Robert Xiao, a computer science student at Carnegie Mellon, recently discovered a vulnerability in LocationSmart’s website that made the real-time location of millions of phones readily available to anyone with the knowhow.
For background, LocationSmart is a company that collects location data of mobile customers from major carriers, including Verizon, AT&T, Sprint, and T-Mobile in the United States, and then sells it to other companies for a range of purposes, including compliance, cybersecurity, and proximity marketing.
Up until the vulnerability was discovered, LocationSmart offered a trial webpage that allowed anyone to enter their phone number, confirm the request via SMS or a phone call, and view their approximate real-time location.
LocationSmart’s since-removed trial page via Krebs on Security
The problem, as Xiao discovered, was that the webpage had a bug that allowed anyone with the technical skills to bypass the phone number verification process and view the real-time location of any subscriber to most major carriers in the United States, in addition to Bell, Rogers, and Telus in Canada.
In a blog post, Xiao said the bug essentially involves requesting the location data in JSON format, instead of the default XML format:
If you make the same request with requesttype=locreq.json, you get the full location data, without receiving consent. This is the heart of the bug. Essentially, this requests the location data in JSON format, instead of the default XML format. For some reason, this also suppresses the consent (“subscription”) check.
Upon discovering the vulnerability, Xiao immediately contacted the US-CERT to coordinate disclosure, and shared details with Brian Krebs, who published a story with further details on his blog Krebs on Security.
Xiao told Krebs that he was able to obtain the approximate longitude and latitude of five different people who agreed to be tracked, coming within 100 yards and 1.5 miles of their then-current locations, all in a matter of seconds. LocationSmart plotted the coordinates on a Google Street View map.
“I stumbled upon this almost by accident, and it wasn’t terribly hard to do,” Xiao said. “This is something anyone could discover with minimal effort. And the gist of it is I can track most peoples’ cell phone without their consent.”
Xiao said his tests showed he could reliably query LocationSmart’s service to ping the cell phone tower closest to a subscriber’s mobile device. Xiao said he checked the mobile number of a friend several times over a few minutes while that friend was moving. By pinging the friend’s mobile network multiple times over several minutes, he was then able to plug the coordinates into Google Maps and track the friend’s directional movement.
It’s not clear exactly how long LocationSmart has offered its trial service or how long it has been vulnerable. Krebs linked to an archived version of the website that suggests it dates back to at least January 2017.
When reached for comment via phone, LocationSmart’s founder and CEO Mario Proietti told Krebs that the company was investigating.
“We don’t give away data,” Proietti said. “We make it available for legitimate and authorized purposes. It’s based on legitimate and authorized use of location data that only takes place on consent. We take privacy seriously and we’ll review all facts and look into them.”
A spokesperson for AT&T told Krebs that the carrier “does not permit the sharing of location information without customer consent or a demand from law enforcement,” while Verizon, Sprint, and T-Mobile all pointed towards their privacy policies.
LocationSmart was already in the news prior to this relevation. The New York Times last week reported that Cory Hutcheson, a former Missouri sheriff, was charged with using a private service called Securus, which obtained data from LocationSmart, to track people’s phones without court orders.
Those headlines are what prompted Xiao to poke around LocationSmart’s website and ultimately discover this vulnerability. However, while the page has been taken down, it’s unclear what steps will be taken next if any. At least one U.S. senator has urged the FCC to enforce stricter privacy laws on carriers.
More Coverage: A bug in cell phone tracking firm’s website leaked millions of Americans’ real-time locations by ZDNet’s Zack Whittaker
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Smart-luggage maker Raden has suddenly ceased operations. It’s the second startup to fold in the wake of stricter rules put in place by airlines concerned about the safety of the bags’ lithium-ion batteries.
American Airlines, Delta, and Alaska Airlines imposed new rules in January saying that if the battery is built into a piece of smart luggage and cannot be removed, it won’t be allowed onto the aircraft. United and Southwest Airlines followed suit a short time later. If the battery is removable and the smart-luggage is heading to the hold, it needs to be separated from the luggage at check-in and taken into the cabin.
Smart luggage offers a range of battery-powered tech that can include anything from GPS capability so you don’t lose it, to built-in digital scales so you don’t exceed your weight limits, to a motor that turns it into a scooter so you can whiz through the airport to your gate.
While Raden’s smart-luggage does use removable batteries, the strict rules have made travelers more wary about purchasing such items, devastating what until recently was a steadily growing market.
New York-based Raden posted a message on its site this week explaining the situation. It said that all existing shipments have been processed for delivery, but it can no longer process returns, exchanges or repairs.
