Russia Makes Local Apps Mandatory On Smartphones

 

Russian President Vladimir Putin has signed a law a requiring all smartphones and computers sold in the country to come pre-installed with Russian software.

The legislation, which will take effect in July 2020, is aimed at promoting Russian-made software. But it has been dubbed the “anti-Apple” law because it would force the US tech giant to pre-install non-Apple software on its products.

The Russian government will now draw up a list of products affected by the law, published and signed by Putin on Monday, as well as a list of applications that would need to be pre-installed.

READ ALSO: Trump To Meet Boris Johnson During NATO Talks

It comes amid a slew of measures taken by Russian officials to control the tech sector, including a law that took effect on November 1 requiring local internet providers to install devices provided by authorities to enable centralised control of traffic.

Apple last week appeared to bow to government pressure and began showing the annexed Crimea peninsula as part of Russia on maps and weather apps in the country. After the move sparked outrage in Ukraine, Apple said it might “adjust its approach”.

AFP

Smartphones Raising A Mentally Fragile Generation – Psychology Professor

San Diego State University psychology professor Jean Twenge sees smartphones and social media as raising an unhappy, compliant “iGen.”

QUESTION: What is the iGen?

ANSWER: The iGen is the generation born in 1995 and later, and they’re the first generation to spend their entire adolescence in the age of the smartphone. They spend a lot more time online, on social media and playing games, and they spend less time on non-screen activities like reading books, sleeping or seeing their friends in face-to-face interactions.

Those children are growing up more slowly. By the age of 18, they are less likely to have a driver’s license, to work in a paying job, to go out on dates, to drink alcohol or to go out without their parents compared to teens in previous generations.

So iGen’s probably the safest generation in history and they like that idea of feeling safe.

Yet, they also have the sense that they are missing out on something. They realize that being on the phone all the time is probably not the best way to live. They don’t like it when they’re talking to a friend and their friend is looking at their phone.

Many of them have a recognition of the downsides of that type of living as well.

QUESTION: You have researched the behavior and health of millions of teenagers. What have you observed?

ANSWER:  Around 2011 and 2012, I started to see more sudden changes to teens, like big increases of teens feeling lonely or left out, or that they could not do anything right, that their life was not useful, which are classic symptoms of depression.

Depressive symptoms have climbed 60 percent in just five years, with rates of self-harm like cutting (themselves) that have doubled or even tripled in girls. Teen suicide has doubled in a few years.

Right at the time when smartphones became common, those mental health issues started to show up. That change in how teens spend their time is so fundamental for mental health. We know, from decades of research, that getting enough sleep and seeing friends in person is a good recipe for mental health and that staring at a screen for many hours a day is not.

QUESTION: What advice would you give to parents?

ANSWER: Many of the things on which happiness and mental health depend are now under our control. We cannot change the genes we were born with and we are not going to solve poverty overnight, but we can control how we spend our leisure time and we can help our children do the same.

The research points toward limiting digital media use to about two hours a day or less. That seems to be the sweet spot for mental health and happiness.

So sure, use social media to stay in touch with friends, help plan things, and watch a little bit of video but keep it under that two-hour limit for 13- to 18-year-olds. Then you get all the benefits of social media and this technology without the big downside of it.

If you feel your child needs a phone, say for getting back and forth to school, you can get them a “dumb” phone that does not have internet and all the temptations of a smartphone.

Jean Twenge is an author whose works include “iGen” and “Generation Me.”

AFP

Your Smartphone Is Likely Tracking Your Location

A new lawsuit accusing Google of tracking people’s locations against their will has served as a reminder that every movement of most smartphone users is being recorded, often without their knowledge.

The California man who filed the suit claims that the tech behemoth continued to track the whereabouts of Android smartphone users even after they turned off “location history”.

But the history of geolocation and the privacy issues it raises are as old as the mobile phone itself.

Early days

Before smartphones arrived more than a decade ago, it was still possible to use geolocation. Mobile phones constantly connect to local antenna towers, and by triangulating the signals the user can be found — as Jeff Goldblum illustrated in the 1996 movie “Independence Day”.

However smartphones brought about a far simpler way to track people: GPS.

