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Posted by Damien Biddulph on Mon 5th Nov 2018

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Once the realm of pure science fiction, voice-based artificial intelligence is now a reality. Thanks to the help of A.I. like AlexaSiri, and the Google Assistant, we’re now at the point where it’s entirely possible to listen to the news, see the day’s weather, send a text message, and start watching a video about the best way to fold your socks without looking up from your morning cereal or touching a device. If you’re an Android user, none is more integrated than the Google Assistant. It’s in your phone, it can be in your living room, and it’s ready to help you on the road.


Google’s artificial intelligence is as helpful or subtle as you want. But it hasn’t always been this way. Artificial intelligence has gone from fantasy to an integral part of our lives in just a few short years — and in the case of Google Assistant, it has sidled into our homes and lives without doing as much as disturbing the drapes. Here’s the history of how Google’s artificial intelligence came to dominate the Android world.


Look back up the Google Assistant’s family tree and it’s clear Google’s A.I. owes a lot to at least two previous services. The first and oldest part of Google Assistant is Google Voice Search. Voice Search made its debut on Android smartphones and Chrome for desktop PCs way back in June 2011, and while its functionality was basic by today’s standards, being able to give your phone voice commands marked a serious change in the way we were starting to interact with technology.

But Google Now was the real seismic shift in artificial intelligence. Built on Google Voice Search, development of Google Now was code-named “Majel” — after Majel Barrett, wife of Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry and voice of the computer in many Star Trek series. While also an Easter egg, the code name was clearly a statement of Google’s intent — a dedication to achieving Star Trek‘s utopian future-tech.

While Google Now wasn’t exactly an all-seeing or all-knowing computer, it formed the skeleton of the Google’s Assistant’s highly personalized feed. First introduced in Android 4.1 Jelly Bean, Google Now delivered your schedule, weather, and other useful information in a series of cards and notifications, letting you know if you needed to leave early for an appointment in order to avoid traffic, or telling you about nearby restaurants. Later updates brought in Gmail integration, and it was even smuggled onto iOS devices as a part of the iOS Google Search app.

Like Voice Search, you could ask Google Now questions — but unlike its predecessor, you would get responses spoken out loud, marking an important step toward a true A.I. experience. While useful, Google Now’s ability to converse was extremely limited, and it wasn’t capable of the sort of intricate conversations Google Assistant is now known for.

Most importantly, Google Now also introduced an iconic phrase that would become one of the keystones of the Google Assistant experience — the “OK Google” hotword.


Google Now was a revolution in how we interacted with our phones — but Google Assistant was a snapshot of the future.

Despite that grandiose statement, Google’s Assistant began life as a humble extra on Google’s Allo chat app. Its first job was to pop up during chats when useful, or when invited. It wasn’t perfect — and Google was still clearly keeping it at arm’s length from the rest of its services — but it was just the beginning. Google Assistant’s development was being treated differently from anything before it — as evidenced by Google’s hiring of Google Doodle head Ryan Germick and ex-Pixar animator Emma Coats to give the Assistant more personality.

But it wasn’t long before Google Assistant broke free of its chains, coming first as a stand-alone feature to the original Google Pixel and the Google Home, before also arriving on other smartphones running Android 6.0 Marshmallow and above in 2017. This implementation of Assistant is probably the first time we saw the modern Assistant, with an interface that could be called up with the Home button and the ability to reply in a more conversational manner.

Though the initial version featured some gulfs between capabilities on mobile and Home speakers, Google reduced that gap as the months went by and quickly added Assistant functionality to its other products. Last year also saw Google announce its intention to add its Assistant to Android TV.


We’d be remiss if we didn’t mention the impact of Google Assistant on smart speakers. Launched alongside the Google Assistant at Google I/O 2016, the Google Home was the first smart speaker to include Google’s Assistant, but it wasn’t the last.

Google debuted the Google Home Mini in October 2017 — but most notable was the influx of hardware from other manufacturers with support for the Assistant. Google’s Assistant SDK allowed companies like JBL and LG to quickly include smart functionality in their hardware, without having to develop their own software. The Assistant also made the jump to smart displays, following in Amazon’s footsteps with smart displays from multiple manufacturers, and eventually the Google Home Hub.