Customers can still travel with their Raden cases “with the batteries simply removed as directed by each airline,” the now-defunct company said in its message, which also noted that its companion app will continue to pair with its smart bags.
Focusing on the reason for its closure, Raden said: “The changes in policies concerning batteries in luggage in December by all major airlines severely impacted the usefulness of our products, their value to our customers, our business performance, and ultimately the ability to continue operating.”
Raden’s demise comes just weeks after a similar outfit, New York-based Bluesmart, ceased operations. Bluesmart said the new rules imposed by airlines placed it in “an irreversibly difficult financial and business situation.”
Due to the fire risk that comes with damaged or poorly made lithium-ion batteries, the power source has been a serious concern for airlines ever since the technology was introduced.
The smart cases aren’t the first gadget to be targeted by airlines, either. In 2016, the U.S. Department of Transportation banned Samsung’s troubled Galaxy Note 7 from being taken onto aircraft, and before that, so-called hoverboards faced the same action after batteries inside a number of the personal transporters suddenly exploded.
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The trouble with hotel rooms is that they’re so darn stationary. Once booked, you’re locked into the location for the entirety of your stay, with no chance of venturing to places far beyond. Of course, you could always travel in a camper van, but the experience can feel isolating, and you also have the hassle of driving, with the added stress of trying to navigate new road systems if you’re overseas.
So how about a stay in the awesome Truck Surf Hotel? As its name cleverly suggests, the Truck Surf Hotel is a hotel on a truck. For surfers.
The unique design is actually a modded Mercedes Actros fitted with a hydraulics system that allows the walls and ceiling to expand to create even more space inside when you’re parked up.
Guests can choose from one of four (highly compact) double rooms with a bunk bed and one room with a double bed, all with windows so you can enjoy the sea view — a different one each morning — from wherever the driver parks up.
On the first floor you’ll find a living room with a table and couches where you can mingle with other guests. It also offers a video projector so you can share any GoPro or drone footage you shoot while out on the waves each day, though hopefully it won’t be of any incidents as scary as this one. There’s also a fully equipped kitchen for prepping your daily meals.
The air-conditioned hotel-on-wheels also comes with appropriate bathroom facilities.
Just outside the entrance you’ll find a lounge terrace with bean bags — an ideal spot to enjoy the daily sunsets. And sunrises, if you can make it up that early.
The Truck Surf Hotel comes with its own guides and coaches for your surfing trips, though presumably they travel separately. The mobile accommodation is pitched as “perfect for travelers who want to learn how to surf or improve their surf skills, for adventurers that enjoy outdoor activities in nature, also for sports groups, high performance sport teams or business groups.”
The double-decker is currently tootling between sites in both Portugal and Morocco, with week-long adventures costing anywhere between $600 and $900 per person, depending on the location and season.
It’s certainly a different way to see a place — or several places — and could prove appealing for sociable types who like to keep on the move when they’re on vacation.
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With privacy-centric European Union legislation set to take effect soon, and on the heels of the Cambridge Analytica scandal, Facebook recently introduced a new data policy. Just when you had the old one memorized, right? Facebook says it wants to be more transparent about how its Products track almost everyone who uses the internet – even those without a Facebook or Instagram account.
We’ve gone through the policy to help you make sense of what Facebook is trying to communicate.
What kinds of information does Facebook collect?
Facebook is collecting and using your posts, messages, photos, and other information you provide, such as the groups you belong to, the pages you visit, hashtags you use, and so on. Even if you don’t identify your religion, the site may still infer something about your identity or interests if, say, you join a Bible study group. Purchasing items through the site, spending three hours a day browsing photos on Instagram, and being active in a group, will all feed into the picture Facebook has of you.
Facebook isn’t just Facebook. It’s also Instagram, WhatsApp, Oculus, and so on.
Facebook sucks up data on the devices you use, too — probably more than you expect. Not only does it know what kind of phone or PC you have, your operating system, and browser type, it’s analyzing how much battery you have left, and your storage space. It’s also looking at your mouse movements to see what you hover over or blaze past. If you have Facebook open in the background but aren’t using it, it’s clocking that, too.
The Facebook portfolio
Facebook isn’t just Facebook. It’s also Instagram, WhatsApp, Oculus, and so on. The way you use these sites affects not only you but your “Friends” as well. When you comment on your sister’s post, that interaction affects the profile Facebook has of both of you. If you sync your contact data with the Messenger app, the company gets the phone numbers and email address digital black book — even if they don’t use Facebook.
