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Here’s Amazon’s explanation for the Alexa eavesdropping scandal - Recode
from Daring Fireball

Jason Del Ray, reporting for Recode:

Asked for more details, Amazon provided Recode with the following explanation:

Echo woke up due to a word in background conversation sounding like “Alexa.” Then, the subsequent conversation was heard as a “send message” request. At which point, Alexa said out loud “To whom?” At which point, the background conversation was interpreted as a name in the customers contact list. Alexa then asked out loud, “[contact name], right?” Alexa then interpreted background conversation as “right”. As unlikely as this string of events is, we are evaluating options to make this case even less likely.”

I mean, that all does sound pretty unlikely. But the fact that Alexa can interpret background conversation as a confirmation is a big problem.

Unlikely thought it sounds, this does seem like the most likely scenario.

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ifttt  daringfireball 
14 hours ago by josephschmitt
Illustration in the App Store + Subtraction.com
from Daring Fireball

Khoi Vinh, writing at Subtraction:

Apple’s dramatically redesigned App Store got a decent amount of attention when it debuted last year with iOS 11, but its unique success as a hybrid of product design and editorial design has gone little noticed since. That’s a shame, because it’s a huge breakthrough.

I myself paid it scant attention until one day this past winter when I realized that the company was commissioning original illustration to accompany its new format. If you check the App Store front page a few times a week, you’ll see a quietly remarkable display of unique art alongside unique stories about apps, games and “content” (movies, TV shows, comics, etc.). To be clear: this isn’t work lifted from the marketing materials created by app publishers. It’s drawings, paintings, photographs, collages and/or animations that have been created expressly for the App Store.

We don’t see this particular flavor of artistic ambition from many companies today, especially tech companies.

The new iOS 11 App Store really is run like an editorial-driven publication. They write articles and features, and as Vinh rightly celebrates here, commission great custom artwork. One of the things I’m most looking forward to next month at WWDC is seeing this sort of treatment on the Mac App Store, too.

 ★ 
ifttt  daringfireball 
15 hours ago by josephschmitt
Google didn’t pay for stock footage used in the Selfish Ledger video - The Verge
from Daring Fireball

Vlad Savov, writing for The Verge:

The Selfish Ledger is a troubling, near-future concept video produced within Google in late 2016, which we revealed on this website a week ago. It uses plenty of stock footage to illustrate its premise, which the BBC now reports wasn’t properly licensed by Google. British filmmaker Philip Bloom expressed his dismay to the BBC at seeing his footage used in The Selfish Ledger without any license or authorization from him. He reports that Google lifted 73 seconds from seven of his videos, and when he got in touch with the company he was offered no compensation. Google, in response, indicates that the video was only for internal use, which Bloom counters by noting that many other companies have previously licensed his work for internal use only.

It’s bad enough Google didn’t pay for the footage up front, as they should have. But to refuse to pay now is outrageous. Who runs PR for Google? A generous payment to Bloom after he contacted them and this never even would have been a story.

 ★ 
ifttt  daringfireball 
15 hours ago by josephschmitt
Android Creator Puts Essential Up for Sale, Cancels Next Phone - Bloomberg
from Daring Fireball

Mark Gurman and Alex Barinka, reporting for Bloomberg:

Essential Products Inc., a startup co-founded by Android creator Andy Rubin that launched last year to great fanfare, is considering selling itself and has canceled development of a new smartphone, according to people familiar with the matter.

Shocker.

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ifttt  daringfireball 
15 hours ago by josephschmitt
'Weird, odd, a dumpster fire': Trump's North Korea summit coin ridiculed | US news | The Guardian
from Daring Fireball

Benjamin Haas, reporting for The Guardian from Seoul:

Stony faced, Donald Trump stares down a smiling Kim Jong-un in a high-stakes scene, unfolding entirely on the surface of a coin.

The commemorative piece was minted by the White House Military Office, which typically designs coins for Trump’s trips abroad, before an expected summit between the two leaders in Singapore on 12 June. The coin describes the meeting as “peace talks”, in English and Korean.

Not only was this coin premature, not only does it get Kim’s title wrong, not only does it bestow upon Kim legitimacy he’s long sought but does not deserve, but worse than all that, the outer rim of text is set in Arial.

 ★ 
ifttt  daringfireball 
15 hours ago by josephschmitt
Woman says her Amazon device recorded private conversation, sent it out to random contact | KIRO-TV
from Daring Fireball

Gary Horcher, reporting for KIRO 7 News in Seattle:

But Danielle said two weeks ago their love for Alexa changed with an alarming phone call. “The person on the other line said, ‘unplug your Alexa devices right now,’” she said. “‘You’re being hacked.’”