It’s not just a small smattering of manufacturers that are using Google’s A.I. — as of May 2018, Google reported that more than 5,000 devices are now connected with the Google Assistant.


So what lies ahead for the Google Assistant? Based on everything that’s come before, Google is nowhere near done with developing new features, and it’s highly likely it never will be. Will we look back at where we are now the same way we now look at the primitive nature of Google Now?

Google’s latest major addition to the Assistant is Duplex — a feature that allows the Assistant to call businesses and book appointments on your behalf. It responds to questions and alterations in real time, and uses filler words like “um-hm”. It was so convincing that some people worried it could be used to dupe real people. Thankfully, Google assured us that disclosure is built into the software.

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But Duplex is just the start of a new era for Google Assistant, and with Google’s software having gone from voice search to calling businesses in just seven years, imagine what A.I. will look like in 20. Scary? A little. But we’re also excited to see Star Trek’s “Majel” introduced into every aspect of our lives.

Source: digitaltrends.com
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Posted by Damien Biddulph on Tue 30th Oct 2018
  • Silicon Valley parents are growing increasingly concerned about the effects of technology on kids' development.
  • According to The New York Times, some are asking their nannies to sign contracts guaranteeing zero screen exposure for their kids. Others are secretly snapping photos of people who look like nannies using phones near their charges.
  • Even tech moguls like Steve Jobs and Tim Cook have expressed concern about what tech is doing to their own families.
  • However, research suggests that there may be some positive consequences of tech use, at least when it comes to teens and social media.

Silicon Valley parents are panicking.

According to The New York Times' Nellie Bowles, they're so concerned about the negative effects of technology on their kids that some are drawing up contracts with their nannies around screen exposure.

Others are secretly snapping photos of people who appear to be nannies using cellphones near their charges and then posting them to parenting message boards, Bowles reports.

A typical post might read, "Did anyone have a daughter with a red bow in Dolores Park? Your nanny was on her phone not paying attention," according to Lynn Perkins, the CEO of UrbanSitter, who was quoted in The Times article. "The nanny spotters, the nanny spies," Perkins called them.

The no-tech contract may be a relatively new (or newly recognized) phenomenon, but parents' anxiety about their kids' screen time isn't.



Business Insider previously reported that parents who work in Silicon Valley tech companies are limiting and sometimes banning their kids' access to the devices they helped create. Even tech titans like Steve Jobs, Tim Cook, and Bill Gates have placed restrictions on their kids' technology use, Business Insider previously reported.

Apple CEO Tim Cook, for example, has said that he doesn't allow his nephew to join online social networks. And the late Apple CEO Steve Jobs said in 2011 that he didn't let his kids use the iPad.

Panic about kids' screen time may not be grounded in reality

At this point, however, there's still limited research on the developmental effects of exposure to smartphones and other touchscreen devices, Business Insider's Dave Mosher reported.

In fact, Business Insider's Erin Brodwin reported on research that found social media in particular can have positive effects on teens and young adults. For example, Brodwin cited a large review of 36 studies published in the journal Adolescent Research Review that found teens are using digital communication mostly to bolster in-person relationships.

"There are a lot of good things that are happening with social media use today and there's been a really negative narrative about it," Candice L. Odgers, a professor of psychology and social behavior at the University of California Irvine, told Brodwin.

It's possible that parents' unease about the effects of technology on their kids reflects their concerns about what technology is doing to them.

As one nanny in San Jose told The Times, "Most parents come home, and they're still glued to their phones, and they're not listening to a word these kids are saying." She added, "Now I'm the nanny ripping out the cords from the PlayStations."

Source: uk.businessinsider.com
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Posted by Damien Biddulph on Tue 30th Oct 2018

New Windows 10 PC owners should be careful about downloading Google Chrome through Microsoft Edge, as Bing is apparently returning search results that contain malware and adware.