Facebook also owns Instagram, Oculus (maker of Oculus Rift and Oculus Go), and WhatsApp.
Maybe your Facebook privacy settings are on lock down, but you’re looser on Instagram. Well, those interconnected sites are sharing amongst themselves. For example, Facebook analyzes your communications in Messenger, though it claims only for your safety (like to prevent malware). Recently, a user was upset to realize the Messenger app was logging his call history.
It knows where you are
When you gave Facebook access to your camera or photos or GPS, you were probably thinking about how it would make things convenient for you. But it’s not just that one photo it has access to — it has everything in your library.
Game apps, retailers, and all kinds of sites and companies are sharing information about you with Facebook.
The more devices you use to log on to Facebook, the more information it’s going to gather. Ditto for the company’s apps. You might want to consider limiting your Facebook use to a single device. If location privacy is important to you, you could stick to a laptop, but keep in mind that Facebook also knows your IP address and can scrape metadata from photos to get location information. Your “Friend” might tag you when she checks in at the park for your Saturday softball practice.
What about non-Facebook users?
Facebook has denied it creates “shadow profiles” of non-users, but even if you don’t have a Facebook page, you’re not anonymous to the tech giant. Game apps, retailers, and all kinds of sites and companies are sharing information with it. When you click any kind of user agreement, you’re giving away more than you bargained for.
How does Facebook use this information?
Now that Facebook knows you were born in Iowa (as was your sister, Mary), eat at Chili’s, and listen to a lot of Cardi B (because you log into Spotify with your FB account), it can personalize your experience, the company says. It might tailor your News Feed to show something Mary hearted or commented on, because she’s your sister, and you two “Like” a lot of the same things. Maybe you’ll see a cooking site’s recipe for copycat Chili’s queso. And Ticketmaster might advertise Cardi B’s tour for you, since you have location services turned on, and she didn’t cancel her Dallas performance.
It’s about more than ads
Feeling targeted by Facebook ads is often the first people think of when the topic turns to how the site is using your data. But your whole experience is curated to what the site’s analytics think you want. And remember that it’s gathering this not just from ads you click on, but groups you’re a part of, apps you use, and sites you visit — even when you’re not logged in.
Credit: Social Ads Tool
Facebook has been accused of not just including groups, but also excluding them. A makeup company might choose to exclude men over the age of 65, for example. This crosses the line into discrimination if rental companies and landlords are putting “stay-at-home moms” and “corporate moms” on the list they don’t want to advertise to, according to a lawsuit that the National Fair Housing Alliance recently filed. The company is facing another lawsuit in Illinois, which claims Facebook violated the state’s Biometric Information Privacy Act by utilizing users’ photos for its facial recognition technology without their permission.
But the ads are eerily accurate
Any site that has a Facebook “Like” button can send data, including your IP address, back to the social media company, even if you don’t click on it. Websites use Facebook’s advertising pixel to have the site target you with ads if you add flip-flops to a shopping cart — but don’t buy them — or search for “New Orleans” on a hotel-booking site. Retailers and other sites can create “Custom Audiences” from this information, then have Facebook target everyone who visited a specific URL, or watched one of their videos.
You have control over whether your posts are public or more private, but you can’t control your “Friends.”
Facebook is getting rid of its “Categories” advertising feature over the next six months, but that doesn’t mean it’s collecting less data. Data brokers like Acxiom and Experian know a lot about you, too. (You might remember the man who received a letter from OfficeMax addressed to “Daughter killed in a car crash”; the company blamed a data broker.) They gain details thanks to public records and databases like property records, loyalty card programs, surveys, voter rolls, dealership sales, and more, according to The Washington Post.
Using the profile of a person who recently bought a Camry, for example, they can use Facebook’s categories to find others who might also want to buy that car. Data brokers will continue to mine your information, and advertisers can still create targeted ad campaigns, but they have to do so using “data that they have the rights, permissions, and lawful basis to use,” Carolyn Everson, Facebook’s vice president of global marketing solutions, told The Wall Street Journal.
How does Facebook share your information?
Call this the “What about your ‘Friends’” section. They’re having an impact on what Facebook knows about you, and they control some of the data Facebook says you own.
Your friends are spilling info on you
You have control over whether your posts are public or more private, but you can’t control your “Friends.” That video of you re-enacting Christian Bale’s iconic dance from Newsies is likely endearing, but not something you want made “public.” If they posted it, though, you can’t change its status, and may not have much recourse for getting it removed if it doesn’t violate the community standards. Facebook is rolling out a new appeals process, but that seems to be aimed at users who have had their content taken down unfairly.
