Tag Archives: biometrics

PTJ 236: Corporate Spies

On this week’s show. El Kaiser and J.D. discuss Google and Twitter’s current wave of privacy-policy changes and data-sharing with advertisers (all taking place before Facebook’s latest flap). Also in the news this week: patent trolls, resolution motion-sensor camera, Russian hackers actually hacking Russians and Iris, the data-sniffing dog. Buffer up and have a listen to Episode 236 of Pop Tech Jam!

Links to Stories in This Week’s Episode

PTJ 223: Ahead, Warp Factor Four!

Things down here on Earth may be business as usual — mergers, lawsuits, taxes, paradigm shifts, feature updates and so on — but exciting things are happening Up Above as well as Out There. SpaceX had another successful rocket launch and resupply mission to the International Space Station, the Juno craft decided to take the long way around Jupiter for bonus science, NASA announced the discovery of seven possibly life-supporting exoplanets and Winston Churchill was writing about life beyond Earth way back in the 1930s. El Kaiser and J.D. discuss it all on this week’s episode of Pop Tech Jam, so Mr. Sulu, take us out!

Links to Stories in This Week’s News Segment

PTJ 179 News: Deep Writ

Is the future of digital privacy about to get totally pwned? The battle  between Apple and the United States Department of Justice has been raging since late last week, when government officials filed a motion asking a judge to make Apple help crack open an encrypted iPhone belonging to one of the San Bernadino terrorists. and the company resisted.  Apple CEO Tim Cook posted an open letter to Apple’s customers concerning the issue and the company’s stance on privacy. The deadline for Apple to respond to the motion is this Friday, February 26th, but the company may even already be at work to make cracking iPhones even harder.

The Justice Department is also pursuing orders to make Apple to extract data from around 12 other iPhones involved in non-terrorist criminal cases around the country. As part of its case, the DOJ is using the All Writs Act, originally passed in the Judiciary Act of 1798 and amended in 1911 and a few times since; news outlets as diverse as Popular Mechanics and The New Yorker have weighed in on this legal tactic. Apple has asked for the ruling to go beyond a courtroom and take it to a hearing before Congress, saying what needs to be done is to . . . form a commission.

allwritsPublic option on the matter is split, as a quick poll by the Pew Research Center released earlier this week showed 51 percent of respondents siding with the government and saying Apple should be forced to unlock the iPhone. The director of the FBI said the agency could not look the San Bernadino survivors in the eye if the government did not follow this lead.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg says he supports Apple’s position, but Bill Gates, former Boss of Microsoft says Apple should cooperate. Meanwhile, Google announced it was working with wireless carriers on a new uniform messaging app for Android that security pros point out is a bit weak and very government friendly.

In other news, the annual Mobile World Congress trade show kicked off this week in Barcelona. As expected, Samsung revealed its Galaxy S7 and Galaxy S7 Edge phones, which is pre-ordered, comes with a free Samsung Gear VR headset.  LG Electronics showed off its new LG G5 phone, which works with the new LG 360 VR headset.

HTC has a new virtual reality headset called the HTC Vive that it created with Valve, the company behind the Steam gaming service — preorders start at the end of the month. The headset will be about $800, and arrive in April. Valve also released an online Steam VR Performance Test for gamers who want to make sure their systems can handle the demands of virtual-reality software.

Sony, perhaps taking a cue from Joaquin Phoenix and the 2013 movie Her, announced the Xperia Ear, a voice-controlled gadget for communicating with your smartphone that works like an audio-only smartwatch that sits in your auditory canal.  As for the rest of the announcements, the Gizmodo blog has a good running tally of all the major things unveiled at Mobile World Congress.

Plastic-money mainstay Mastercard said it soon plans to start accepting biometric data as an alternative to passwords for making online payments. Perhaps you’ll even be able to pay for those purchases by duck face.