There is a running joke that the only purpose of Microsoft Edge is to download Google Chrome, but it appears that the tables could easily turn for users who are not careful. Fortunately, Twitter user Gabriel Landau did not fall prey to a fake Google Chrome download page returned by a Bing search.


Gabriel Landau@GabrielLandau

Brand new Win10 laptop. Attempt to install Chrome. Almost get owned with my very first action. Why is this still happening in 2018, @bing? Please explain.

3:32 AM - Oct 25, 2018

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In a video that Landau posted on his Twitter account, he showed how he searched for “download chrome” on Bing through the Microsoft Edge browser. He clicked on the first link that appears, which is marked as from “google.com,” leading to what appears to be the legitimate Google Chrome download page.

However, upon closer inspection, the URL for the page is “googleonline2018.com.” The page is not an exact replica of the official Google Chrome landing page, but it looks real enough to trick users. In addition, clicking on the Download Chrome button starts the download for ChromeSetup.exe, but checking the file’s properties reveals that it is digitally signed by a company named Alpha Criteria, which is obviously not Google. It is very likely that the fake file contains malware.

An investigation by How To Geek revealed that the fake website is actually marked as a “deceptive site” by Google Chrome, but it is not flagged as such by Microsoft Edge and Bing. The Bing search query was reproduced on some systems, not all, but it was only appearing on Microsoft Edge.

The major issue here is that Bing is apparently not checking the URL of the search result, allowing what is likely malware to be downloaded by unsuspecting users. Making matters worse is that Bleeping Computer reported the same advertisement in April, so this is a recurring issue.

A Microsoft spokesperson reached out to How To Geek to say that the fake ad has been removed from Bing, and that the account associated with the malicious content has been banned. However, there was no explanation on why the ad was marked as from “google.com,” and no assurance that the ad will not reappear again after a few months.

The issue drives home the point that users should always be extra careful about downloading anything from the internet. Even if websites and links look legitimate, it is always best to check everything thoroughly to prevent headaches from malware infections.

Source: digitaltrends.com
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Posted by Damien Biddulph on Tue 30th Oct 2018

Sony reveals full rundown of the 20-game classic console, out on 3 December, priced at £89.99

The Sony Playstation Classic will include Metal Gear Solid and Grand Theft Auto among a total of 20 games, the company has disclosed today. 

Inspired by the unexpected popularity of Nintendo's NES and SNES Classic consoles, which also feature a limited number of built-in classic games, Sony is planning to get the Playstation Classic into shops on 3 December in a bid to catch the Christmas rush.

The full rundown of the games that will be included in the console, as disclosed today, are as follows:

Most of the games were not Playstation exclusives first time round and, indeed, versions of most of the games are still available in one form or other on PC and other platforms.

For example, Resident Evil, Final Fantasy VII and the original Grand Theft Auto were all released on PC; Rayman even made it to the Game Boy Color and Atari Jaguar; and, Ubisoft has positively milked its Tom Clancy Rainbow Six franchise so thoroughly that there are at least 20 titles and DLC under the "Rainbow Six" moniker alone.

Nevertheless, for that authentic late-1990s console vibe, the Sony Playstation Classic is expected to be a Christmas sell out, at a price of £89.99

Source: v3.co.uk
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Posted by Damien Biddulph on Tue 30th Oct 2018

Two per cent turnover tax expected to raise £375m in 2021-22

The government is planning to introduce a new turnover tax on internet giants - tailored almost exclusively for Amazon, eBay, Facebook and Google - that will be introduced in tax year 2020-21. 

The Digital Services Tax was introduced by Chancellor Philip Hammond in the Budget on Monday, and is aimed at online companies trading in the UK with turnover of more than £500 million per year.

The tax, levied at two per cent of UK-derived revenues is intended to raise around £400 million from companies operating specifically as search engines, social media platforms, and online marketplaces. 

View image on Twitter

View image on Twitter

HM Treasury@hmtreasury

“We will now introduce a UK Digital Services Tax.

...It will be carefully designed to ensure it is established tech giants – rather than our tech start-ups - that shoulder the burden of this new tax.”