Also, if you comment on someone’s post when it’s just among “Friends,” they can go back and make it public later. That’s important, because if you have a falling out and they block you, you can’t delete your comments or posts from their page.
What do you own?
During his testimony before Congress and the Senate, Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s CEO, repeatedly said users own their information and content. But it’s using the heck out of it while it’s hosting it to give advertisers more insight into your buying preferences. The female marines who had their nude photos shared on a Facebook page without their permission probably didn’t feel like they owned that content.
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg testified before Congress earlier this year after his company came under fire for failing to protect user information. Jim Watson/AFP/Getty Images
The timeline and tagging settings let you prevent people from adding posts to your timeline or tagging you in their posts, but they can still upload whatever they want to their own page. Facebook’s opinion is that you should “be careful who you share stuff with.”
Another oft-repeated phrase in Zuckerberg’s testimony was that the company doesn’t sell your data to advertisers. Instead, it puts you in those buckets — mid-20s females from California who knit — and tells advertisers the types of people seeing the ads. If you give permission, though, Facebook will pass along identifying information to companies.
Facebook also points out that if the company gets a new owner, your data is part of the sale
What about apps?
Scientists and software engineers are using the treasure trove that is Facebook to investigate all kinds of things.
The Cambridge Analytica fiasco happened because Facebook used to be lax with app data. It’s since tightened up the information apps can gather about your friends, and it’s in the process of adding more restrictions. When apps or websites are integrated with Facebook, they’re getting more information out of what you’re doing. If you link a website’s app to your Facebook account and post one of its links to your page, the website will know.
The research report
Facebook shares data with research institutions, including its own. Scientists and software engineers are using the treasure trove that is Facebook to investigate all kinds of things. It’s not just feel-good experiments like finding ways of computer-generating photo descriptions for the visually impaired. Researchers are diving into the minutiae of how users act on the site, like if receiving a gift causes you to give one in return, whether you click on spam, and what prompts you to untag a photo.
Every project undergoes an ethics review by a research lead, according to Facebook blog post. (The research manager who wrote it points readers to another post from October, 2014, when the company “first outlined” its approach to research and review. That was a few months after users learned about what many claimed was an unethical mood-manipulation experiment.)
While the data is mostly anonymous and aggregated, some, like those involving opt-in questionnaires, isn’t.
Deleting Facebook isn’t like unsubscribing from an email list. You don’t just click a button and watch your digital footprint vanish in a puff of smoke and memories. It takes the company 14 days to finally, permanently erase this part of your digital life. Before you take that step, you’ll probably want to download your information (you own it, after all), set up some sort of text group or email thread with people you actually want to hang out with, and so on.
Facebook will hand over your account information if requested via search warrant, court order, or subpoena if they “have a good faith belief that the law requires [them] to do so.”
Deactivation is less drastic, but it doesn’t have the same effect as deletion. Everything from your photos to your “Likes” is kept, and you can even still use Messenger, but your non-“Friends” shouldn’t be able to find your profile. You might still show up – with just a generic silhouette instead of your profile photo – in “Friends’” lists. Facebook will still track you per usual, as well.
Facebook directs you to your settings page to find information about deleting your account. It’s not there (though deactivation is). You can start the deletion process from here.
How does Facebook work with governments and law enforcement?
Facebook will hand over your account information if requested via search warrant, court order, or subpoena if they “have a good faith belief that the law requires us to do so.” That includes the laws of countries outside the U.S. This applies in suspected cases of fraud, illegal activity, and terms of service violations, and if there’s reason to believe such action would prevent someone’s injury or death.
Governments request account information at vastly different rates, which partly has to do with the number of users per country. In some countries, social media posts criticizing the government can lead to arrest. The recently passed Cloud Act has raised some concerns that foreign governments might obtain data on their own citizens from U.S. platforms during an investigation. Police often monitor social media. The American Civil Liberties Union raised concerns over some tools departments were using to track protestors. Facebook has also agreed to censor content in several countries.
Between January and June 2017, Facebook gave some user data in most of the cases that occurred in the following countries:
Estimated number of users
The number of users is estimated, as Facebook’s own metrics aren’t always accurate.
People often think because they have nothing to hide, data gathering is fine. But just because you’re not laundering money in your living room, doesn’t mean you’d want strangers watching your every move through a security camera. If tools become more sophisticated at catching criminals, shouldn’t they also evolve to be less invasive?
How does Facebook transfer data globally?