GPS revolution

After the release of the first iPhone revolutionised the industry in 2007, GPS — Global Positioning System using satellites — became prevalent, and it is now included on all smartphones.

Most apps now use location tracking, and not just for obvious purposes like maps and transport. It’s also used for dating, food delivery and gaming, such as Pokemon Go, which became hugely if briefly popular across the world in 2016.

Trackers on 75% of apps

As the popularity of apps using geolocations grows, so does their money-making potential.

For example, when tourists use their phone to explore, they can be targeted with advertising not just from the country they are in but also the city and even the street they are standing on.

A 2014 study by CNIL, the French government’s techonology consumer protection body, showed that between a quarter to a third of apps had access to the phone’s location.

By 2017, a study by Yale University found that three-quarters of Android apps contained trackers — usually containing advertising.

The CNIL study also found that some apps tracked the phone’s location more than a million times over a three-month period — accessing the information about once per minute.

Even flashlight apps

The new Google lawsuit is far from the first time privacy concerns have been raised over geolocation. In 2011 fellow tech giant Apple faced a lawsuit over location tracking on its ubiquitous iPhones and iPads.

And there are also national security concerns.

In July of this year, researchers found that the fitness app Polar had revealed sensitive data on military and intelligence personnel from 69 countries. The app later disabled the function.

Just months before another health app, Strava, was found to have showed potentially sensitive information about US and allied forces around the world.

But the problem includes apps that don’t even need to track the users’ location.

Some simple flashlight apps have been discovered to have been secretly sharing location information.

AFP

Google Sued For Unwanted Tracking Of Phone Locations

File photo

 

A lawsuit filed in a federal court has accused Google of invading people’s privacy by tracking the whereabouts of smartphones users despite “location history” settings being turned off.

The suit filed on Friday by a California man seeks unspecified damages along with class-action status to represent all US iPhone or Android smartphone users who turned off location history in order not to have their movements logged by Google.

“Google expressly represented to users of its operating system and apps that the activation of certain settings will prevent the tracking of users’ geolocations,” the lawsuit read.

“This representation was false.”

The suit accuses Google of violating privacy law, and cites a news report last week confirmed by university researchers.

Google did not respond to a request for comment.

After the report, Alphabet-owned Google modified its support page to read that turning off location history off “does not affect other location services on your device, like Google Location Services and Find My Device.”

Location data may also be tracked for use in other services such as maps or search, the support page indicated.

The page had previously indicated that turning location history off meant places visited were not stored by Google.

The Electronic Privacy Information Center, a non-profit public interest group, said it has sent a letter to the US Federal Trade Commission to look into whether Google has violated a 2011 consent order.

“Google’s subsequent changes to its policy, after it has already obtained location data on Internet users, fails to comply with the 2011 order,” Epic quoted its letter as stating.

AFP

Researchers Expose Messaging App Used For Stealing Smartphone Data

 

An espionage campaign using malware-infected messaging apps has been stealing smartphone data from activists, soldiers, lawyers, journalists and others in more than 20 countries, researchers said in a report Thursday.

A report authored by digital rights group Electronic Frontier Foundation and mobile security firm Lookout detailed discovery of “a prolific actor” with nation-state capabilities “exploiting targets globally across multiple platforms.”

Desktop computers were also targeted, but getting into data-rich mobile devices was a primary objective, according to the report.

With fake versions of secure messaging services like WhatsApp and Signal, the scheme has enabled attackers to take pictures, capture audio, pinpoint locations, and mine handsets for private data.

EFF and Lookout researchers dubbed the threat “Dark Caracal.”

People in the US, Canada, Germany, Lebanon, and France have been hit by Dark Caracal, according to EFF director of cybersecurity Eva Galperin.

“This is a very large, global campaign, focused on mobile devices,” Galperin said.

“Mobile is the future of spying, because phones are full of so much data about a person’s day-to-day life.”

Hundreds of gigabytes of data have been taken from thousands of victims in more than 21 countries, according to Lookout and the EFF.

There were indications that Dark Caracal might be an infrastructure hosting a number of widespread, global cyberespionage campaigns, some of which date back years, the report said.

