technology, a market dominated by rival Google Inc.

Searches on Facebook have long been geared toward helping users connect with friends and to find other information that exists within the walls of the 1.35 billion-user social networking service. But for years, Facebook’s search results also included links to standalone websites that were provided by Bing.

“We’re not currently showing web search results in Facebook Search because we’re focused on helping people find what’s been shared with them on Facebook,” a company spokesperson told Reuters. “We continue to have a great partnership with Microsoft in lots of different areas.”

Microsoft was not immediately available for comment.

Facebook Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg has flagged search as one of the company’s key growth initiatives, noting in July that there were more than 1 billion search queries occurring on Facebook every day and hinting that the vast amount of information that users share within Facebook could eventually replace the need to search the Web for answers to certain questions.

“There is more than a trillion posts, which some of the search engineers on the team like to remind me, is bigger than any Web search corpus out there,” Zuckerberg said on a conference call with analysts in July.

Microsoft’s Bing is the No.2 Web search provider in the U.S., with a nearly 20 percent share of the market according to industry research firm comScore.

Facebook and Microsoft have a longstanding relationship dating back to Microsoft’s $240 million investment in Facebook, for a 1.6 percent stake in the company, in October 2007. As part of that deal, Microsoft provided banner ads on Facebook’s website in international markets.

 

 

Instagram Still Gaining Users, Surpassed Twitter

December 12, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Photo-sharing site Instagram is reporting  that its active monthly user base reached 300 million, a dramatic 50% increase in the past nine months.

Instagram, which launched in 2010, edged past 8-year-old Twitter and its reported 284 million monthly active users.

Facebook, which bought Instagram in 2012 for $1 billion, has nothing to worry about. In September, the social network reported that its own active monthly user base had hit 1.35 billion.

“Over the past four years, what began as two friends with a dream has grown into a global community that shares more than 70 million photos and videos each day,” wrote Instagram CEO Kevin Systrom in a blog post. “We’re thrilled to watch this community thrive and witness the amazing connections people make over shared passions and journeys.”

Zeus Kerravala, an analyst with ZK Research, said Instagram’s impressive growth stems from its popularity with millennials, who have a strong connection with social networking, selfies and images.

“The younger generation, in particular, is a very visually oriented group that loves selfies,” Kerravala said. “Pictures just say more — they’re fast and easy. Instead of saying, ‘What a great view of the Grand Canyon,’ snap a photo and upload it.”

He noted that Twitter users can upload photos and short videos to the micro-blogging site, but the site is mainly used for its 140-character or less messages.

“I think Twitter is more for information dissemination, where Instagram is more about sharing content,” Kerravala said.

 

 

Startup Trustev Thinks It Has A Solution For Internet Commenters

December 10, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Internet startup Trustev is expanding its digital fingerprinting business beyond e-commerce by launching Trustev for Publishers aiming to help publishers ban toxic Internet commenters completely from their websites, providing no leeway for even setting up a second account. Trustev thinks this can raise the level of online discourse and help stop harassment campaigns the likes of #GamerGate before they even begin.

Trustev CEO Pat Phelan said this solution came about after his own experiences on Twitter: He describes his online persona as “pretty outspoken,” but still finds himself in a perpetual state of shock at the vitriol he sometimes gets about even mundane things.

“Jesus, the language used there is incredible,” Phelan said.

There’s a cycle to online harassment. You block the offender. The offender sets up a second Twitter/Wordpress/Yahoo/whatever account. You block that one, too. So they set up a third. And so on. Phelan calls it “whack-a-mole.”

The best case scenario is that the harasser on the other end gives up before you do. The worst case is that your choices become put up with abuse forever or just stop trying.  That doesn’t really make for healthy online discussion, especially when it comes to controversial subjects.

“The whole story is destroyed,” Phelan said.

There are good comments sections out there, to be sure:the AV Club, among others, stands out, largely because of the strong hand it takes to moderating a discussion and kicking out bad seeds as they sprout. But keeping up with the aforementioned cycle  takes a tremendous investment of time and talent, which isn’t for everybody. Our colleagues at Re/code, for instance, recently made thecontroversial decision to shut down comments entirelyand urged readers to take any discussion to social media.

