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Recommended Reading: Does Facebook need to be regulated?

How the government could fix Facebook
Julia Angwin,
The Atlantic

There are a number of issues surrounding the Facebook and Cambridge Analytica saga. Perhaps the most prominent one is the question of whether or not the social network needs to be regulated by the government. The Atlantic discusses four ways regulators could “fix” Facebook if there is a move to enact reforms.

How Facebook blew it
Alex Pasternack and Joel Winston,
Fast Company

Fast Company unpacks a lot of the details around Cambridge Analytica, data collection, Facebook’s response and more.

Spotify CEO Daniel Ek: Once the music industry’s slayer, now its savior
Maureen Farrell and Anne Steele, The Wall Street Journal

The struggling music industry was forced to embrace streaming and Spotify’s CEO has proven the company’s value.

Live Nation rules music ticketing, some say with threats
Ben Sisario and Graham Bowley,
The New York Times

Eight years after the merger of Live Nation and Ticketmaster, we’re still dealing with record-high prices.

Inside the surreal, probably inevitable world of plastic surgery apps
Lizzie Plaugic, The Verge

The Verge has the story of what happens when cosmetic procedures become a mobile game with titles like “Plastic Surgery Simulator.”


What Siri can learn from Google Assistant

It’s no secret that when it comes to voice assistants, Siri is often cited as one of the worst. Even though Apple introduced it years before Amazon and Google, their digital rivals — Alexa and Google Assistant — have since bested Siri in both features and performance. That’s mostly because Amazon and Google have spent years pouring millions of dollars worth of research into artificial intelligence, making their assistants smarter and more capable over time.

Apple is trying to catch up. Not only is it beefing up its phones with “neural engine” chips to power AI efforts like augmented reality and machine learning, it’s also building out its Siri team. The company recently listed 161 open positions and hired Carnegie Mellon’s Russ Salakhutdinov last year to head up AI research. Earlier this week, Apple confirmed perhaps its most important hire yet in the space: former Google AI chief, John Giannandrea.

According to Apple, Giannandrea will head up Apple’s “machine learning and AI strategy” and report directly to CEO Tim Cook. Seeing as Giannandrea was responsible for making AI central to Google’s overall strategy, his new role as Apple’s AI lead seems to indicate Siri might be getting a serious makeover. And maybe, just maybe, Siri might just learn a few of the following Google Assistant tricks in the process.

Better Search

When it comes to search, it’ll be difficult for Apple’s Siri to really go head to head against Google Assistant, simply because Google is the king of search. But there are other ways that Siri could become smarter here. Even though Siri has contextual search — the ability to answer follow-up questions — it’s wildly inconsistent.

For example, when I asked Siri “Who is the president of the United States?” and then followed it up with “Who is his wife?”, it sometimes misunderstood or misheard me, giving me definitions of the word “wife” instead. (It did respond with “Melania Trump” once, but only once). When I asked the same question to Google Assistant, it was completely flawless, even offering me a list of Trump’s former wives. When I asked more follow-up questions like her age, or her height, Google was much more accurate here as well.

Sometimes Siri doesn’t give direct answers at all. When I ask Siri “what sound does a dog make?” it brings up a list of search results. But when I ask Google the same question, it literally plays an audio file of a dog barking. Sure, I don’t expect Siri to answer complicated questions, but it should at least know the answers to basic kindergarten-level queries without bringing up basic search results. Since Giannandrea has experience in both voice-recognition and search, he might be able to influence improvements in this area.

Siri could also stand to improve the overall search experience. Right now, if you ask a question, you’ll either get a single page or a list of results. Google presents a list of related answers in a menu underneath, just in case you want to know more about a topic.

Another area that Siri can learn from Google Assistant is simply a better understanding of who you are and have that inform search results. For example, if I tell Google that my favorite team is the San Francisco Giants, it’ll simply return the scores of last night’s game if I say “how are the Giants doing?” or just “how did my favorite team do last night?” Siri, on the other hand, would ask me “Do you mean the New York Giants or the San Francisco Giants?” every single time. That’s just tiresome.

