Hexbyte  News  Computers Apple cancels AirPower product, citing inability to meet its high standards for hardware

Hexbyte News Computers Apple cancels AirPower product, citing inability to meet its high standards for hardware

Hexbyte News Computers

Apple has canceled the AirPower product completely, citing difficulty meeting its own standards.

“After much effort, we’ve concluded AirPower will not achieve our high standards and we have cancelled the project. We apologize to those customers who were looking forward to this launch. We continue to believe that the future is wireless and are committed to push the wireless experience forward,” said Dan Riccio, Apple’s senior vice president of Hardware Engineering in an emailed statement today.

After a delay of over a year since it was first announced in September of 2017, the AirPower charging mat has become something of a focal point for Apple’s recent habit of announcing envelope tickling products and not actually shipping them on time. The AirPods, famously, had a bit of a delay before becoming widely available, and were shipped in limited quantities before finally hitting their stride and becoming a genuine cultural moment.

AirPower, however, has had far more time to marinate in the soup of public opinion since it was announced. Along with recent MacBook keyboard troubles, this has functioned as a sort of flash point over discussion that something isn’t right with Apple’s hardware processes.

Everything I’ve personally heard (Apple is saying nothing officially) about the AirPower delay has been related to tough engineering problems related to the laws of physics. Specifically, I’ve heard that they ran too hot because the 3D charging coils in close proximity to one another required very, very cautious power management.

Always worth reading @gruber’s show recaps. The AirPower situation is real – heat is a problem and it was shown off too early. Sometimes Apple does this and eng rises to the challenge and delivers. Sometimes, physics. https://t.co/2YNlpPO1qO

— Matthew Panzarino (@panzer) September 16, 2018

Obviously, it would do Apple very little good to release a charging mat that caused devices to overheat, perhaps even to the point of damage. So, it has canceled the project. If you know more about this, feel free to reach out, I’m fascinated.

There have been other scenarios where Apple has pushed the hardware envelope hard and managed to pull it off and ship them, the iPhone 7 Plus, its first with a twin-lens system, being one that jumps to mind. Apple had a fallback plan in a single-lens version but at some point had to commit and step off a ledge to get it done in time to ship — even though knowing they still had problems to solve. Apple has done this many times over the years, but has managed to ship a lot of them.

AirPower, however, was the other kind of case. The project was apparently canceled so recently that boxes of the new AirPod cases even have pictures of AirPower on them and the new AirPod sets have mentions of AirPower.

This is a very, very rare public misstep for Apple. Never, throughout the discussion about when AirPower might be released, did the overall trend of the discussion lean toward “never.” That’s a testament to the ability of its hardware engineering teams to consistently execute features that seemed to be nearly impossible over the years. In this case, it appears that the engineering issues have proven, at least at this point, insurmountable.

The fact of the matter is that hardware is, well, hard. The basic concepts of wireless charging are well known and established, but by promising the ability to place multiple devices anywhere on a pad, allowing them to charge simultaneously while communicating charge levels and rates, Apple set its bar incredibly high for AirPower. Too high, in this case.

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Hexbyte  Tech News  Wired Apple Launches Apple News+ Paid Subscription Service

Hexbyte Tech News Wired Apple Launches Apple News+ Paid Subscription Service

Hexbyte Tech News Wired

Apple formally unveiled its new subscription news service today, a tab within its existing Apple News app that is designed to unlock access to premium magazines and a few national newspapers for $10 per month. It’s not Apple’s first stab at curating news content for its iPhone, iPad, and Mac customers, nor is it the first attempt by a leading tech company to design a news experience for the digital era. But it’s the first time Apple is charging a subscription fee for the news it is aggregating in its app.

The new service, called Apple News+ (pronounced “plus”), will live within the current Apple News app. Right now the News app has three tabs at the bottom: Today, Morning Digest, and Channel. With an iOS and macOS update rolling out today, that will change to say Today, News+, and Following. Today is focused on the day’s news, Following refers to the media outlets and categories people follow, and News+ is the subscription service.

Apple promises a human-curated news experience and insists that it will keep people’s reading habits totally private—both from Apple and from advertisers.

Roger Rosner, Apple’s vice president of applications, said at a media event today that more than 300 magazines will be available as part of the $10 per month service. “It’s the only place where you’ll find all of these magazines in a single package,” he said. These magazines include The Atlantic, Cosmopolitan, Outside, Sunset, Bon Appetit, Golf, Marie Claire, National Geographic, WIRED, New York Magazine, and Popular Science. In addition, digital-first properties like TechCrunch, Vox.com, and the newsletter service The Skimm will also contribute content in some way to the paywalled service.

One of Apple’s distinct advantages—in addition to its tremendous cash chest, something that some media properties are sorely missing right now—is its prowess in mobile design. Wyatt Mitchell, design director for Apple’s applications (and WIRED alum), demonstrated on stage today at the Steve Jobs Theater how some magazines will have “living” images within the News+ app. National Geographic, for example, might have a video snippet of the Sydney, Australia, skyline as one of its covers. Apple is also promising a human-curated news experience, and it insists that it will keep people’s reading habits totally private—both from Apple and from advertisers.