Trustev sees a better way. With Trustev for Publishers, blocking a person once means they’re gone. That “digital fingerprint” takes everything into account when banning a user — not just the IP address, which is easy to spoof, but everything from browser configuration and extensions down to operating system version and amount of RAM installed.

Phelan said that digital fingerprinting has a 99.93% positive rate (which sucks for the other 0.07%).

You can’t even get around a Trustev ban with a virtual machine running on your desktop. The only way to beat it, Phelan says, is to get a new computer entirely. And if you mess up again, it’s back to the blacklist.

 

 

Twitter Announces New Tools For Reporting Online Harassment

December 4, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Twitter unveiled improvements to simplify the way users report abuse and harassment on the social media platform.

The company said it will now require less information from users flagging inappropriate content and that it will be easier to submit tweets and accounts for review, even when wrongful behavior is simply observed and not received directly.

“We are nowhere near being done making changes in this area,” Shreyas Doshi, director of product management and user safety said in a message posted on Twitter’s website.

“In the coming months, you can expect to see additional user controls, further improvements to reporting and new enforcement procedures for abusive accounts.”

Users also will be able to view all the accounts they have blocked in a new blocked accounts page accessible from the settings menu on Twitter.

The changes, which will be rolled out to all users in the next few weeks, include modifications designed to speed up Twitter’s response by better streamlining and prioritizing reports of abusive content, technology news website The Verge reported.

A way to block multiple accounts at once also appears to be in the works, according to The Verge.

Twitter has faced criticism in the past over a response to harassment and abuse deemed too lax by many of its users.

In December last year, the company was forced to nix a change to its “block” feature under criticism that the new policy still allowed blocked users to interact with those who had blocked them.

Earlier this year, a survey by online advocacy groups found that nearly half of Americans under the age of 35 have been bullied, harassed or threatened online.

Twenty-four percent of the people surveyed said the harassment happened on Twitter.

 

Twitter To Track User’s Mobile Apps

December 1, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Mobile

Twitter Inc has plans to start tracking what third-party apps are installed on users’ mobile devices so the social media company can deliver more tailored content, including ads, the company has revealed.

The feature, called “app graph,” will allow the company to see what other applications users may have installed on phones or other devices.

“To help build a more personal Twitter experience for you, we are collecting and occasionally updating the list of apps installed on your mobile device so we can deliver tailored content that you might be interested in,” the company said on its site.

The posting also included instructions on how to turn the feature off. Twitter is not collecting data from within the applications, the posting noted.

Twitter, whose main service allows users to broadcast 140-character messages, has been searching for ways to re-invigorate user engagement and drive growth. As part of that effort, the company is considering creating additional mobile applications beyond its core messaging service.

 

 

 

IBM Unveils Verse, New Enterprise Email Product

November 20, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

IBM is going up against cloud-app juggernauts Google and Microsoft with its next generation e-mail client, called Verse, designed to enrich email with social media and analysis.

“We felt we could leverage analytics to build an experience that understands your priorities,” said Jeff Schick, general manager of IBM social solutions, of the app that launched as a private beta on Tuesday. “We had the opportunity to reduce clutter and create priority, and to help people be more efficient in how they master their inbox.”

The company plans to offer Verse in the first quarter of 2015 as a hosted service though the IBM Cloud Marketplace. IBM will also issue apps for both iOS and Android that can access all the same features as the desktop browser version.

“They are addressing known problems, inbox clutter, prioritization and the ability to access different modes of communication, from an integrated user experience,” Rob Koplowitz, research analyst at Forrester who covers collaboration software, wrote in an e-mail.

IBM first announced the new e-mail software in January, under the working name of Mail Next.

Like IBM’s Notes e-mail client, Verse relies on the IBM Domino e-mail server. Unlike Notes, which was built on a client-server architecture, Verse is entirely Web-based. Going forward, IBM will encourage customers to use Verse as an enterprise email client, except for those organizations that have built their own applications on Notes’ Eclipse-based development platform, Schick said.

The company did not reveal pricing of Verse, other than state it will offer a no-cost “freemium” version that would be available for individual users. A version of the software that can be run on-premise will be released later in 2015.