Smart Home integration

Perhaps one of the smartest moves Google has made in recent years is to make its assistant central to its overall hardware strategy. It’s not only in phones; it’s also in a variety of smart speakers and most of the Nest lineup. This kind of wide cross-platform and cross-disciplinary approach is what Giannandrea was known for, and he could very well implement the same philosophy to Apple as well.

One area that certainly needs a lot of help is how Siri works in the latest Apple HomePod. Sure, it has great audio quality and it works well with some HomeKit compatible products like the Phillps Hue lights, but its functionality just doesn’t compare with Amazon’s Echo or Google’s Home.

Siri on the HomePod can’t even handle multiple timers or, shockingly enough, initiate phone calls. It also doesn’t play well with a few key third-party apps — it can’t order an Uber or a Lyft and it doesn’t work with any other streaming music service except for Apple Music. Yes, Siri does work with some apps like WhatsApp, WeChat and Evernote but the list of third-party apps is pretty small compared to its rivals.

Also, Google’s Home can recognize people by their voice, Siri on HomePod can’t. That means that any ol’ stranger can come up to your speaker and access your iMessages, unless you set up a restriction beforehand. Seeing as Siri on the iPhone is able to discern voices pretty well, it’s surprising that this function was not carried over to the HomePod.

Third-party support

Apple Poised to Sell 10 Million IPhones in Record Debut

Last but not least is third-party support. Apple traditionally has a walled garden philosophy when it comes to a lot of its products, as you can tell from the HomePod and Apple Music example above. But it might have to eventually let it go. One of the most frustrating things with Siri on the iPhone is that it seems pretty stunted if you use anything that’s not Apple. If you ask it to play a certain song on Spotify, it’ll just launch the app without playing anything. If you ask it for directions on Google Maps, the app will open but you’re on your own from there.

Though Google does favor its own apps for some things — it’ll automatically play podcasts from Google Play, for example — it’s at least better with third-party integration than Apple.

Still, it doesn’t mean Siri is worse than Google Assistant at everything. As we discovered in our week with Google Assistant, Siri seemed better at pronouncing names and was a little better in the back-and-forth sass department. It was also really good at recognizing voices on mobile — not just anybody can activate your phone with “Hey Siri”, only you can (We should note that Google Assistant can do this too). Plus, since Siri is already baked into your iPhone, it’s by far the easiest voice assistant to use if you have an iOS device.

While it’s still early days yet in Giannandrea’s Apple tenure, if he even takes a few of the lessons he learned from Google and brings them into Apple, it will be an improvement. Let’s hope that happens.


Yes Chrome is scanning your Windows PC, but it might be a bug

A few days ago Kelly Shortridge, a product manager at SecurityScorecard detected some unexpected behavior on her PC, as a honeypot Canarytoken reported being accessed by Chrome.exe. That’s not what you’d expect from a web browser normally, except for one thing — Google did add some antivirus-y capabilities to its browser on Windows late last year as an enhancement to its Chrome Cleanup tool that can help reset hijacked settings. Google Chrome security lead Justin Schuh explained how the feature works and pointed to some documentation about it, and that was that — until last night.

If you are hitting this issue and you want a fix right now then go to chrome://downloads in your browser, go to the menu in the top right, and select Clear All. That will clear Chrome’s list of downloaded files so that it won’t have any files to existence-check at startup. If you have a large list of downloaded files then this will improve startup time slightly.

It turns out the “AV scanning” wasn’t that at all, and what it was doing could affect you right now. It turns out that Chrome is checking the integrity of downloaded files at startup, and a bug lead it to that particular folder. It relies on the Downloaded History list for this check, and if you have a lot of files in there, it could slow down your computer when you start Chrome. While the dev team is working to skip the check entirely in a future update, users worried about it can fix it by clearing their download history. Easy, right?