AT&T and Intel are working together to test drone-control technology over a 4G LTE network so the devices are more useful to businesses. Because that’s what we need: More drones up there.

linuxhackThe Linux Mint site was infiltrated and a modified version of the operating system with a handy hacker backdoor was temporarily posted. The Linux Mint blog says to be on guard if you downloaded Linux Mint 17.3 Cinnamon edition on February 20th and the site provides tools to check your installation. And also in Linux news, there’s a new distro called Subgraph OS that describes itself as an “adversary resistant computing platform.” The new variation can isolate programs that have been exploited by attackers and limit the access program have to other parts of the computer like your files and network connections.

Now in the departure lounge: Google announced this week that it was shutting down its Google Compare/Google Advisor service next month. Microsoft announced it was punting the standalone Skype Qik messaging app to the curb, or as the company’s announcement phrases it, “Skype Qik is moving” – right into the main Skype app. And the Cheezburger network, (which pretty much made LOL cats mainstream with the immortal question “I can haz cheeseburger?”) has been sold to an undisclosed buyer.

cheez

BuzzFeed has a new app out for Android and iOS called BuzzFeed Video. You can guess what it does, and yes, the clips start rolling as soon as you pause on one — then stop as you scroll on.

NASA is looking to shave some of five months it currently needs to get a spacecraft toting human passengers to Mars, but scientists there are working on a laser propulsion system that could get that trip time down from five months to three days.  Dr. Philip Lubin says the technology is there, and just needs to be scaled up. Some of Dr. Lubin’s papers on the subject are available of the University of California Santa Barbara’s Experimental Cosmology Group’s site for experimental astrophysics, including last year’s “A Roadmap to Interstellar Flight.” A recent episode of the “NASA 360” video series also explains the theories. (Chewie, check the hyperdrive!)

And finally, if you like NASA adventures, check your local PBS affiliate next week. On March 2, look for the first episode in a two-part series called A Year in Space, starring twin astronaut brothers Scott and Mark Kelly. Now there’s a family reality show we can get behind!

PTJ 147 News: Lady Justice

Good on ya, Taylor Swift! Now, you may not care for her music or her sudden promotion to New York City’s official “global welcome ambassador,” but the young singer/songwriter knows how to stand up for herself and her fellow musicians trying to make a living. In a public post on her Tumblr page this past weekend, Ms. Swift called out Apple over the lack of artist royalties during the three-month free trial period of the company’s forthcoming Apple Music adventure — and said she’d be withholding her latest album from the service. But Apple, for its part, did the right thing. By Sunday night, the company announced that it’d be paying artists their due royalties for all the music streamed during the free trial of Apple Music. (Of course,  conspiracy theorists are suspicious about the whole thing, like they always are.)

googleplaymusicApple Music rolls out on June 30th, but Google is not waiting around for it. The Big G announced a new, free ad-supported version of its subscription-based Google Play Music service for  “giving you a new way to find just the right music and giving artists another way to earn revenue.” (Oh snap, Google.) If you’re looking for a new stream, the service is available now via the Web and will be hitting Android and IOS devices soon. If you find you like Google Play Music and want to subscribe, you get ad-free offline listening, song skips and on-demand access to more than 30 million tracks for just $10 a month. Spotify has got to be feeling a little nervous these days.

Meanwhile, the Tidal music service has hit a bit of a rough wave. The company has booted its interim CEO after three months.

In legal news, Verizon says it’s completed its acquisition of AOL on paper. The Federal Communications Commission did not actually have to approve this particular deal because AOL did not have any licenses before the FCC that would have tripped that trigger. The agency, however, has been keeping itself busy by slapping a $100 million dollar fine on AT&T for misleading consumers about unlimited data plans and throttling.

eyeballIn guv’ment news, the regular document dumps from former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowdon continue. A new post over on The Intercept blog details how the NSA and Britain’s Government Communications Headquarters, have reverse-engineered consumer antivirus and security software products. (In more government news, the State Department of the United States is having an epic fail over in the biometrics department.)