However, the News+ app’s reach will be limited in some ways. It’s available only in the US and Canada to start, with launches in Australia and the UK expected later this year. It also appears to be available only on iOS devices, which was the case with the previous version of Apple News. Lastly, it’s important to note that not all content from participating magazines and newspapers will appear in the app; Apple will rely more heavily on feature stories and photo essays for its News+ curation.

Breaking News

Apple’s news subscription service wasn’t exactly a secret before Monday’s unveiling. In 2018 the company acquired Texture, a digital news delivery and news subscription service that had been created by a consortium of big-name publishers, including Hearst Magazines, Meredith Corporation, and Condé Nast (which publishes WIRED). Apple’s senior vice president of software and services said at the time that the company was committed to “quality journalism from trusted sources.” As Apple formalized plans for its new premium news service, information began to leak about the project.

What has been unknown is exactly what this new, “premium” news service would look and feel like. The terms for publishers have also been a point of contention for some; newspapers like The New York Times and The Washington Post are not a part of the service. In some cases, Apple is reportedly taking as much as 50 percent of the revenue from new subscriptions sold through the app, a significantly higher share than the 30 percent of revenue it takes from app developers (which has also been contentious).

However, the Los Angeles Times, The Wall Street Journal, and The Star, Canada’s largest daily paper, have signed on to be a part of Apple News+.

Today, Apple also announced a new credit card service called Apple Card, a new videogame service called Apple Arcade, and a new streaming service for Apple TV, Mac, and smart TVs. The event is still ongoing, so watch for coverage about the other services here on WIRED.


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Hexbyte  Tech News  Wired Apple iMac 2019: Specs, Price, Release Date

Hexbyte Tech News Wired Apple iMac 2019: Specs, Price, Release Date

Hexbyte Tech News Wired

Apple has just refreshed its line of iMac all-in-one desktop computers, making another understated announcement in what appears to be a week of spring hardware updates for the company.

The iMac updates are largely focused on processing power, which nudge the machine closer to the performance levels of what you might consider a “pro” computer. But Apple is still carefully differentiating between a desktop that will appeal to families and small businesses, and the kind of iMac iPro that creative professionals will pay top dollar for.

The 21.5-inch iMac, the smaller desktop, previously came in two models: one without a Retina display and starting at $1,099, and another model with a 4K Retina display and a $1,299 starting price. The non-Retina, 21.5-inch Mac will stay the same. The 4K, 21.5-inch machine now comes with the option of a six-core, eighth-generation Intel Core i7 processor with Turbo Boost speeds up to 4.6 gigahertz. It can also be configured with a Radeon Pro Vega 20 graphics card, the same option that’s available on Apple’s top-of-the-line 15-inch MacBook Pro.

The 27-inch iMac, which has a 5K display, will have even more oomph. It’s configurable up to an eight-core, ninth-generation Intel Core i9 processor with Turbo Boost up to 5.0 GHz. This is the first Mac, desktop or otherwise, to run on Intel’s ninth-generation processors, the latest from the chipmaker.

The 27-inch iMac will also ship with the option of a Radeon Pro Vega 48 graphics card with 8 gigabytes of high-bandwidth memory. This is not only a notable update from the Radeon Pro graphics cards it shipped with before, it’s also nearing the graphics capabilities of the 27-inch iMac Pro, which ships with a Radeon Pro Vega 56 graphics processor and 8 gigabytes of high-bandwidth memory.

Both go on sale today and will show up in Apple Stores next week. The 21.5-inch iMac with a 4K display will start at $1,299, the same price as the one before it. That’s for a machine running on an eighth-generation quad-core Intel processor. Meanwhile, the 27-inch 5K model starts at $1,799. Higher-end configurations will almost certainly cost much more.

That’s a lot of numbers to parse through to try to determine if it’s worth the upgrade, so Apple is sharing some performance claims as well. The 21.5-inch machine is supposed to deliver up to 80 percent faster graphics performance than its predecessor and up to 60 percent faster performance overall. The 27-inch iMac is supposed to be ridiculously speedy compared to the one before it. Apple’s Logic Pro audio software is said to support twice the number of instruments and effects. Its Final Cut Pro video-editing software, meanwhile, should be able to handle multiple streams of 4K video on the same timeline. Third-party apps like Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop will also get a boost.

This isn’t surprising when you consider that the last new iMacs shipped in June 2017, more than a year and a half ago, and the iMacs prior to that shipped in the fall of 2015. Apple refreshes its desktops less frequently than it does some of its other devices, like the iPhone, so significant upgrades are almost a given when they do happen.

One feature that’s still missing from Apple’s gorgeous desktop Macs—but appears in competing products, like Microsoft’s Surface Studio 2—is a touchscreen. Part of Apple’s target market for this kind of desktop computer includes small business owners and creative professionals who would just as likely use a keyboard, mouse, and a digitizer tablet to get their work done. But Apple also sees a growing use case for iMac in the family room, with parents and kids alike browsing through media on the same machine. And yet, no touchscreen.