Facebook is a global company that transmits and stores its (your) data around the world. Before the digital privacy laws of the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation go into effect May 25, Facebook is moving 1.5 billion users’ information from its Ireland headquarters to California. Accounts in countries such as Australia, Thailand, and Brazil won’t benefit from the increased security of the E.U. legislation. Facebook will adhere to this law “in spirit” across the board, Zuckerberg told Reuters.
Josh Edelson/AFP/Getty Images
The U.S. is playing catch up when it comes to these protections. On April 24, Senators John Kennedy (R-Louisiana) and Amy Klobuchar (D-Minnesota) introduced the Social Media Privacy and Consumers Rights Act of 2018. It includes provisions such as requiring sites to show users information that’s collected about them and allowing social media users to opt out of data tracking. If such a law passed, it wouldn’t prevent Facebook from moving other countries’ users elsewhere.
You’re tired of Facebook tracking you. What can you do?
Live in a van down by the river? Make sure you pay cash for the van and find an ad for it in a physical copy of your local newspaper. Just kidding. Here’s a guide to changing your Facebook privacy settings.
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Whether you’ve become inundated with calls from telemarketers or just want to avoid getting them from a certain someone, it’s easy to block unwanted calls.
From blocking numbers on your smartphone to actually enlisting the help of your carrier, there are a few different ways to avoid unwanted calls. Here’s our guide to all the methods you can use to block a number.
Blocking a call on iOS devices
Apple makes blocking calls on an iPhone a pretty straightforward process. As long as you’re using iOS 7 or later (and you probably are), you can follow these steps to block voice calls, texts, and FaceTime.
Open the Settings menu. Next, tap on Phone if you’re using iOS 11, or General > Phone on earlier versions. Select Calls > Call Blocking & Identification > Block Contact. You can then block calls from anyone on your contact list.
If the number you wish to block is not a known contact, there’s another option available. Simply open the Phone app and tap Recents. From here, tap on the i icon next to the number you want to block and tap Block this Caller.
If you’re using an older version of iOS, things may work a bit different. Check out how to block calls on an iPhone for more in-depth instructions.
Blocking a call on Android devices
While both iOS and Android offer options to stop unwanted calls, blocking a call on an Android smartphone can be a little more tricky. Since each smartphone manufacturer has the option to create its own unique skin for the Android OS, the steps to block numbers can vary a bit depending on the actual phone.
Blocking a call on stock Android or Android One smartphones
If you’re using a phone that runs stock Android or is part of the Android One program, you have three different options to block calls.
One method to block calls is by opening the Phone app and tapping on the Overflow (three dot) icon at the top right corner of the display. Select Settings > Blocked numbers and add the number you’d like to block.
You can also block calls by opening the Phone app and tapping on Recents. Choose the number you’d like to block by tapping on it and selecting Block/report spam.
Finally, you can also block a number directly from the Android Messages app. Simply open the app, and long press on the contact you’d like to block. Once the contact is selected, tap the Block icon (circle with a line through it) on the top right side of the display.
Blocking a call on a Samsung smartphone
For the most part, blocking calls on a Samsung is the same as on phones running stock Android.
There are two ways to block number on a Samsung device. If you wish to enter the number you want to block, open the Phone app and select the Overflow icon. Tap Settings > Blocked numbers and add the number you wish to block. You can also block unknown numbers from this menu by toggling on Block unknown callers.
The second option is to block calls from your list of recent calls. Tap Phone > Recents. Select the number you want to block and tap the Overflow icon. Tap Block number.
Blocking a call on an LG smartphone
Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends
Compared to some other smartphone manufacturers, LG makes it fairly easy to block numbers. Just open the Phone app and click on the Call logs tab. Select the number you wish to block and tap the Overflow icon in the upper-right corner, followed by Block number from the drop-down menu.
If you want to review or remove numbers from your block list, open the Phone app, tap Call logs followed by the Overflow icon. Tap Call blocking & Decline with message > Blocked numbers.
Blocking a call on an HTC smartphone
Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends
When it comes to blocking calls on an HTC smartphone, the experience is not much different than what you’ll find on a phone running stock Android.
If you wish to block a call on an HTC phone, simply open the Phone app and head to the Call history tab. Long press on the number you’d like to block and select Block contact or Block caller. To review the numbers you’ve blocked, just tap on the Overflow icon in the Phone app.
Blocking a call on a Huawei smartphone
Want to block a call on a Huawei smartphone? Things are a little different. Huawei offers two ways to block calls.
If you want to block a specific contact, tap Phone and select the Contacts icon. Select the contact you wish to blacklist and tap the More icon at the bottom of the screen. Press Add to blacklist.