 

 

Snapchat To Offer Mobile Payments Service

November 19, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Mobile

Mobile messaging company Snapchat is rolling out a new service that wil allow users to send money to each other, in a partnership with online payments company Square.

The service, dubbed Snapcash, allows Snapchat users to link their debit cards to their account and quickly send money to a contact by starting a chat on a smartphone, typing in a dollar sign and an amount and hitting a green button, Snapchat explained in a post on its official blog.

The move marks the latest sign of expansion plans for Los Angeles-based Snapchat, which lets users exchange photos that automatically disappear after a few seconds. The company has been valued at $10 billion in its most recent fundraising effort, according to media reports, and is considered a growing threat to Web companies including Facebook Inc and Twitter Inc.

“We set out to make payments faster and more fun, but we also know that security is essential when you’re dealing with money,” Snapchat said in the post.

The company said that debit card information will be stored by Square and that Square will process the payments, transferring money between bank accounts. Snapchat said that Snapcash is available in the United States for users aged 18 and above.

 

 

Intel Goes Upscale With New MICA Bracelets

November 19, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

Soon to be released bracelets with technology from Intel Corp and design cues from fashion brand Opening Ceremony will connect the wearer with Facebook, Google and Yelp via an AT&Tdata plan,no smartphone necessary.

Called My Intelligent Communication Accessory, or MICA, the snakeskin bracelets are aimed at fashion-conscious women and are an attempt by the two companies to stand out in a growing field of often-clunky smartwatches and fitness brands that have yet to catch on widely with consumers.

“We really approached this first and foremost about why would a woman want to wear this everyday, and how can it be incorporated into her wardrobe,” Humberto Leon, creative director at Opening Ceremony, said in a phone interview last week.

As well as lapis stones, obsidian and an 18k gold coating, the devices include a sapphire curved screen on the inside of the wrist that displays text messages, calendar items and events from Google and Facebook, and recommendations of nearby restaurants and stores from Yelp.

After Intel was late to smartphones and tablets in recent years, Chief Executive Brian Krzanich has been determined to make sure the top chipmaker is at the forefront of future trends in mobile computing.

Krzanich gave the green light for the chipmaker to develop the bracelet with Opening Ceremony after his wife wore a prototype for several days and liked it, he recently said.

Incoming alerts discreetly vibrate the bracelet instead of making a noise. Its $495 price tag includes a two-year data plan with AT&T, which means it does not rely on a smartphone for connectivity, as do most smartwatches, the companies said in a press release.

As well as working with Opening Ceremony, Intel in March bought fitness bracelet maker Basis Science and it has teamed up with watch retailer Fossil Group to develop other wearable computing devices.

 

Has Google Glass Reached The End Of The Line?

November 18, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

After two years of showing up at high-profile events wearing Google Glass, the gadget that transforms eyeglasses into spy-movie worthy technology, Google co-founder Sergey Brin arrived recently to a Silicon Valley event noticeably bare-faced. He’d left his pair in the car, Brin told a reporter. The Googler, who heads up the top-secret lab which developed Glass, has hardly given up on the product — he recently wore his pair to the beach.

But Brin’s timing is not propitious, coming as many developers and early Glass users are losing interest in the much-hyped, $1,500 test version of the product: a camera, processor and stamp-sized computer screen mounted to the edge of eyeglass frames. Google Inc itself has pushed back the Glass roll out to the mass market.

While Glass may find some specialized, even lucrative, uses in the workplace, its prospects of becoming a consumer hit in the near future are slim, many developers say.

Of 16 Glass app makers contacted by Reuters, nine said that they had stopped work on their projects or abandoned them, mostly because of the lack of customers or limitations of the device. Three more have switched to developing for business, leaving behind consumer projects.

Plenty of larger developers remain with Glass. The nearly 100 apps on the official web site include Facebook and OpenTable, although one major player recently defected: Twitter.

“If there was 200 million Google Glasses sold, it would be a different perspective. There’s no market at this point,” said Tom Frencel, the Chief Executive of Little Guy Games, which put development of a Glass game on hold this year and is looking at other platforms, including the Facebook Inc-owned virtual-reality goggles Oculus Rift.