That person was one of her husband’s employees, calling from Seattle.

“We unplugged all of them and he proceeded to tell us that he had received audio files of recordings from inside our house,” she said. “At first, my husband was, like, ‘No you didn’t!’ And the (recipient of the message) said ‘You sat there talking about hardwood floors.’ And we said, ‘Oh gosh, you really did hear us.’”

Danielle listened to the conversation when it was sent back to her, and she couldn’t believe someone 176 miles away heard it too.

It’s a bit maddening that they don’t say how this was sent. As an attachment in an email? Who was the email from? We don’t get to hear the recording, either.

Danielle says she unplugged all the devices, and she repeatedly called Amazon. She says an Alexa engineer investigated.

“They said ‘Our engineers went through your logs, and they saw exactly what you told us, they saw exactly what you said happened, and we’re sorry.’ He apologized like 15 times in a matter of 30 minutes and he said we really appreciate you bringing this to our attention, this is something we need to fix!”

But Danielle says the engineer did not provide specifics about why it happened, or if it’s a widespread issue.

This seems like very strange bug path. Why would the Echo record anything, and why is there even the capability of sending a recording to a contact? You can’t make a recording and send it to a contact even if you want to with Alexa (as far as I know), so why is it even possible for it to happen inadvertently.

This confirms the worst fears of those skeptical about the privacy implication of these voice assistants.

 ★ 
ifttt  daringfireball 
17 hours ago by josephschmitt
Today Mac OS X is as old as the Classic Mac OS - Six Colors
from Daring Fireball

Jason Snell, writing at Six Colors:

Here’s a bit of numerology for you. Today marks 17 years, one month, and 29 days since Mac OS X 10.0 was released on March 24, 2001. That’s a strangely odd number — 6269 days — but it also happens to be the exactly length of time between January 24, 1984 (the launch of the original Macintosh) and March 24, 2001.

As Jason notes, it’s a bit mushy, given that Mac OS X had been out for a while in beta form prior to 10.0 being released, and perhaps more importantly, a majority of Mac users were relying on Mac OS 9 for several years after Mac OS X was released — including yours truly. But, still, a notable milestone. Classic Mac OS being anything other than a very fond memory feels like a long time ago.

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ifttt  daringfireball 
yesterday by josephschmitt
TANK — Prolost
from Daring Fireball

If you’ve got a soft spot for vintage ’80s vector-graphic video games like Star Wars and Battlezone, you’re going to love this new short film by Stu Maschwitz. So great. Also, a fantastic 20-minute video on how it was made.

 ★ 
ifttt  daringfireball 
yesterday by josephschmitt
FBI repeatedly overstated encryption threat figures to Congress, public - The Washington Post
from Daring Fireball

Devlin Barrett, reporting for The Washington Post:

The FBI has repeatedly provided grossly inflated statistics to Congress and the public about the extent of problems posed by encrypted cellphones, claiming investigators were locked out of nearly 7,800 devices connected to crimes last year when the correct number was much smaller, probably between 1,000 and 2,000, The Washington Post has learned.

Over a period of seven months, FBI Director Christopher A. Wray cited the inflated figure as the most compelling evidence for the need to address what the FBI calls “Going Dark” — the spread of encrypted software that can block investigators’ access to digital data even with a court order.

The FBI first became aware of the miscount about a month ago and still does not have an accurate count of how many encrypted phones they received as part of criminal investigations last year, officials said. Last week, one internal estimate put the correct number of locked phones at 1,200, though officials expect that number to change as they launch a new audit, which could take weeks to complete, according to people familiar with the work.

Even if the accurate number really was 7,800, it wouldn’t change the fact that adding backdoors to phones would be a disaster for security and privacy. The number really doesn’t matter. But the fact that they overstated it by a factor of 6 makes the FBI look really bad. I’m not saying they lied, but I think it’s unlikely they would have undercounted the number of phones by a factor of 6.

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ifttt  daringfireball 
yesterday by josephschmitt
The Eudora™ Email Client Source Code – Core+ – Medium
from Daring Fireball

Len Shustek, writing for The Computer History Museum:

Eventually many email clients were written for personal computers, but few became as successful as Eudora. Available both for the IBM PC and the Apple Macintosh, in its heyday Eudora had tens of millions of happy users. Eudora was elegant, fast, feature-rich, and could cope with mail repositories containing hundreds of thousands of messages. In my opinion it was the finest email client ever written, and it has yet to be surpassed.