And on the subject of biometrics, a new research paper from scientists at UC Berkeley and Facebook’s AI Research division has found that The Social Network’s facial-recognition software can often identify people in photos, even when their faces are looking away from the camera or partly obscured. The team used Facebook’s algorithm on 40,000 public photos pulled from Flickr and found it could accurately ID people about 83 percent of the time. Oh, and Facebook’s Instagram has just updated its Search tool.

echoAmazon’s Echo device is now available to members of the general public now. The voice-activated, Internet-connected  9-inch tall cylindrical Bluetooth speaker streams music and answers questions just like Siri, Cortana and Google Now. If your life needs an Echo, head over to Amazon’s site, pay up $180 and start watching the mailbox after July 14th.  Amazon is also throwing a little artificial intelligence at the problem of fake product reviews over on its main store site and is cleaning up the astroturf.

As promised, mayorships are finally back in Foursquare’s spun-off Swarm app. Let the check-in competition begin once again.

In Windows 10 news, Microsoft has tried to clarify just who gets the new system for free. Recently, there was some confusion as to whether people in the Windows Insider preview program who didn’t have legitimate copies of Windows 7 or Windows 8.1 would get the free finished copy of Windows 10. (They get to stay as previewers.)

As a wrap-up of last week’s Electronic Entertainment Expo, The Mary Sue blog notes there are 23 games announced at the show that feature “badass playable female characters.” Lady justice, indeed.

spidermanAnd finally, with great power comes great responsibility and Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan certainly knows it — as well as her old-school Spider-Man. The Court sent down a decision in the case of Kimble v. Marvel, in which the Supremes declined to overrule a precedent that kept patent-holders from collecting royalties after said patent expired. In her written opinion for the majority on the case, Justice Kagan showed off her comic-book chops with multiple Spider-Man references. Now, just imagine if she was a fan of The Punisher….

PTJ 109 News: “You Get an Album! You Get an Album! Everybody Gets an Album!”

Despite all the attention after the Big Media Lovefest last week, Apple felt a few hot, bitter blasts of user rage after it force-gifted U2’s new Songs of Innocence album to iTunes users far and wide. To add insult to injury for people who have privacy issues (or just hate U2), it was also very hard to delete the tracks from one’s library until Apple but up a dedicated U2 Album Removal Page to permanently rid themselves of the download.

U2_Removal

Future Apple Pay competitor PayPal also added to the anti-Apple mix this week, taking out a full-page ad in The New York Times that tweaked the Cupertino crew on its security after the recent iCloud Naked Pictures uproar. Despite the bad press and U2 overstep, Apple did have a good week in the money-making department. A press release from the company stated it sold more than four million iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus models within 24 hours of pre-orders going live. (Oh, and the company finally stepped it up on two-step verification for iCloud accounts as well.)

In Microsoft news this week, the Redmond Giant  snapped up Mojang, the Swedish company behind the very popular game Minecraft. Microsoft also announced an event dedicated to its upcoming Windows 9 operating system. The preview edition could land in a couple weeks, and although there’s no word on an official release date, many industry watchers assume that the final version of Windows 9 will likely arrive next year.

cm-1Panasonic is really stepping up the game for smartphone camera hardware. The new Panasonic Lumix CM1 smartphone runs Android and packs a 20-megapixel camera with a 1-inch sensor. The phone also has a Leica lens, manual control ring, and the ability to shoot 4K video — plus a hefty price tag. It’s going on sale in Germany and France this November for 900 euros. Achtung, baby!

Lower price points for different Android phones can be found in India, where three models in the Android One line of practical, affordable smartphones can be found contract-free  for the equivalent of about $105 dollars.

CCPNASA has picked SpaceX and Boeing for its Commercial Crew Program. Those companies will be taking over the astronaut commuter route to the International Space Station in 2017.

The deadline for the second round of public comments concerning the Federal Communications Commission’s Open Internet rules was this past Monday and  records were indeed broken. The agency received more than three million comments regarding its net neutrality proposals. No deadline set has been for a final FCC ruling and the agency is hosting a couple Open Internet roundtable events on Friday. The FCC also held discussion events this week on the topic of mobile broadband and whether or not wireless carriers should be exempt from Net Neutrality standards. And in other Government Agency News, the Federal Bureau of Investigation announced this week that its biometric Next Generation Identification system has full operational capability.