16:13 - 29 Oct 2018

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It is aimed, Hammond claimed, at "established tech giants" rather than start-ups. The tax would only apply to profitable companies, but could be abolished if members of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) can agree a formula for taxing internet giants.

"The rules have simply not kept pace with changing business models and it's clearly not sustainable, or fair, that digital platform businesses can generate substantial value in the UK without paying tax here in respect of that business," said Hammond.

He continued: "We will consult on the detail to make sure we get it right, and to ensure that the U.K. continues to be the best place to start and scale-up a tech business."

Luke Tugby@LukeTugby

Hammond announces that the Government “will introduce a UK digital services tax”, paid by companies that generate at least £500m in global revenues. Will come into effect in April 2020. Emphasises it is "not an online sales tax", as that would be paid by consumers

16:16 - 29 Oct 2018

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Stephanie Flanders@MyStephanomics

The Digital Services Tax meant to show UK "serious" about business tax reform. But exceptions and clarifications suggest govt wants to raise £ only from big unpopular tech firms, leaving consumers & anything popular & tech-related alone. Not sure experts wd call that serious.

16:26 - 29 Oct 2018

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However, the government could face a backlash from the US government over a tax that would appear to exclusively target US companies. 

"Given the dominance of the US tech giants, it is hard to see the Trump administration taking kindly to the digital sales tax as the UK sets out its stall for the best possible trade deal with the US," Dan Neidle, a tax partner at law firm Clifford Chance told theBBC.

It could also a rethink by US internet giants over their investments in the UK. Google, for example, is currently spending £650 million on a new headquarters in Kings Cross, London, which will house 4,500 employees. 

The companies targetted by the tax have yet to issue a formal response to the tax initiative. 

Barry Collins@bazzacollins

A tax on Amazon etc might sound like sticking it to The Man, but Amazon's margins are so wafer-thin it's ultimately customers who will pay

5:31 PM - Oct 29, 2018

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It comes after a similar initiative was put forward by France's President Macron as a means helping to make good an expected shortfall in European Union budgets when the UK formally leaves the EU.

At the moment, Macron's proposal for a three per cent levy is being blocked by a number of countries who claim that it would not raise anywhere near enough, and that it could end up costing more to collect than it raises.

However, the initiative did win some plaudits among UK technology companies.

Richard Stables, CEO of price comparison service Kelkoo, described it as "long overdue".

He added: "Google and Amazon have been avoiding tax payments which has given them an unfair edge over the competition [but] online retailers' financial advantage over bricks and mortar competitors is not the reason for the struggle and failure of traditional high street names. That is down to the inability to meet consumer demand for a coherent online strategy and user experience."

The Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR), meanwhile, also issued its analysis of the proposed new tax

Oscar Williams-Grut@OscarWGrut

Is the new digital services tax the most bespoke tax ever? Targets "search engines, social media platforms, and online marketplaces," but only those with revenues above £500m who are profitable. Treasury may as well have just said it targets Google, Facebook, and Amazon.

5:19 PM - Oct 29, 2018

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It says that the tax will raise £275 million in its first year. It won't be until the tax year 2022-23 that it will raise the £400 million mentioned by Chancellor Philip Hammond in today's budget, and £440 million the year after, according to the OBR's forecasts. 

The tax will apply to all businesses in the activities mentioned by the Chancellor - search engines, social media platforms, and online marketplaces - where those businesses can boast global revenues of £500 million within those activities, and with at least £25 million in revenues "linked to the participation of UK users".

Furthermore, the OBR points out, the first £25 million in revenues in the scope of the tax will not be taxable.

"The measure will also include a safe harbour provision that will allow businesses with very low profit margins to make an alternative calculation of their tax liability," the OBR document points out, although the details of this alternative calculation are not clear at this moment.

The expected sum to be raised from the tax has been calculated, the OBR adds, by collecting data on revenues generated in recent years by companies that will fall under the scope of the tax, and projecting forward.  

Source: v3.co.uk
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Posted by Damien Biddulph on Mon 29th Oct 2018


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Superfast 5G mobile broadband could power smart cities and the internet of things, (IoT) but as more devices get connected, telecoms and security experts are warning that cyber-attacks could increase in number and severity.