I still use it today, but, alas, the last version of Eudora was released in 2006. It may not be long for this world. With thanks to Qualcomm, we are pleased to release the Eudora source code for its historical interest, and with the faint hope that it might be resuscitated. I will muse more about that later.

I still miss classic Eudora in a lot of ways.

Here’s are some telling statistics:

The Windows version of Eudora is written in C++. The source tree consists of 8,651 files in 565 folders, taking up 458 MB. There are both production (“Eudora71”) and test (“Sandbox”) versions of the code.

The Macintosh version of Eudora is an entirely different code base and is written in C. The source tree consists of 1,433 files in 47 folders, taking up 69.9 MB.

 ★ 
ifttt  daringfireball 
2 days ago by josephschmitt
Amazon Teams Up With Law Enforcement to Deploy Dangerous New Face Recognition Technology | ACLU of Northern CA
from Daring Fireball

Matt Cagle, writing for the ACLU:

The company has developed a powerful and dangerous new facial recognition system and is actively helping governments deploy it. Amazon calls the service “Rekognition.”

Marketing materials and documents obtained by ACLU affiliates in three states reveal a product that can be readily used to violate civil liberties and civil rights. Powered by artificial intelligence, Rekognition can identify, track, and analyze people in real time and recognize up to 100 people in a single image. It can quickly scan information it collects against databases featuring tens of millions of faces, according to Amazon.

Amazon is marketing Rekognition for government surveillance.

This strikes me as a bad idea in general, but an especially bad idea for a company that sells consumer devices with built-in cameras.

 ★ 
ifttt  daringfireball 
2 days ago by josephschmitt
Two Americans were detained by a Border Patrol agent after he heard them speaking Spanish
from Daring Fireball

Amy B. Wang, reporting for The Washington Post:

“We were just talking, and then I was going to pay,” Suda told The Washington Post. “I looked up [and saw the agent], and then after that, he just requested my ID. I looked at him like, ‘Are you serious?’ He’s like, ‘Yeah, very serious.’ ”

Suda said she felt uncomfortable and began recording the encounter with her cellphone after they had moved into the parking lot. In the video Suda recorded, she asks the agent why he is detaining them, and he says it is specifically because he heard them speaking Spanish.

“Ma’am, the reason I asked you for your ID is because I came in here, and I saw that you guys are speaking Spanish, which is very unheard of up here,” the agent can be heard saying in the video.

They were detained for nearly an hour for speaking Spanish. This guy should lose his job over this; I worry he’ll get a promotion.

 ★ 
ifttt  daringfireball 
2 days ago by josephschmitt
Bitcoin estimated to use half a percent of the world's electric energy by end of 2018 | EurekAlert! Science News
from Daring Fireball

EurekAlert:

In the first rigorously peer-reviewed article quantifying Bitcoin’s energy requirements, a Commentary appearing May 16 in the journal Joule, financial economist and blockchain specialist Alex de Vries uses a new methodology to pinpoint where Bitcoin’s electric energy consumption is headed and how soon it might get there. […]

His estimates, based in economics, put the minimum current usage of the Bitcoin network at 2.55 gigawatts, which means it uses almost as much electricity as Ireland. A single transaction uses as much electricity as an average household in the Netherlands uses in a month. By the end of this year, he predicts the network could be using as much as 7.7 gigawatts — as much as Austria and half of a percent of the world’s total consumption.

This is not going to end well.

 ★ 
ifttt  daringfireball 
2 days ago by josephschmitt
The Latest: EPA bars AP, CNN from summit on contaminants
from Daring Fireball

The Associated Press:

The Environmental Protection Agency is barring The Associated Press, CNN and the environmental-focused news organization E&E from a national summit on harmful water contaminants. The EPA blocked the news organizations from attending Tuesday’s Washington meeting, convened by EPA chief Scott Pruitt. […]

Guards barred an AP reporter from passing through a security checkpoint inside the building. When the reporter asked to speak to an EPA public-affairs person, the security guards grabbed the reporter by the shoulders and shoved her forcibly out of the EPA building.

Early stage autocracy.

 ★ 
ifttt  daringfireball 
2 days ago by josephschmitt
Is Facebook Just a Platform? A Lawyer to the Stars Says No - The New York Times
from Daring Fireball

From a profile of Irish attorney Paul Tweed for The New York Times, by David Kirkpatrick:

In a February debate over revenge porn televised on the Irish national broadcaster, Mr. Tweed squared off against Niamh Sweeney, Facebook’s policy chief for Ireland. Ms. Sweeney said that one way Facebook was trying to address the issue was by inviting individuals to preemptively submit naked or other embarrassing pictures of themselves so the company’s software could block efforts to post the images. (A pilot program is underway in Australia.)