Because the apps fool people into thinking they are legitimate, users give them access to cameras, microphones and data.

“All Dark Caracal needed was application permissions that users themselves granted when they downloaded the apps, not realizing that they contained malware,” said EFF staff technologist Cooper Quintin.

“This research shows it’s not difficult to create a strategy allowing people and governments spy to on targets around the world.”

Researchers reported that they tracked Dark Caracal to a building in Beirut belonging to the Lebanese General Security Directorate.

Analysis showed that devices of military personnel, businesses, journalists, lawyers, educators, and medical professionals have been compromised, according to the report.

“Not only was Dark Caracal able to cast its net wide, it was also able to gain deep insight into each of the victim’s lives,” the report concluded.

Cyber security professionals consistently warn people to be wary when downloading software, avoiding programs shared through links or email and instead relying on trusted sources.

AFP

U.S Federal Agencies Launches Criminal Investigation

Picture courtesy BBC
Picture courtesy BBC

The United States Federal Agencies, have launched an investigation into the public release of documents said to detail the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) hacking tools.

Officials said that the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) are coordinating an inquiry after Wikileaks published thousands of files that claims the CIA had developed ways to listen on smartphones and smart TV microphones.

The inquiry would also try to establish whether the disclosure was a breach from inside or outside the CIA.

However, both intelligence agencies said that, WikiLeaks revelation wants to damage the ability to protect America, against terrorists and other adversaries.

Apps Convert Smartphones Into Home Monitoring System

Worried about what your dog is chewing on when you’re at work, or whether your home is secure while on vacation? New apps can transform old smartphones into remote security cameras for home monitoring systems.

Presence, which was launched late last month, converts a spare Internet-connected iPhone, iPad or iPod Touch into a free video camera with real-time video and audio streaming, and motion detection and notifications.

“Essentially we give you an inexpensive security system that you can use to monitor your house, or help you watch your kids, cats, elderly relatives or act as a baby or nanny cam,” said Gene Wang, chief executive of the Palo Alto, California-based company People Power.

Unlike traditional monitoring systems that can be expensive and need technical knowledge to install and use, Wang said Presence is a free do-it-yourself system that can be set up simply by downloading and configuring the app.

To use it consumers install and login to their account on two devices – for example two iPhones. Then they can start the camera within the app on one of the devices and it can be viewed from the app on the other.

Triggers can also be set to record when motion is detected and to send alerts. The app can help to avoid false alarms, according to Wang, because it sends a video clip in an email to the user showing the motion that triggered the alert.

“With these high-end security systems, you have a lot of false positives and then the security company and police come out and it turns out it was your cat knocking over a broom or something like that,” Wang explained.

He added that many people have replaced their old smartphones with new ones and a monitoring system would be a good way to make use of the old devices.

Another app created by a company called People Power 1.0 for iPhone and Android reads electricity meters in real time to show consumers how much they’re spending and whether they are going over budget.

“The center of computing has switched to these smart computers that we all carry in our pockets,” Wang explained.

“What people are going to want to be able to do is control their personal Internet of Things from their hands,” he added, referring to Internet-connected devices in the home.

The company also plans to work with underfunded public schools to help them set up security systems using old devices donated by the community.

Other apps have similar functions. AirBeam is a home monitoring app for iOS that allows users to access video feeds from a Web portal.

Izon is an app that streams real-time audio and video from iZon cameras to iPhone and Android devices, and Ivideon, for iOS and Android, also lets people build their own surveillance system.

Facebook’s Mobile Business Expands In First Quarter

Facebook Inc’s mobile advertising revenue growth gained momentum in the first three months of the year as the social network sold more ads to users on smartphones and tablets, partially offsetting higher spending which weighed on profits.

New types of ads designed for smartphones, particularly ads aimed at enticing Facebook users to install mobile apps on their phones, helped lift revenue while traffic to the social network remained strong.

The results reassured Wall Street that the world’s largest social network was keeping up with consumers’ shift from PCs to smartphones, even if the company provided few big surprises during the first quarter.