Our homes and cities are getting "smarter" - thermostats, video doorbells, sprinkler systems, street lights, traffic cameras, cars. all connected to the internet, collecting and transmitting useful data.

And 5G superfast mobile is seen as a catalyst that will light up this massive network.

GSMA Intelligence forecasts that there will be more than 25 billion "internet of things" connections by 2025.

But experts are queuing up to issue stark warnings about security.

"Security around IoT devices hasn't been very good, so if they're opened up to better connectivity they're opened up to more hackers, too," says Cody Brocious, education lead at security consultancy HackerOne.

"Not enough is being done to improve their security, and it's only going to get worse when they become 5G-connected. We'll see increases in spam and cyber-attacks."

Steve Buck, chief operating officer at telecoms security company Evolved Intelligence, goes so far as to say that "5G will power critical infrastructure, so a cyber-attack could stop the country."

The problem is that a lot of these IoT devices - think small sensors measuring air humidity or temperature, for example - are cheap and need to have a very long battery life.

What is the internet of things?

"Implementing good security into such devices will require more processing power and this drives up costs and drains power," says 5G expert Dave Burstein, editor of WirelessOne.news.

Which is why it won't happen.

The danger is that insecure devices will provide rich pickings for hackers. Just this month, internet security firm Sophos Labs warned about a new "family of denial-of-service bots we're calling Chalubo" targeting IoT devices.

The malware tries to recruit insecure devices into a botnet that can be commanded to bombard websites with requests and knock them out. Hackers then normally ask for a ransom to stop the attack.

"Google and Facebook spend billions on security and both have recently been hacked," says Mr Burstein.

"If they can't be fully protected, how can an ordinary person be expected to secure the dozen or more connected devices many of us will soon have?"

As cities become more connected, are they becoming more vulnerable to attack?

This is why Jeff Lipton, vice president of WaterSmart in San Francisco, a company that makes connected programmable water meters, thinks "these systems need to be very carefully thought through before rushing to make every device in a city smart".

And it isn't just the devices themselves that are vulnerable - the network potentially is, too.

"With 5G we'll be consuming services from all over the place, so we want to deliver those services very quickly as close to the customer as possible to reduce latency [delay]," says Adam MacHale, managing director of technology strategy at IT and networking firm Cisco Systems.

So instead of one central delivery centre serving an entire country, there'll be thousands of local ones, he explains.

"But this increases the threat surface [the number of potential weak points in a network that hackers can attack] and the risk."

It's a point reiterated by Michele Zarri, technical director at GSMA, the organisation representing the global mobile industry.

"5G is being developed to work within the cloud, and so the migration from physical to virtual networks will introduce new threats and widen the attack surface," he says.

And the way national telecoms companies talk to each other also needs to be made more secure, says Steve Buck.

"The interconnect which joins international networks together is the weak spot. A hacker can spoof your location and redirect your calls and texts. All he needs is your phone number."

So what should the industry be doing about all these security concerns?

Cody Brocious believes you could stop "99% of hacker attacks" on IoT devices by "preventing inbound connections" to them, routing the communications through an intermediary server, most likely operated by the device manufacturer.

Our smart homes could also be targeted by hackers unless cyber-security is improved

"5G services are likely to be subscription based, so the security will have to become a small part of the overall cost," he says.

Our 5G smartphones will become key weapons in the battle against the hackers. So-called two-factor authentication - supplementing username and password log-ins with codes sent to our locked phones, for example - will become the norm.

As many IoT device makers won't bother spending the extra money beefing up security on their devices, Cisco and other security firms are switching to monitoring how devices behave on a network - the typical data they send and receive, the patterns of traffic - and looking for anomalies.

"If a device starts connecting to something it doesn't usually connect to, we might step in and block that traffic," says Mr MacHale. "And we can spot suspicious behaviour even if the traffic is encrypted."

And the GSMA's Mr Zarri says 5G networks are being designed to allow sections to be isolated if they're attacked or compromised.

New 5G security standards will be needed to make each mobile network authenticate itself before relaying our encrypted calls and messages, Mr Buck believes.