I was wondering why my Canarytoken (a file folder) was triggering & discovered the culprit was chrome.exe. Turns out @googlechrome quietly began performing AV scans on Windows devices last fall. Wtf m8? This isn’t a system dir, either, it’s in Documents

— Kelly Shortridge (@swagitda_) March 29, 2018

Followed up with @swagitda_ and it turns out the log events weren’t CCT scans. Chrome existence-checks (code below) previously downloaded files, but a bug moved the checks into the startup path. Clearing download history stops the checks. Bug filed here:

— Justin Schuh 😑 (@justinschuh) April 6, 2018

Unwanted software protection

The Windows version of Chrome is able to detect and remove certain types of software that violate Google’s Unwanted Software Policy. If left in your system, this software may perform unwanted actions, such as changing your Chrome settings without your approval. Chrome periodically scans your device to detect potentially unwanted software. In addition, if you have opted in to automatically report details of possible security incidents to Google, Chrome will report information about unwanted software, including relevant file metadata and system settings linked to the unwanted software found on your computer.

If you perform an unwanted software check on your computer from the Settings page, Chrome reports information about unwanted software and your system. System information includes metadata about programs installed or running on your system that could be associated with harmful software, such as: services and processes, scheduled tasks, system registry values commonly used by malicious software, Windows proxy settings, and software modules loaded into Chrome or the network stack. You can opt out of sharing this data by deselecting the checkbox next to “Report details to Google” before starting the scan.

If unwanted software is detected, Chrome will offer you an option to remove the software by using the Chrome Cleanup Tool. The Chrome Cleanup Tool also reports information about unwanted software and your system to Google, and again you can opt out of sharing this data by deselecting the checkbox next to “Report details to Google” before starting the cleanup.

This data is used for the purpose of improving Google’s ability to detect unwanted software and offer better protection to Chrome users. It is used in accordance with Google’s Privacy Policy and is stored for up to 14 days, after which only aggregated statistics are retained.

Source: Chromium bugs


China’s ride-hailing service Didi Chuxing recruits drivers in Mexico

In December, Reuters reported that China’s Didi Chuxing ride-hailing company would be expanding its business into Mexico, taking on rival Uber, which has the largest foothold in the country. Now, Reuters reports that the company is actively recruiting drivers and plans a launch in Toluca, Mexico. Sources familiar with the plan said Didi’s ride-hailing app would go live this month. To get people on board, Didi will not take a cut of drivers’ fares until June 17th and those who recruit other drivers and passengers will get a bonus. When it does start taking a cut of fares, Didi’s portion will be 20 percent, below the 25 percent Uber takes in Mexico.

According to Dalia Research reports from August of last year, Uber held 87 percent of Mexico’s ride-hailing market share at the time. Easy, Cabify and Yaxi shared the other 13 percent. Though this is Didi’s first foray outside of Asia, it has butted heads with Uber before. The US company previously tried to take on Didi on its home turf, losing around $2 billion in the process and abandoning that effort in 2016.

Didi, which has established an operations hub in Mexico City, will start with a car service, but sources told Reuters that the company may also offer scooter, motorcycle and bike-sharing services in the future.

Via: Reuters


How to stream IPL 2018 on your Android phone, TV, and in VR

IPL 2018 will be broadcast live on Hotstar, with commentary in six languages.


The 2018 instalment of the Indian Premier League cricket is set to kick off from April 7, and it’s hard to believe that we’re already in the eleventh season. The cricket tournament will be held over the course of the next seven weeks — culminating in the final on May 27 — with eight teams scheduled to take part.

The IPL is India’s largest sporting event, and as you can imagine, the franchise draws huge numbers. Just to give you an idea of what we’re dealing with here, last year’s instalment saw viewership figures in excess of 400 million over the course of the tournament. That’s just the figures for the television viewership across Sony’s channels, and another 130 million people tuned in via Hotstar.

Clearly, there’s a lot of interest in the IPL, and this year’s instalment is particularly interesting as Star India will be streaming the matches live on Hotstar at the same time as the television feeds. For the last four years, there was a five-minute time delay between the live TV broadcast and the digital stream as the TV rights were owned by Sony and the digital rights by Star. But with Star India nabbing both the digital and TV rights to the IPL, you’ll be able to stream in real-time on Hotstar.