Speaking of governments, Google’s recent update to its publicly posted Transparency Report says that government demands for user information have risen 150 percent since 2009. This latest update covers demands for user information under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act and through National Security Letters, as well as standard government demands for the first half of 2014.

Roku, maker of set-top streaming TV boxes, announced that it’s sold 10 million of its players here in the United States since the product debuted in 2008. Apple TV, the Google Chromecast and Amazon’s Fire TV have some catching up to do.

threeAnd finally, Wolfram, the company behind the Wolfram Alpha Computational Knowledge Engine, launched a web-based version of its Mathematica software this week. Mathletes who want to do serious technical computing in the cloud, you may now go to town — exponentially, and and in 3D if you want.

PTJ 89: Amazon Just Might Have Your Number

J.D. tells us how we can make a correction on a Google Map and  Pedro hopes The Big Apple finally gets its recommended daily allowance of Google Fiber. In the news, Amazon is said to be working on its own line of smartphones;  Facebook is ripping out the messaging functionality from its smartphone apps; Google purchases Titan Aerospace out from under Facebook; Samsung’s Galaxy S5 makes its official debut; Windows Phone 8.1 is getting raves; and a Linux distribution that leaves no trace on the host computer.

PTJ 89 News: Heads or Tails

Merely having its own tablet and TV set-top box is clearly not enough to keep up with Google and Apple: Amazon is said to be working on its own line of smartphones now as well. According to the Boy Genius Report site and a few other sources, the flagship Amazon touchscreen phone will run a modified version of Android and sport a glasses-free 3D interface that can quickly whisk you to Amazon’s various online store departments. (And of course, the Web, where you can check out the True Detective/Family Circus mashup, Time is a Flat Circus.)

So much for the all-in-one approach: Facebook is ripping out the messaging functionality from its smartphone apps and forcing users who want to exchange messages within the service to download its separate Messenger app. Facebook claims the division of services makes messaging better and faster, but privacy advocates suggest a visit into the app’s settings to turn off location stamps and other potential annoyances like those Chat Head things.

dronesHas there been a bit of upstreaming with the drones? According to The Wall Street Journal, Google has now slipped in and purchased Titan Aerospace, the drone maker of Facebook was flirting with earlier this year. However, The Social Network is paying $20 million for Ascenta, a company based in the United Kingdom that also makes unmanned solar-powered vehicles.

In mobile news, Samsung’s Galaxy S5 smartphone went on sale last week and seems to have sold a few units, even though Samsung has not released official sales figures yet.  T-Mobile continues to stomp the data-plan paradigm and says it’s going to stop charging penalty fees for customers who go over their monthly limits. The company’s CEO also threw down the virtual gauntlet with an online petition and challenged its national-carrier rivals AT&T, Sprint and Verizon to lay off the overcharges as well.

Windows Phone 8.1 is getting some good reviews, including one from the Ars Technica site that calls it “a magnificent smartphone platform.” The new mobile OS can apparently accept passes designed for Apple’s Passbook app and the new Cortana assistant got special raves.

The Netflix company blog reports that Comcast customers here in the States are seeing streaming speeds up to 65 percent faster here in March than in January. (Guess that special deal paid off.)

Hopefully, everyone has their servers patched and their passwords changed after the Heartbleed bug hit the headlines last week. The National Journal notes that while the bug was publicized on April 7th, the Google engineer and the Finnish security team at Codenomicon actually uncovered the flaw earlier in March. Google fixed its own servers and told a few other companies about the gaping security hole, but didn’t tell the US government.

Last week’s revelation of the Heartbleed bug sent a lot of people scrambling to change their passwords and shore up security — and for good reason. A new report from the Pew Research Center says 18 percent of adults using the Internet now say they’ve had important personal information stolen and 21 percent say they’ve had an mail or account with a social networking site compromised. (Remember when an occasional AOL email spoofing used to be the worst thing that ever happened?)