You can also choose to block numbers through the Phone Manager app. To block a call, tap Phone Manager > Blocked. Select the Gear icon in the upper right corner and press Numbers blacklist > Add.
Blocking a call using third-party apps
If none of these options work for you, don’t fear: There are still other options available. Check out how to block a number in Android to learn about third-party apps that can help you manage unwanted calls.
Blocking a call with your carrier
Verizon offers postpaid customers two options for blocking calls. The first option allows you to block up to five numbers for a period of 90 days or less.
To use this option, log in to your Verizon account and go to the Blocks page. Select the applicable line and scroll to Block calls & messages. Click on this and enter the number you wish to block. Tap Save.
If you don’t want to deal with re-blocking numbers every 90 days or simply have more numbers to block, you’ll want to check out Verizon Smart Family Premium. At $10 a month, the plan is expensive, however it offers permanent blocking of up to 20 numbers, as well as other more advanced blocking features.
AT&T offers two services to block calls: AT&T Call Protect and AT&T Call Protect Plus. The services are part of the AT&T Call Protect (iOS and Android) apps.
AT&T Call Protect allows you to manually block numbers from the AT&T Call Protect app. This service is free, however you cannot block unknown numbers.
If you need more flexibility, AT&T offers AT&T Call Protect Plus for $4 a month. With AT&T Call Protect Plus, you can block unknown numbers and select different methods for handling calls you’ve blocked.
Unlike other carriers, Sprint allows you to block numbers fairly easily. To block a number, log in to your My Sprint account. Select My Sprint > Permissions > Block voice. Tap Block Only the Following Phone Numbers for Inbound and Outbound Calls. Enter the number you wish to block, then Select Number > Save.
Unless you’re on a family plan, T-Mobile doesn’t offer a way to block calls through the carrier. If you do happen to be on a family plan, however, you can add Family Allowances, a service that allows you to block numbers for a small monthly fee.
To block numbers on T-Mobile, log on to your My T-Mobile account as the primary account holder. Select Profile followed by Family Controls. Select Family Allowances > Manage and select the appropriate number on your plan and enter the number you’d like to block.
Add your number to the National Do Not Call Registry
If you find yourself receiving calls from lots of unknown numbers, it may be time to add your number to the Federal Trade Commission’s National Do Not Call Registry. To add your number, simply head to DoNotCall.gov and register. You can add up to three numbers at a time, but you’ll need to add an email address to confirm your registration.
While the FTC will typically add your number within 24 hours, it may take up to a month for telemarketers to stop calling. If you continue to receive unwanted calls after 31 days, you can file a complaint with the FTC.
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In the latest development of the Apple vs. Samsung legal case, Samsung is arguing that it should only have to pay for individual components that directly contravene Apple’s patents, rather than a higher fee for the entirety of a device.
If you’d forgotten that Apple and Samsung were still having a massive legal altercation, then you’re easily forgiven. The two tech giants have been feuding since the early days of smartphone tech with the original 2011 lawsuit still continuing to this day. The massive coffers on either side of the conflict have paid for the litigation to go on with appeal after appeal. Samsung’s last appeal over the legality of a ruling in Apple’s favor was rejected by the U.S. Supreme Court, and that essentially now leaves Samsung on Apple’s hook.
However, don’t assume the matter is over just because the courts have ruled in Apple’s favor. While the courts have ruled that Samsung did infringe on Apple’s patents, the arguments as to how Samsung’s components infringed, and how much Samsung should have to pay Apple have only just begun. Traditionally, damages in this sort of case are paid based on the profits of the “article of manufacture” — or the product that was built using the violated patents. Apple is arguing that the entire smartphone counts as the manufactured article, while Samsung holds that it’s the individual components that count as the finished article.
This might seem like an unnecessary argument, but the difference between the two standpoints is significant. How significant? If Apple is correct, it calculates that damages of over $1 billion are owed. But if Samsung’s argument holds true, then damages for the components’ profits would amount to only $28 million. And while those numbers are by each company’s own calculations, it’s fair to assume the court’s number might not be far off.
Samsung has brought in an expert witness, Sam Lucente, to argue the point, and he pointed out that since the components could be replaced by third-party components and still work, you could not classify the phone as the manufactured article — a point made to work with the court’s own four-step classification on how to define a manufactured article.
With this lawsuit spanning seven years already — not including the initial steps taken by Apple to resolve the matter out of court in 2010 — and with arguments over the specifics still ongoing, it doesn’t seem likely this case will be over any time soon.