Star India paid over $2.5 billion to pick up the IPL broadcast rights for the next five years, so you can be assured that the network will go out of its way to make sure the tournament is available on every platform. Here’s how you can stream the upcoming season of IPL on your Android phone, tablet, or TV.

Hotstar is the exclusive destination for IPL


Like previous years, Star India-owned Hotstar is the exclusive streaming partner for the IPL. The streaming service will broadcast all 60 games live, and as I mentioned previously, the matches will be streamed in real-time. Star India will offer seven live feeds throughout the course of the tournament both on TV and Hotstar, with live commentary in six languages — English, Hindi, Tamil, Telugu, Kannada and Bengali — spread across ten channels.

That’s a huge deal as it gives the network the ability to cater to regional users much more effectively. From Star India MD Sanjay Gupta:

From two languages in 2017, we’ll be taking it to 6 languages in 2018 across 10 channels. And when I say 6 languages, I mean six different feeds, each with localised packaging, commentary and pre/post-programming.

There’s a Super Fan Feed as well that allows you to select from several camera angles, switch up the commentary language, and layer stats directly on the screen.

Hotstar will broadcast all 60 matches in real-time, with six language feeds available.

You’ll be able to access the Super Fan Feed from Hotstar and Star Sports Select, and Star India is also introducing a social element to the streaming platform. While watching the matches on the streaming platform, you’ll have the option to interact with other viewers through cricket emojis.

You’ll be able to stream the matches in real-time on Hotstar provided you subscribe to the service’s premium plan, which costs ₹199 ($3) a month in India, or ₹999 ($15) annually. In addition to the IPL, you get access to a vast array of HBO, Fox, and Showtime TV shows, as well as all the programming aired on Star World. Where the service truly shines, however, is when it comes to regional programming — there’s a dizzying amount of local content available on Hotstar.

If you’re interested in just watching cricket, then Hotstar has a sports-only package that costs just ₹299 ($4.60) for a year — that comes out to just ₹25 a month. Simply put, Hotstar is one of the best deals in video streaming in India, and real-time IPL streaming makes the service that much more enticing to a wider audience.

Subscribe to Hotstar

Hotstar is available on all major platforms — and in virtual reality

Now that you know that you’ll be able to stream the matches using Hotstar, the next question is what platforms the service is available on. Thankfully, Star India made a lot of strides over the course of the last 12 months in ensuring Hotstar is available on all major platforms.

There’s a native Hotstar app for Android, Android TV, and Amazon’s Fire Stick, as well as the Apple TV, and you can stream the matches on the web. The Android app comes with Cast support, allowing you to cast content to a Chromecast. Unlike Netflix, Hotstar has a single ₹199 paid tier, and as long as you’re subscribed to the premium plan you get unlimited access to the service’s catalog, along with live sporting action. You’ll also be able to stream content at 1080p.

Furthermore, Star India has announced that starting this year, it will start broadcasting matches in virtual reality. There’s not a whole lot of information to go on regarding VR, but we should know how the feature works during the first round of matches. I’ll take a look at how feasible it is to view the matches in VR and will update the post once I know more.

How to stream the IPL in the U.S. and Canada

There’s considerable interest in the IPL internationally as well, primarily from Indians that have emigrated to the U.S. and Canada. Hotstar rolled out its global expansion at the end of last year, making its way to the U.S. and Canada.

Customers in either country will be able to view the IPL games live via Hotstar, but they have to be subscribed to the premium plan. In the U.S., the Hotstar premium plan comes out to $9.99 a month, while it is CAD$12.99 a month in Canada.

The content library is significantly diminished as Hotstar doesn’t have the rights to broadcast HBO/Fox/Showtime shows in the U.S. and Canada. That said, a lot of customers eyeing Hotstar in either country will be doing so for the regional programming on offer, and on that front Hotstar maintains parity with its Indian counterpart.