Mobile ad revenue accounted for 30 percent of Facebook’s ad revenue in the first quarter, compared to roughly 23 percent in the fourth quarter. Sales of ads on mobile devices have been a key element in the recovery of Facebook’s overall ad revenue from a sharp slowdown early last year.

The first-quarter mobile ad revenue was at the higher end of expectations, said Macquarie Research analyst Ben Schachter. But he said it “needed to be higher for people to get really excited about trend lines”.

Shares of Facebook, which are down roughly 12 percent since the end of January, were up 7 cents at $27.50 in after-hours trading on Wednesday.

“Everyone was focused on two things, one was mobile and how big it could be, and the other thing was engagement,” said Ronald Josey, an analyst with Jefferies & Co.

Facebook delivered solid results on both fronts, Josey said, noting that consumers’ use of Facebook does not appear to have declined despite a growing array of popular social networking and mobile messaging alternative services, such as Pinterest and WhatsApp.

Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s 28-year-old co-founder and chief executive, told investors on a conference call on Wednesday that there was room for Facebook and rival services to thrive. He said mobile photo-sharing service Instagram, which Facebook acquired last year, was now growing faster than Facebook did at a similar stage in its history.

Facebook said it now counted 1.11 billion monthly active users and about 665 million daily active users.

The company said the number of monthly users who logged on solely through mobile devices more than doubled to 189 million users from a year ago.

Graphic: link.reuters.com/ryp77t

NEW AD PRODUCTS

Created in a Harvard dorm room in 2004, Facebook, along with other established Internet companies such as Google Inc and Yahoo Inc, are moving to reposition their businesses for a world in which consumers’ primary Internet access occurs on small-screened smartphones rather than PCs.

Facebook has rolled out a string of big product launches and revamps in recent months, including an overhaul of its newsfeed and search feature, as well an app for Android smartphones that puts Facebook features front and center on phone homescreens.

The various initiatives have contributed to rising spending, with Facebook’s 60 percent year-on-year increase in costs and expenses outpacing the 38 percent revenue increase.

Facebook said it earned $219 million, or 9 cents a share, in the first three months of the year, compared to $205 million, or 9 cents a share, in the year-ago period.

Excluding certain items, Facebook said it earned 12 cents a share. Analysts polled by Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S were looking for adjusted EPS of 13 cents.

Facebook executives reiterated previous guidance that spending would be up in 2013 as the company invests in new products and in improving the efficacy of its ads.

One nascent type of mobile advertising pioneered by Facebook — ads that encourage users to install third-party apps — could grow meaningfully, Zuckerberg said.

“We’re starting to see real revenue from mobile app installs,” Zuckerberg said, without giving details. “It’s one of our most important new ad products.”

Facebook’s revenue in the first quarter totaled $1.46 billion, versus $1.06 billion in the year-ago period, and roughly in line with analyst expectations. Advertising revenue was up 43 percent in the first quarter, the fastest growth rate since the end of 2011.

“You are seeing pretty strong revenue growth right now,” said Raymond James analyst Aaron Kessler. But he warned that the revenue growth could slow in coming quarters as Facebook faces tougher year-on-year comparisons.

Nokia Launches Music+, Ready To Do Battle With Other Streaming Services

World’s largest vender of mobile phones, Nokia is ready to battle with streaming services like Spotify which has spearheaded others with its playlist provisions as it launches Nokia Music+, a premium music service that builds on the existing Mix Radio available to Lumia users only for now.

This move by the Finnish phone-making company will likely tempt Lumia users to flee from other streaming services, like Spotify one of which has customised most smartphones users who are also music lovers.

The service will sit on top of the already outstanding Nokia Mix Radio and let users cache an unlimited number of playlists as well as skipping and downloads – all for the princely sum of £3.99 a month.

Jyrki Rosenberg, Nokia’s vice president of entertainment said, “Nokia Music is great for discovering new music, and we’ve found that there’s a core of users that want even more of it. This is how Nokia Music+ came about. By introducing features like infinite skips and unlimited downloads, we’re opening the doors for unlimited music discovery,”

“This is for people who care enough about music to pay something for more quality and choice, but don’t want to pay €9.99 monthly.”

The new service also lets you listen at eight times the audio quality and access lyrics for those impromptu on-the-fly karaoke sessions.