Android isn’t just what you can see; it’s what powers the things you can see.
Did you know Android P uses a trackball for navigation? A trackball! The hardware thing that died with the Nexus One and HTC Hero because everyone hated it.
Well, it does. It also uses a joystick, a keyboard, a gyroscope, gestures, and a back button. And probably anything a developer can dream up that will hook into the user input APIs that are part of Android P. But none of that means your next phone will have a trackball or a keyboard, or that you won’t have a back button in your navigation bar. It only means that you could.
We see this on the Android P beta builds that have been made available for various phones. The back button on the home screen is gone most of the time and new native gestures have picked up the slack. And there are other changes as well, like weird quick settings and a colorful mess look to the interface all-round. And collectively, we’re not connecting with Android P because of those changes. Well, most of us anyway.
But that’s not Android. At least not Android the way it will look on your next Samsung phone or your next LG phone or your next ASUS phone or …
We get to see how Google wants Android to look before any other company because it’s their baby.
We go through this every time a new version comes to Google’s own phones while we wait for it to come to the rest. And the outcome is always the same — Pixel phones (and previous Nexus phones) look the way Google wants them to look and the rest of the phones look however the company that made them want them to look. That’s because you can’t see Android — it’s simply software that supports the things you’re looking at.
It’s confusing. And tech bloggers (myself included) don’t help ease the confusion very well when we write about the things we see on a software update for the Pixel. It’s too difficult to try and break everything down every time we write something, and while we are good at a lot of things, we tend to shy away from “difficult”. To compound it all, when we do try to break “Android” down, we usually make it worse. I’m going to try here because I’m feeling courageous and want to face “difficult” head on today. If I don’t come back, tell my wife I love her.
The difficult stuff
Android is a name that’s used for several different things. We call the operating system on our phones, no matter which company makes them, Android. The operating system doesn’t have to look, act, or even feel the same between devices to carry the name. We all know what we mean when we say Android.
Android also supports ˂˃˄˅ keyboard navigation because Chromebooks!
That operating system on your phone uses two different things we all call Android to create the final package. There’s Android as in the open source software that anyone can use, and it’s what Samsung builds its operating system from. It’s freely available and easy to customize so you can use gesture navigation like OnePlus does or a joystick like the new Lenovo Mirage Solo VR headset from Lenovo, or even a trackball if you wanted to try and revive an old Nexus One.
Samsung can also change the colors, the layout, the battery stats screen, the quick settings, the home launcher, the app drawer and almost everything else to look and feel the way Samsung thinks is best. That’s why Android is great — there are so many different choices that spring from it.
Android with a trademark
Your next Android phone won’t need a joystick but your next Android VR headset will.
The second Android that Samsung uses is Android™. Notice the little trademark symbol. Google owns Android™ when you’re talking about software, but they license it to other companies as long as they meet a set of rules governing its usage. That’s why Samsung has to include Chrome along with its own web browser — that’s one of the rules.
Without Google’s licensed Android package there is no app store. Nobody will buy a smartphone without an app store in 2018.
This Android™ is what every company that makes phones wants to use because it ties your username and password to a Google account. Without that Android, you wouldn’t have Gmail or Google Photos integration or have access to Google Play. And Google takes ownership of Android very seriously when it comes to other companies using it.
The LG G4 taught us that a navigation bar can be anything and still be Android.
The most important “rule” that a company like Samsung has to follow to use Android™ is to make sure none of the changes it made to the open source Android cause apps in the Play Store not to work. That means Samsung can’t stop an app that uses a joystick to navigate from working as intended. And with Android P, Samsung can’t stop an app from using the native gestures. But Samsung doesn’t have to use a joystick over Bluetooth to navigate the phone or those gestures if it doesn’t want to. It just can’t break things.
Google wants Samsung to use licensed Android software because Samsung sells gazillions of phones. Google just wants to make sure a few rules are followed.
All of this applies to every company that makes phones that use Google’s services built for Android. Even Google’s own Pixel phones have to follow these same rules, but they also can freely customize the same things that Samsung can. And they do. Google wants the Pixel to be its vision of an Android-powered phone, just like Samsung does with its Galaxy products. The Pixel isn’t an absolute reference that every company has to follow. That’s a good thing. That lets us have a choice of phones that connect us to the things we need and use, but every model can be different. Just like we’re all different.
When Android P comes to phones from companies which choose to modify the open bits, like Samsung, they will support the new gestures. But Samsung won’t have to incorporate them into their Android version unless it wants to, and it will make darn sure those gestures work in a way that makes the next Galaxy phone better.