What could possibly go wrong with this scheme?

 ★ 
ifttt  daringfireball 
2 days ago by josephschmitt
The Apple Watch has found a surprisingly useful home with everyone that works on their feet — Quartz
from Daring Fireball

Mike Murphy, writing for Quartz:

Quartz spoke with airline attendants, bartenders, waiters, baristas, shop owners, and (very politely) TSA employees who all said the same thing: The Apple Watch keeps them in touch when they can’t be on their phones at work. Apple has increasingly been pushing the watch as a health device, and seems to have moved away from marketing it as one that offers more basic utility, as Apple continues do with the iPhone. But given that roughly 23% of the US labor force works in wholesale or retail operations, perhaps it’s a market Apple should reconsider.

Interesting, but I don’t think it should be considered surprising. Apple has focused more on fitness features in its advertising this year, but this sort of convenient unobtrusive use of Apple Watch for communicating and receiving notifications was one of the core features right from the start.

 ★ 
ifttt  daringfireball 
2 days ago by josephschmitt
The Last Days of Time Inc. - The New York Times
from Daring Fireball

Sridhar Pappu and Jay Stowe, writing for The New York Times:

An oral history of how the pre-eminent media organization of the 20th century ended up on the scrap heap.

It was once an empire. Now it is being sold for parts.

Walter Isaacson on the heyday:

There were gentlemen writers and editors and women researchers who stayed up late and often had affairs. People just stayed in the office and would make drinks, or people would go out to long dinners. You felt like you were in some movie version of an elegant magazine.

It’s really hard to believe how far Time Inc. and its flagship magazines have fallen. Up until just 10-15 years ago it’s hard to overstate how influential Time and Sports Illustrated were, or how staggeringly profitable People was. What an ignominious end to a once-great company.

 ★ 
ifttt  daringfireball 
2 days ago by josephschmitt
‘Too inconvenient’: Trump goes rogue on phone security - POLITICO
from Daring Fireball

Eliana Johnson, Emily Stephenson, and Daniel Lippman, reporting for Politico:

The president uses at least two iPhones, according to one of the officials. The phones — one capable only of making calls, the other equipped only with the Twitter app and preloaded with a handful of news sites — are issued by White House Information Technology and the White House Communications Agency, an office staffed by military personnel that oversees White House telecommunications.

While aides have urged the president to swap out the Twitter phone on a monthly basis, Trump has resisted their entreaties, telling them it was “too inconvenient,” the same administration official said.

I don’t get it — surely it wouldn’t be inconvenient at all for Trump. It’s not like he’d be the one setting up the new phones.

Anyway, I’m sure everyone who was outraged by Hillary Clinton’s email practices will be just as outraged by this.

 ★ 
ifttt  daringfireball 
3 days ago by josephschmitt
Teen phone monitoring app leaked thousands of user passwords | ZDNet
from Daring Fireball

Zack Whittaker, reporting for ZDNet:

The mobile app, TeenSafe, bills itself as a “secure” monitoring app for iOS and Android, which lets parents view their child’s text messages and location, monitor who they’re calling and when, access their web browsing history, and find out which apps they have installed. […]

The database stores the parent’s email address associated with TeenSafe, as well as their corresponding child’s Apple ID email address. It also includes the child’s device name — which is often just their name — and their device’s unique identifier. The data contains the plaintext passwords for the child’s Apple ID. Because the app requires that two-factor authentication is turned off, a malicious actor viewing this data only needs to use the credentials to break into the child’s account to access their personal content data.

What a fiasco. Looks like TeenSafe pulls data from iCloud backups — that’s at least one of the reasons they require you to give them iCloud passwords.

 ★ 
ifttt  daringfireball 
3 days ago by josephschmitt
quip | affiliate
from Daring Fireball

Created by dentists and designers, quip guides good habits that help improve oral health. To help you brush longer, quip packs a nifty 2-minute timer. To help you brush better, quip provides practical oral care advice in your inbox and mailbox. And to help you freshen old, worn out bristles, quip delivers new brush heads every 3 months (like dentists recommend). Not only does this make quip incredibly simple, it’s also effective with a Seal of Acceptance from the American Dental Association. Refresh your routine with the quip electric toothbrush, starting at $25.

 ★ 
ifttt  daringfireball 
3 days ago by josephschmitt

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