Huawei Stakes €70 Million To Produce Better Smartphones

Chinese multinational company; a leading global information and communications technology (ICT) solutions provider; Huawei Technologies has decided to invest 70 million (US$90.6 million) in the smartphone production industry which will span over a five-year period to establish a research and development centre in Helsinki, Finland.

And it is doing that with the aim of its first task being to build software for smartphones and tablets based on Android and Windows Phone 8.

At first, Huawei plans to recruit 30 employees for the centre, with the goal of hiring more than 100 people over five years, the company said in a statement on Monday and initial projects will focus on software development for smartphones, tablets and other types of devices, based on several OS such as Android and Windows Phone 8, Huawei said.

The company has yet to announce its first smartphone based on the latest version of Microsoft’s OS, but is expected to do so soon.

Huawei is currently the world’s fifth largest smartphone vendor in terms of unit sales and currently employs more than 7,000 people across Europe.

Huawei’s long-term plan is to break into the top three and is hoping to take advantage of Nokia’s continuing struggles to make that happen, according to Neil Mawston, executive director at market research company Strategy Analytics.

“Huawei is being a little opportunistic in that it knows there will be a lot of well-qualified Nokia people in the Helsinki area who will be looking for alternative employment,” Mawston said.

The Helsinki R&D centre will join an already established modem and technology design centre in Sweden and a user interface research centre in the U.K.

Huawei has a history of investing in the Nordic countries. Last year the company celebrated the tenth anniversary of its arrival in Sweden, which is the home country of Ericsson, its biggest rival in the mobile network sector.

Bratislavia Symphony Orchestra hired by Nokia for ringtones

The 25 original classical tunes were recorded with the Bratislava Symphony Orchestra and some are already available on some Nokia Lumia models.

Nokia said they decided to hire the orchestra after a study revealed that classical music ringtones were the second most popular.

According to the Telegraph, the pieces were composed by the mobile phone giant’s in-house ‘sound designers’ before being recorded with the 55 members of the orchestra.

Some of the recordings are already available on the new Nokia Lumia 920 and Nokia Lumia 820. They will be available on some soon-to-be released smartphone models.

Aleksi Eeben, a sound designer at Nokia, said: “The 25 original pieces, called ‘miniatures’ were composed by five Nokia Design in-house sound designers.

Court orders Apple to pick Samsung’s legal bills after a misleading apology

A UK court has ordered Tablet and Smartphone maker;  Apple Inc. to pay the legal costs of fellow Smartphone and Tablet maker Samsung after it found out that a court-ordered apology on Apple’s UK website was ‘false and misleading’.

Previously, it was proven in the court case that Samsung did not infringe on Apple’s iPad tablet design and Apple was ordered by the court to publish an apology on its UK homepage and in newspapers stating that Samsung had not copied its products, but the Court of Appeal of England and Wales has decreed the apology was ‘calculated to produce confusion’.

Specifically, the passage the UK court took exception to is where, after explaining the court’s previous ruling, Apple outlined cases from other countries where Samsung had been found to infringe the iPad design:

‘However, in a case tried in Germany regarding the same patent, the court found that Samsung engaged in unfair competition by copying the iPad design.

‘A U.S. jury also found Samsung guilty of infringing on Apple’s design and utility patents, awarding over one billion U.S. dollars in damages to Apple Inc.’

‘So while the U.K. court did not find Samsung guilty of infringement, other courts have recognized that in the course of creating its Galaxy tablet, Samsung wilfully copied Apple’s far more popular iPad.’

Apple has issued another re-phrased apology, but apparently the court wasn’t impressed and has ordered Apple to pay all of Samsung’s legal fees for the case as reparations for any financial loss the Korean manufacturer might have taken from the allegedly ‘misleading’ original apology.

The court’s report also points to Apple’s slow speed in publishing newspaper apologies as a cause for it paying the fees. The report describes Apple’s compliance with the newspaper advertisement order as ‘lackadaisical at best’, noting that the order was given on October 18 and Apple arranged to have apologies appear in newspapers from November 16.

However, the report also said that Apple’s publication of a misleading apology on its webpage was ‘much more serious’.