- Android P: Everything you need to know
- Android P Beta hands-on: The best and worst features
- All the big Android announcements from Google I/O 2018
- Will my phone get Android P?
- How to manually update your Pixel to Android P
- Join the Discussion
The phone costs $529 and sales begin May 22.
On May 14, OnePlus finally took the wraps off of its big flagship for 2018 — the OnePlus 6.
As we were expecting from rumors and leaks leading up to the announcement, the phone features a glass body, a large 6.3-inch AMOLED display with a notch, Snapdragon 845 CPU, dual rear cameras, and much more.
The OnePlus 6 costs $529 ($30 more than the 5T) and will officially go on sale May 22.
This is OnePlus’s most powerful phone yet, but it’s also the most expensive. We recently asked the AC community if they plan on picking it up, and this is what they had to say.
05-16-2018 10:10 PM
I’m planning on getting the 8gb/256gb midnight black. I have a pixel 2 XL right now. It’s a great phone but just a little bored with it. I’ll use the OnePlus till the Pixel 3 comes out.
05-16-2018 10:12 PM
Yes but waiting for Silk White.
Samsung Galaxy S9+. Disappointed with battery life.
256GB iPhone 8 Plus. No issues but I also got the Essential.
05-17-2018 11:52 AM
I’d love to purchase a OP device in the future; and now that the 6 finally has water resistance, I may grab a 6T or 7 or whatever the case may be when I’m ready to upgrade again!
05-17-2018 03:04 PM
Same here, coming from s9+, my dealbreakers on S9+ are slugish performance, lag on a daily basis and mediocre battery life. Hardware is extremely good otherwise.
Reasons for switching to OP6
*speed is waaaaaaaaaaaaay better on OP6, overall performance during heavy usage, fingerprint unlock and face unlock work EXTREMELY fast, I really appreciate how fast dash charge charges even with the…
What about you? Are you going to buy the OnePlus 6?
Join the conversation in the forums!
- OnePlus 6 hands-on preview
- OnePlus 6 vs. OnePlus 5T: How much changes in six months?
- OnePlus 6 vs. OnePlus 5: Should you upgrade?
- These are the official OnePlus 6 cases
- The OnePlus 6 doesn’t work on Verizon or Sprint
- Join the discussion in the forums
Improving your experiences with a little company
As the Oculus Go (OGO) rises in popularity the community grows as well. Because of this, there are going to be plenty of people wanting to play co-op games with you, or even just share the experience of VR together. With so many things to do together, you should definitely add more people to your friends group. Here’s how to add people to your friends’ list on the Oculus Go!
By scrolling down your entire friends list on the OGO it will show you suggested friends that are based on the friends you already have. There are “people you may know”, and here’s how to access that.
Select “Friends” under the People section of your menu.
Scroll to the bottom of your friends list.
Hover over the icon with the stick man and a + symbol.
Press the button to add this recommended friend.
Adding friends by username or real name
So you probably realized there is no way to add to your friends list from your Oculus Go headset when it comes to searching for new people. But fret not, the option exists in the Oculus app that is now on your phone.
Open your Oculus Go app.
Select “Friends” from the menu at the bottom of your screen.
Select “Add friends”
Type in the username or real name of the person you wish to add.
Press “Add Friend”
When they accept, you’ll receive a notification they are now on your friends list!
What is your favorite thing to do in VR with your friends?
Do you have a favorite co-op experience or game for VR with your friends? Tell us in the comment section below!
- A parent’s guide to Oculus Go
- Oculus Go vs. Lenovo Mirage Solo
- Best Gamepad for Oculus Go
- Best Battery Backup for Oculus Go
Oculus Go 32GB
Oculus Go 64GB
Stop wasting water and money.
Amazon has the 8-zone Rachio smart sprinkler controller on sale for $149.99 today. Recently, it’s been selling for around $180 at Amazon, but normally sells for closer to $200 elsewhere. This Rachio controller can replace your old, basic one in just a few minutes and provide smarter controls for up to eight different sprinkler zones.
Once installed, the Rachio system can intelligently skip lawn waterings when they aren’t needed, like when it’s too cold outside or there’s been sufficient rain in the recent days to keep your grass looking its best. I installed one of these about two years ago, and it’s easily the best smart home purchase I’ve ever made. You can connect it with an Echo Dot for complete voice control over your lawn.
If you have a sprinkler system and are tired of the expensive water bills, it running while it’s raining outside, and the other annoyances, be sure to grab one of these today.
See at Amazon