Star India is setting an ambitious target of 700 million for the upcoming season of IPL, and by offering a diverse array of regional commentary feeds, it looks like the network will be able to achieve that goal.

What IPL team are you rooting for? Let me know in the comments below.

Subscribe to Hotstar


Facebook suspends another data firm: AggregateIQ

Late Friday the Cambridge Analytica data scandal spread wider, as Facebook announced it has also suspended Canadian data firm Aggregate IQ. In a statement to The Guardian, Facebook said “In light of recent reports that AggregateIQ may be affiliated with (CA parent company) SCL and may, as a result, have improperly received FB user data, we have added them to the list of entities we have suspended from our platform while we investigate.” Former CA employee Christopher Wylie claimed that he helped set up the company and that it received a payment from the Vote Leave campaign in a way that exceeded spending limits.

On Aggregate IQ’s website, the following statement is posted:

AggregateIQ is a digital advertising, web and software development company based in Canada. It is and has always been 100% Canadian owned and operated. AggregateIQ has never been and is not a part of Cambridge Analytica or SCL. Aggregate IQ has never entered into a contract with Cambridge Analytica. Chris Wylie has never been employed by AggregateIQ.

AggregateIQ works in full compliance within all legal and regulatory requirements in all jurisdictions where it operates. It has never knowingly been involved in any illegal activity. All work AggregateIQ does for each client is kept separate from every other client.

AggregateIQ has never managed, nor did we ever have access to, any Facebook data or database allegedly obtained improperly by Cambridge Analytica.

Source: The Guardian


UberX gets a big X from Greece, is forced to suspend operations

Uber’s trials and tribulations aren’t going away anytime soon. A few months after being kicked out of London, the ridesharing company is facing a similar situation in Greece. On Thursday, April 5, the beleaguered San Francisco-based company announced that it would be suspending its licensed service, UberX, in the Mediterranean nation after local legislation was passed that imposed stricter regulation of such services.

“Since launching in Greece in 2015, UberX has become one of Athens’ most popular options to move safely around the city,” Uber wrote in a blog post noting the decision. “More than 450,000 locals and tourists from around the world have booked rides through our app.” Unfortunately, it would appear that Uber is going to have to temporarily push pause on its operations. The company noted that it will be forced to “assess if and how we can operate” given the new laws in Greece.

Consequently, the UberX service will cease operations beginning next Tuesday, April 10, without any clear restart date in sight. Uber has simply said that it will have to “find an appropriate solution,” which it hopes to do by working with local stakeholders.

So what, exactly, are these new laws? In essence, the now-passed legislation requires that all hired car trips begin and end in the fleet partner’s headquarters or parking area, which Uber, of course, does not do. In addition, the new laws will create a digital registry of all ridesharing platforms and their passengers.

Uber has long met with resistance from authorities and local taxi drivers in Europe. Ever since it launched in the continent in 2011, it has been accused of failing to adhere to insurance, licensing, and safety laws. Since the company’s new CEO, Dara Khosrowshahi, has taken over the reins at the company, Uber has begun taking a closer look at local rules and regulations in order to ensure compliance.

We should point out, however, that this doesn’t mean that Uber is being entirely pushed out of Greece. Rather, the company will continue to offer its UberTAXI option in Athens — this service allows passengers to order a local cab from their phones, rather than attempting to flag down a car on the street. Unlike UberX, which leverages professional licensed drivers, UberTAXI uses actual taxi drivers.

Editors’ Recommendations

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Walmart is adding 500 more ‘Pickup Towers’ to stores this year

Walmart is expanding the amount of its in-store “Pickup Towers” for online orders. The retailer is adding some 500 more of the across the country by year’s end. Walmart says once the rollout is complete, nearly 40 percent of the country will have access to the automated kiosks. The physical size is expanding as well, and you’ll be able to pick up the new TV your ordered with a few UHD Blu-rays from connected lockers. Maybe don’t expect to snag a 65″ OLED though.