"The regulators have been very concerned about this threat, but they haven't legislated for it yet," he says.

"But if we don't do this we'll have missed a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity."

Source: bbc.co.uk
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Posted by Damien Biddulph on Wed 24th Oct 2018

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Apple chief executive Tim Cook has demanded a tough new US data protection law, in an unusual speech in Europe.

Referring to the misuse of "deeply personal" data, he said it was being "weaponised against us with military efficiency".

"We shouldn't sugar-coat the consequences," he added. "This is surveillance."

The strongly-worded speech presented a striking defence of user privacy rights from a tech firm's chief executive.

Mr Cook also praised the EU's new data protection regulation, the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).

The new law came into force in May.

Mr Cook's speech was made in Brussels, at the International Conference of Data Protection and Privacy Commissioners.

The Apple boss described in some detail what he called the "data industrial complex", noting that billions of dollars were traded on the basis of people's "likes and dislikes", "wishes and fears" or "hopes and dreams" - the kind of data points tracked by tech firms and advertisers.

He warned that the situation "should make us very uncomfortable, it should unsettle us".

Twitter post by @tim_cook: Technology is capable of doing great things. But it doesn?t want to do great things. It doesn?t want anything. That part takes all of us. We are optimistic about technology?s awesome potential for good ? but we know that it won?t happen on its own.Image Copyright @tim_cook@TIM_COOK


And the trade in personal data served only to enrich the companies that collect it, he added.

Mr Cook went on to commend the EU's GDPR, which places stricter rules on how personal data is handled by businesses and organisations.

'Follow EU's lead'

"This year, you've shown the world that good policy and political will can come together to protect the rights of everyone," he said.

"It is time for the rest of the world, including my home country, to follow your lead.

"We at Apple are in full support of a comprehensive federal privacy law in the United States."

The remark was met with applause from the conference audience.

"I think it is striking that he's saying this," said Jim Killock, director of the Open Rights Group.

"It's the kind of thing you normally hear from civil society organisations."

Mr Killock told the BBC that he thought the call for a US privacy law was "extremely important".

He also suggested that Mr Cook may have been motivated by commercial interests.

"US companies are losing trust and without that trust they cannot make the digital economy function as well as it should," said Mr Killock, referring to the negative public reaction surrounding data breaches and cases of data misuse.

However, Prof Mark Elliot at Manchester University argued Mr Cook did not go far enough.

"The implication of fully functioning privacy in a digital democracy is that individuals would control and manage their own data and organisations would have to request access to that data rather than the other way round," he said.

Apple has long been committed to privacy protection.

The firm was famously locked in a dispute with the FBI over the fact that it would not help the bureau access data on the phone of a dead gunman who was involved in the San Bernardino shooting in 2015.

Mark Zuckerberg and Sundar Pichai, chief executives of Facebook and Google, will also appear at the conference later this week in the form of pre-recorded video messages.

Source: bbc.co.uk
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Posted by Damien Biddulph on Wed 24th Oct 2018

Image result for laptop apps

Data harvesting and sharing by mobile apps is "out of control", University of Oxford researchers have warned.

Nearly 90% of free apps on the Google Play store share data with Google parent company Alphabet, the Financial Times reported.

Google said it had clear policies for how developers could handle data, and that the research had mischaracterised some "ordinary functions" of apps.

"If an app violates our policies, we take action," the online giant said.

Many free apps track behaviour across many different digital services, which lets companies build up a detailed profile of people using the app.

This data can include age, gender, location, and information about other apps on a smartphone.

The data can then be used for a number of purposes including targeted advertising, credit scoring, or targeted political campaign messages, the researchers said in a paper.

Revenues from online advertising are more than $59bn (£45bn) per year in the US alone, they said.

And many people are not aware how data flows from smartphones to advertising groups, data brokers and other intermediaries, Prof Nigel Shadbolt, who lead the research team, told the BBC.

"People [in businesses] are desperate to get as many eyeballs and click-throughs as they can," he said.

Researcher Max Van Kleek added: "I don't think there's any notion of control."