Several key Google employees instrumental to developing Glass have left the company in the last six months, including lead developer Babak Parviz, electrical engineering chief Adrian Wong, and Ossama Alami, director of developer relations.

 

 

 

Microsoft Rolls Out Skype For Web

November 17, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Microsoft announced that it is launching a beta of Skype for the Web, allowing browser-based video chats that don’t require a separate app.

“We’ve made Skype available on computers, mobile phones, TVs and even games consoles,” wrote Jonathan Watson, Skype product marketing manager for Microsoft, in a blog post. “Expanding to different platforms has helped us grow to over 2 billion daily minutes (that’s over 33 million hours) of voice and video calls…. Now, not only can Skype be used on just about any screen you lay your hands on, but you can also enjoy Skype on a browser.”

Skype for Web, which is expected to roll out in the coming weeks, will be available via Internet Explorer, Chrome on Windows, Firefox or Safari.

“If you already use Skype, go to Skype.com and sign in to see all your contacts and latest conversation history,” wrote Watson. “We’re making Skype for Web available to small number of existing and new users to begin with, and gradually rolling out worldwide in the coming months — look out for an invite when you sign in to your Skype account on Skype.com.”

Zeus Kerravala, an analyst with ZK Research, said this is a good move for Microsoft because it opens Skype up to more users in more places.

“The requirement to have a client means one might not always be able to use Skype,” he said. “For example, if I’m on a shared computer, say in an airport, I can’t use Skype…. Maybe I can’t get on the airport Wi-Fi, but there’s a public Internet terminal or I might want to use a friend’s computer. But with Skype Web, now I can. So now Skype can be pervasive across all devices, not just ones that I happen to own.”

 

 

 

Yahoo Adds Another Purchase, Acquires BrightRoll

November 13, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Yahoo has agreed to purchase the video advertising platform BrightRoll for $640 million, in a move that could help to offset declines in its traditional display ad business.

The deal was announced on Tuesday and is one of Yahoo’s largest acquisitions since it bought Tumblr last year for just over $1 billion.

Yahoo already runs video ads on properties like Yahoo Screen, but BrightRoll’s system gives marketers a way to buy ads in real time across thousands of websites and mobile apps.

“Online video advertising is increasingly fragmented across thousands, if not millions, of sites and mobile apps,” the companies said. Advertisers want ways to buy video ads at scale and across many sites in fewer, simpler transactions.

The deal is expected to close by March and will make Yahoo’s video advertising platform the largest in the U.S., they said.

Yahoo has struggled to grow its ad business and compete better against Google and Facebook. It may have made some progress lately, reporting in its earnings call last month that its native ads are doing well on mobile.

It’s been struggling in the area of traditional display ads on the desktop, however. But it contended Tuesday that video ads are the new display advertising.

“Video is display 2.0,” CEO Marissa Mayer said in a post on Tumblr.

“Its what brand advertisers love. Its a format that elegantly and easily transitions from broadcast television to PC to mobile and even to wearables,” she said. “This is why video is a key part of our strategy.”

It can also replace the branded banner ad, according to Mayer.

Digital video advertising is increasing at “an eye-popping rate,” eMarketer said recently, although spending on TV ads still outpaces it.

BrightRoll’s revenues are expected to exceed $100 million this year, Yahoo said. The company expects to retain its team of roughly 400 employees.

 

 

 

Facebook Claims Half Billion People Now Using Its Messenger App

November 12, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Facebook’s Messenger is now one of the most used mobile messaging apps around the world, with more than 500 million people signing in monthly, according to the social media giant.

“This is an exciting milestone,” said Peter Martinazzi, Facebook’s director of product management, announcing the stat. Facebook’s main app has around 1.35 billion users; Facebook-owned WhatsApp has at least 600 million users. WeChat, owned by China’s Tencent, has at around 438 million users, as of this past August.

Facebook reached its milestone, however, as it angered users along the way. The company began requiring people to download Messenger for mobile chat several months ago, drawing criticism from those who didn’t want to download a separate app for messages. Before that, Messenger had roughly 200 million monthly users, the company previously reported in April.