The question, though, is if they’ll be placed in more convenient locations. Some existing stores have them in the very back, which is good for Walmart — you’re more likely to buy stuff while making a pick up — but kind of terrible for everyone else.

Via: TechCrunch

Source: Walmart


In proper 2018 fashion, the royal wedding now has its very own cryptocurrency

When folks get married, it’s not unheard of for them to get a bit of money from friends and family to set them up in their new lives as a married couple. But not all of us can expect to be gifted an entirely new currency, created to celebrate our nuptials. Things are a bit different if you’re a member of the U.K.’s Royal Family, though.

When Prince Harry and Meghan Markle tie the knot on May 19 this year, they’re being gifted a new cryptocurrency, called the Royal Coin, that’s been established to commemorate their wedding. The Royal Coin had its initial coin offering (ICO) this week, underwritten by ICO Rocket. It’s endorsed by the British Monarchist Society and Foundation, and proceeds from its tokensale are being divided between Harry and Meghan’s favorite charities. Part of the proceeds will also go to the Crown and Country Magazine to help fund a special Royal Wedding edition.

“The Royal Coin is a decentralized wedding gift to celebrate the marriage of Prince Harry and Miss Meghan Markle,” Shahar Namer, CEO of ICO Rocket, told Digital Trends. “Participants in the ICO have access to a unique offering, by celebrating the Royal wedding as well as contributing funds to three charitable organizations officially approved by Kensington Palace. It is not only a commemorative investment, but also a gift to the couple and [their selected] charities.”

The three charities the proceeds will be split between include Lesotho children’s charity Sentebale, The Invictus Games, and the Royal Foundation. “The coin was born out of the goal of engaging people to be a part of the Royal Wedding in an entirely new and modern way, while supporting three good causes as a gift to the royal couple,” Namer continued. “It is a 2018 way to celebrate great British pageantry.”

Will it catch on like Bitcoin or is this doomed to be another also-ran cryptocurrency that fails to make waves? For the sake of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle we hope it’s the first option. After all, the thought of your very own commemorative cryptocurrency going belly-up isn’t the most promising of omens for a happy marriage!

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This throwable life preserver inflates instantly when it hits water

When you’re talking about a potentially life-saving device like a life preserver, it should ideally fit a couple of criteria; ease of transport, and quick and easy deployment. This combination means that, should disaster strike, you’ll be in the best possible position to do something about it.

The designers of a new life preserver called OneUp have apparently taken these crucial points into consideration when developing their new device. The result is a gadget the size and shape of a large can of soda, but which promises to rapidly inflate into a full-sized polyurethane float in just a couple of seconds.

“OneUp is a portable life float which is automatically inflated in two seconds once in contact with water,” Saul de Leon, CEO and founder of OneUp, told Digital Trends. “It is lightweight, portable, and easy to throw. It is lighter than conventional life floats and a lot smaller, so you can carry it with you at any time, in any situation. You don’t need to do anything [special] to activate it, you just need to throw it [into] the water.”

The device’s cylindrical case houses the deflated float, a CO2 canister, a salt pod, and a spring. The moment the device comes into contact with water, the salt pod dissolves, releasing the spring, and triggering the CO2 canister to inflate the float, which subsequently bursts out of its container. According to its creators, it can support swimmers who weigh up to 330 pounds. Once used, you can then replace the CO2 canister and salt pod in order to recycle the device.

“One night I was watching a documentary about the refugees in the Mediterranean,” de Leon explained, describing the project’s origins. “Guys from rescue services were saying that when they first came to the place, in jet skis, where people were drowning, it was impossible to assist them. With this situation in my mind I went to bed thinking that something needed to be done. This is how I thought that if something small, light, easy to throw, and automatically inflated was created, so many lives could be saved in a safer way without endangering anyone. This is how OneUp was born.”

If you’re interested in getting hold of one of the innovative life preservers, you can pledge money as part of its Indiegogo campaign. While we offer all our usual warnings about getting involved with crowdfunding projects, if you nonetheless feel confident, you can pledge $49 to hopefully secure yourself a unit. Shipping is set to take place in July 2018.

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