Information pool

Data tended to get concentrated by big companies and their subsidiaries.

The researchers found that more than 88% of free apps on Google Play shared information with firms owned by Alphabet.

Nearly 43% of apps shared data with Facebook, while significant percentages shared data with Twitter, Verizon, Microsoft and Amazon firms.

News apps - and apps aimed at children - shared information with the largest number of trackers, they found.

Google said: "Across Google and in Google Play we have clear policies and guidelines for how developers and third-party apps can handle data and we require developers to be transparent and ask for user permission. If an app violates our policies, we take action."

Google added that it disagreed with the methodology of the study.

"It mischaracterises ordinary functional services like crash reporting and analytics, and how apps share data to deliver those services," Google said.

But campaigner Frederike Kaltheuner from Privacy International said that it has become "impossible" for the average user to understand how their data is being used, and to opt out.

"Companies track people... and they use this data to profile and then target people in ways that most of us would find intrusive and very surprising," she said.

"This is no longer about the need to collect data to show 'relevant ads' - this is about profit maximisation at the expense of people's fundamental rights," Ms Kaltheuner added.

Source: bbc.co.uk
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Posted by Damien Biddulph on Tue 23rd Oct 2018

Image result for dvd player

The DVD's days appear to be numbered after the UK's favourite department store said it would stop selling the players once found under almost every television.

John Lewis said it would not put more players on shelves when stocks run out.

Sales are down 40% as more people watch movies and shows on streaming platforms such as Netflix and Amazon.

However, John Lewis will continue to sell Blu-ray players, which can also be used for standard DVDs.

The chain also said 70-inch televisions were now the most popular screen size, almost double the 36 inch size that was a best-seller just eight years ago.

The retailer said other gadgets proving popular were smart doorbells, which can be linked to WiFi and smartphones, and robotic lawnmowers, sales of which are up 367% and 75% respectively compared with last year.

Gill Hind, director of TV at Enders Analysis, said its decision to ditch DVD players was as much about retailers' desire to offer the latest innovations to consumers as the rise of streaming services alone.

Prices of DVD players have fallen to as low as £20 at supermarkets. The cheapest Blu-ray player sold by John Lewis is £79, ranging up to £449 for a model that can also record TV programmes.

The likes of Argos would continue to sell DVD players, Ms Hind said, but the margins were now too low for upmarket retailers such as John Lewis.

Although streaming accounted for more than four fifths of the £2.7bn UK video market last year, the Christopher Nolan film Dunkirk still sold 640,000 copies on DVD and Blu-ray. The most popular title of 2017 - Disney's Beauty and the Beast - sold 1.5 million copies across physical and digital formats.

DVDs can still be bought from more than 15,000 UK retailers, with supermarkets accounting for sales of one in two DVDs and one in three Blu-rays.

However, one in ten is now sold in retailers such as fashion and DIY stores, garden centres and petrol stations, according to the British Association for Screen Entertainment.

Shoppers are also calling time on the bedside alarm clock, as more people use their phones for the same purpose, prompting the retailer to cut its range by a third following a 16% slump in sales.

As well as waking us up, mobiles have become the most popular way for John Lewis customers to shop online for the first time, with the number of orders placed on the devices up by 35%.

Meanwhile, the popularity of the BBC series Blue Planet II led to a 71% surge in sales of reusable coffee cups, travel cups and flasks.

Another TV programme that proved a huge ratings hit this year - the ITV reality show Love Island - was responsible for a similar jump in sales of thongs - lingerie, not Australian footwear - and a 132% increase in sales of suspenders. Those increases were the "biggest surprises" of the year, John Lewis said.

The show also boosted sales of colourful men's swimming shorts - worn by its male contestants.

This year has proved difficult for John Lewis, which said it was "one of the toughest retailers have seen". Last month the Partnership, which also owns Waitrose, said profits fell 99% to just £1.2m for the six months to 28 July.

Source: bbc.co.uk
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Posted by Damien Biddulph on Tue 23rd Oct 2018

Protect your digital identity with these four easy steps to online anonymity

When data and privacy scandals are a daily occurrence in the news, learning how to secure your identity online is essential.