Facebook’s Messenger is now one of the most used mobile messaging apps in the world, with more than 500 million people logging in monthly, the company said Monday.

“This is an exciting milestone,” said Peter Martinazzi, Facebook’s director of product management, announcing the stat. Facebook’s main app has around 1.35 billion users; Facebook-owned WhatsApp has at least 600 million users. WeChat, owned by China’s Tencent, has at around 438 million users, as of this past August.

Facebook reached its milestone, however, as it angered users along the way. The company began requiring people to download Messenger for mobile chat several months ago, drawing criticism from those who didn’t want to download a separate app for messages. Before that, Messenger had roughly 200 million monthly users, the company previously reported in April.

 

 

 

Is Blackberry Messenger Trying to Emulate SnapChat?

November 4, 2014 by Michael  
Filed under Mobile

Blackberry has added a Snapchat-style self-destructing message feature to BlackBerry Messenger (BBM), which it boldly claims makes it “unlike any other chat app out there today”.

Despite having pulled the feature straight out of Snapchat, BlackBerry is claiming that BBM’s new Timed Messages feature, allowing people to choose when messages expire, makes the service like no other.

BlackBerry said in a blog post: “With today’s BBM update we’re incredibly excited to introduce a number of new features that will deliver the best BBM experience yet.

“At the centre of this release are new privacy features that allow customers to take control over the messages and content that they share, so they can communicate with more discretion and freedom than ever before.

“We have been testing these features with customers over the last few weeks and the feedback has been incredible.

“They’re telling us that Timed Messages and Message Retraction add a whole new dynamic to BBM unlike any other chat app out there today.”

Message Retraction allows BlackBerry users to yank messages that they feel they might later regret.

The updated app also brings a new Sticker Picker making it quicker to add stickers to messages, along with an HD Image Transfer feature, and Discover Music, which allows users to see what their BBM contacts are listening to.

BlackBerry failed to mention what operating systems the update will arrive on, but we have asked the firm to elaborate.

However, BlackBerry suggested that the update will come to iOS, Android and Windows Phone users, as well as BlackBerry.

“It may take 24 hours or more for the update to appear in your app store depending on your mobile platform and region,” the firm said.

Courtesy-TheInq

Facebook Comes To TOR, The Anonymity Network

November 3, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Facebook has made its site directly available on Tor to prevent access problems for user on the anonymity network and to provide an alternative method of accessing the social network securely.

People who have a Tor-enabled browser will be able to access Facebook via https://facebookcorewwwi.onion/, Facebook software engineer Alec Muffett said in a post to the social network.

Tor, an acronym for The Onion Router, is software designed to offer users better privacy when browsing the Internet. It routes traffic through a network of worldwide servers in order to mask the user’s location. The system is widely used by people who don’t want to reveal their real IP address while browsing and it is also used by people to access services that are blocked by governments in some countries.

Facebook also allows access to the site via HTTPS (Hypertext Transfer Protocol Secure) and other technologies designed to give people more confidence that they are connected securely to the social network.

However, the way Tor works sometimes poses a problem for Facebook and its users, said Muffett.

“Tor challenges some assumptions of Facebook’s security mechanisms — for example its design means that from the perspective of our systems a person who appears to be connecting from Australia at one moment may the next appear to be in Sweden or Canada. In other contexts such behavior might suggest that a hacked account is being accessed through a ‘botnet,’ but for Tor this is normal,” he said.

The setup of Facebook’s security infrastructure has sometimes led to unnecessary hurdles for people who connect to Facebook using Tor. To make the user experience better for Tor users, the site has been made available with an “onion” address.

A quick glance around Facebook on Tor showed no obvious differences with the regular Facebook site, though it was a bit slower, probably due to traffic routed through a couple of relays. Facebook expects the service “to be of an evolutionary and slightly flaky nature.”

“Facebook’s onion address provides a way to access Facebook through Tor without losing the cryptographic protections provided by the Tor cloud,” Muffett said, adding that the idea is that the .onion address lets people connect to Facebook’s Core WWW Infrastructure. It provides a direct connection from the browser into a Facebook data center.