Talk about facetime: The FBI plans to have its state-of-the-art face recognition database up and running by this summer with more than 52 million photos on file — including those of people who have never committed a crime and have no reason to be in a law-enforcement database. Through a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit, the Electronic Frontier Foundation requested documents regarding the FBI’s biometric database, Next Generation Identification, and published its findings. The Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) is also keeping tabs on the NGI.

And finally, if privacy and security are on your mind, check out Tails. It’s the operating system Edward Snowden used in his work with the NSA. The Tails system is a Linux distribution that can run on almost any computer from a USB stick, SD card or DVD, where it leaves no trace on the host computer. Tails can offer anonymity to its users —unless of course, there’s a camera and face-recognition software nearby.

Episode 58 News: Drive My Car

We’re deep into summer and you know what time that is — it’s time for DEFCON, the annual gathering of hacking enthusiasts in Las Vegas. There have been some announcements ahead of the event, including two researchers who were able to stop, start and steer a car with an old Nintendo handset and also control it with a laptop. (Forbes has some video.)

It wouldn’t be the Internet without malicious trolls, and heinous behavior over in the UK and an online petition recently has led Twitter to promise a new button on every tweet for reporting abuse on a company blog. Critics of the plan have chimed in to basically say it’s time to stop blaming technology and social media for society’s problems like rampant misogyny and racism, and maybe we ought to do something about those. Others worry that the abuse button itself may get abused.

bundroidGoogle popped out a couple of shiny new pieces of hardware last week, including the upgraded Nexus 7 tablet and a tiny, pocket-drive-sized media streamer called the Chromecast. The latter has some bugs to work out and a limited number of services it streams, but it is getting decent early reviews. However, Vimeo and RedBox Instant are also on the way. Google also found time to make big improvements to the old Zagat site, which it owns.

Apple released its iTunes 11.1 beta software to its registered developers this week along with the fourth version of its iOS 7 beta. As for hardware, the rumor mill is still grinding away with talk of a possible lower-priced iPhone arriving with the annual high-end upgrade. The new top-of-the-line model may also include a biometric fingerprint sensor, according to programmers looking deep into the iOS 7 betaware. Apple has a few legal issues to deal with this week as well. A Chinese labor rights group has a report out with new allegations against one the contractors used to make iPhones and other devices; Apple told the Wall Street Journal it was working with the group and investigating. Closer to home, some former Apple Store employees have filed a class-action lawsuit against the Mother Ship claiming retail workers routinely had to wait around for up to half an hour without pay while managers searched their bags.

In Star Wars news, composer John Williams will be returning to score the seventh film in the series, having done the music for the previous six installments. Over Doctor Who way, the 50th anniversary episode — the one which current companion Jenna Coleman says changes everything — will air November 23rd, with plans for the show to be simulcast in 200 countries around the world. (The show is broadcast at 7:00 p.m. in the United Kingdom, so make the calculations for your time zone here.)

And finally, Radio Times is reporting that Netflix will temporarily remove Star Trek III: The Search for Spock from its streaming inventory while it adds authentic subtitles for the film’s dialogue that’s spoken in the Klingon and Vulcan languages instead of having missing subtitles or the lines dubbed in English. This has been a complaint from fans of the film for quite awhile, although some may not need subtitles anyway. yIn nI’ yISIQ ‘ej yIchep!

Episode 58: A Buttload of Geeky Fun

This week El Kaiser explores the Deep (Dark) Web and J.D. has a Hopefully Helpful Hint for Jammers looking to improve their writing skills. In the news researchers hack cars at DefCon; abusive trolls force Twitter to promise the addition of an abuse button in the U.K.; Google debuts new hardware and updates the Zagat restaurant guide; Apple rumors heat up…again; and Netflix will add Klingon and Vulcan subtitles to classic Star Trek film.