This guide will help you learn ways to gain anonymity for the majority of your web-based communications and activities. But before we get started, it should go without saying that if you’re trying to stay anonymous, you shouldn’t use your real name when creating any online account. That’s the first step to take with your social media accounts.

Once that’s done, here are the four levels of anonymity we’d recommend next.


how to be anonymous online chrome

Browsing in private mode is simplest thing you can do to make some of your general internet usage a bit more anonymous.

Here’s how it works: You leave cookies every time you visit a website. These cookies are stored on your computer and hold a modest amount of data based on what websites you’ve visited, allowing other web pages to deliver an experience tailored to you. That could be Facebook showing you an ad for that new MacBook you searched for on Google, or YouTube seeing that you’ve been looking up videos about the new Samsung Galaxy Note 9 phone. These cookies can be used to create a unique fingerprint based on the data that’s been collected.

Just browse in private mode to avoid all that. All modern browsers have a private browsing feature, including on mobile.


how to be anonymous online duckduckgo

Google, Bing, and Yahoo might be the three most popular search engines, but the trio also collects the most data about you in order to serve relevant ads and personalize services. Especially when logged in with your account, these search engines can collect your name, email address, birthday, gender, and phone number. Asides from that, Google and Bing can also collect important data such as device location, device information, IP address, and cookie data.

To avoid being tracked when searching on the web, we recommend you use a service like DuckDuckGo. This an independent search engine which doesn’t give you personalized search results. Everyone who searches sees the same results, and anything you search for won’t be collected or stored. The search engine also claims it has nothing to sell to advertisers, which means you won’t ever be subject to targeted ads seen when using Google and other websites.


wikipedia on the dark web tor browser

The next important thing you can do to stay anonymous is to hide your IP address, which is the easiest way to trace online activity back to you. If someone knows your IP address, they can easily determine the geographic location of the server that hosts that address and get a rough idea of where you’re located. Broadly speaking, there are three ways to obscure your IP address and hide your location.

First off, you can use a proxy server. If you want all of your online activity to be anonymous, the best way to do it is to pretend to be someone else. This is basically what a proxy server does: It routes your connection through a different server so your IP address isn’t so easy to track down. You also can use a virtual private network (VPN). For most intents and purposes, a VPN obscures your IP address just as well as a proxy does – and in some cases even better. A VPN is a private network that uses a public network (usually the internet) to connect remote sites or users together.

Finally, you can use TOR. Short for The Onion Router, TOR is a network of virtual tunnels that allows people and groups to improve their privacy and security on the Internet. Browsing with TOR is a lot like simultaneously using hundreds of different proxies that are randomized periodically.


Using proxies, VPNs, and TOR will obscure your IP address from prying eyes, but sending emails presents a different anonymity challenge. Let’s say you want to send somebody an email, but you don’t want them to know your email address. Generally speaking, there are two ways to go about this.

The first is to use an alias. An alias is essentially a forwarding address. When you send mail through an alias, the recipient will only see your forwarding address, and not your real email. Since all mail is forwarded to your regular inbox, this method will keep your real email address secret, but it will not, however, keep you from being spammed like crazy.

Secondly, you can use a disposable email account. This can be done in two ways: Either you can just create a new email account with a fake name and use it for the duration of your needs or you can use a disposable email service. These services work by creating a temporary forwarding address that is deleted after a certain amount of time, so they’re great for signing up for stuff on sites you don’t trust and keeping your inbox from being flooded with spam.

Also, using a VPN and communicating through an anonymous email address will keep your identity hidden, but it still leaves open the possibility of your emails being intercepted through a middleman. To avoid this, you can encrypt your emails before you send them using HTTPS in your web-based email client, which adds SSL/TLS encryption to all your communications. For webchats, you also can consider using TOR chat or Crytopchat, which are encrypted chat services that are hard to break.

So, there you have it, a simple four level guide to staying anonymous online. Some of these methods might be more extreme than others, but all put you in control of your privacy and should give you an extra peace of mind when browsing the web.

Source: digitaltrends.com
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