According to research firms IDC and Gartner, Apple’s Mac shipments during both the holiday season and for all of 2018 were down, consistent with the rest of the PC industry, which has been on a steady decline. Since Apple has decided to stop reporting unit sales numbers for its products, it’s hard to say whether Apple’s actual Mac unit sales are consistent with what outside firms are reporting. However, Apple’s revenue from Mac has been on the rise. For its fiscal first quarter of 2019, which included the holiday season, Apple saw Mac revenue rise to $7.4 billion, up from $6.8 billion the year before.


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Hexbyte  Tech News  Wired Apple, the iPhone, and the Innovator’s Dilemma

Hexbyte Tech News Wired Apple, the iPhone, and the Innovator’s Dilemma

Hexbyte Tech News Wired

If you re-read the first few chapters of The Innovator’s Dilemma and you insert “Apple” every time Clayton Christensen mentions “a company,” a certain picture emerges: Apple is a company on the verge of being disrupted, and the next great idea in tech and consumer electronics will not materialize from within the walls of its Cupertino spaceship.

The Innovator’s Dilemma, of course, is about the trap that successful companies fall into time and time again. They’re well managed, they’re responsive to their customers, and they’re market leaders. And yet, despite doing everything right, they fail to see the next wave of innovation coming, they get disrupted, and they ultimately fail.

In the case of Apple, the company is trapped by its success, and that success is spelled “iPhone.”

Take, for example, Christensen’s description of the principles of good management that inevitably lead to the downfall of successful companies: “that you should always listen to and respond to the needs of your best customers, and that you should focus investments on those innovations that promise the highest returns.”

Molly Wood (@mollywood) is an Ideas contributor at WIRED and the host and senior editor of Marketplace Tech, a daily national radio broadcast covering the business of technology. She has covered the tech industry at CNET, The New York Times, and in various print, television, digital and audio formats for nearly 20 years. (Ouch.)

Then think about the iPhone, which, despite some consumer-unfriendly advances like the lost headphone jack and ever-changing charging ports, has also been adjusted and tweaked and frozen by what customers want: bigger screens, great cameras, ease of use, and a consistent interface. And the bulk of Apple’s investment since 2007, when the iPhone came out, has been about maintaining, developing, and selling this one device.

In the last quarter of 2018, the iPhone accounted for $51 billion of Apple’s $84 billion in revenue. Its success, the economic halo around it, and its seeming invincibility since its launch have propelled Apple to heights few companies have ever imagined. But the device will also be its undoing.

Here’s what happens when you have a product that successful: You get comfortable. More accurately, you get protective. You don’t want to try anything new. The new things you do try have to be justified in the context of that precious jewel—the “core product.”

So even something like Apple’s Services segment—the brightest non-iPhone spot in its earnings lately—mostly consists of services that benefit the iPhone. It’s Apple Music, iTunes, iCloud—and although Apple doesn’t break out its numbers, the best estimate is that a third or more of its Services revenue is driven by the 30 percent cut it takes from … yep, apps downloaded from the App Store.

The other bright spot in the company’s latest earnings report is its Wearables, Home, and Accessories category. Here again, Apple doesn’t break out the numbers, but the wearables part of that segment is where all the growth is, and that means Apple Watches. And you know what’s still tied nice and tight to the iPhone? Apple Watches.

Even Apple’s best-selling accessories are most likely AirPods, which had a meme-tastic holiday season and are, safe to say, used mostly in conjunction with iPhones. (I’d bet the rest of the accessories dollars are coming from dongles and hubs, since there is nary a spare port on the 2018 MacBook.) As for stand-alones, its smart speakers are reportedly great, but they’re not putting a dent in Amazon or Google, by latest count. Apple TV, sure. Fine. But Roku shouldn’t have been embedded in a TV before Apple was.

And none of these efforts count as a serious attempt at diversification.

You may be tempted to argue that Apple is, in fact, working on other projects. The Apple acquisition rumors never cease; nor do the confident statements that the company definitely, absolutely, certainly has a magical innovation in the works that will spring full grown like Athena from the forehead of Zeus any day now. I’m here to say, I don’t think there’s a nascent warrior goddess hiding in there.

Witness Apple’s tottering half-steps into new markets that are unrelated to the iPhone: It was early with a voice assistant but has stalled behind Amazon and even Google Assistant. It wasn’t until last year that the company hired a bona fide machine-learning expert in John Giannandrea, former head of search and AI at Google—and he didn’t get put on the executive team until December 2018. That’s late.

There’s its half-hearted dabble in self-driving technology that was going to be a car, then became software, then became 200 people laid off. Its quailing decade-long attempt to build a streaming service would be sort of comical if there weren’t clearly so much money being thrown around, and so tentatively at that. Rumors of its launch go back as far as 2015, although now it’s supposed to launch in April—this time they mean it.

But even if the streaming service actually arrives, can it really compete against YouTube, PlayStation, Sling, DirecTV, Hulu, and just plain old Netflix? Apple’s original programming is also apparently “not coming as soon as you think.” Analysts are, at this point, outright begging Apple to buy a studio or other original content provider, just to have something to show against Netflix and Amazon originals.

Of course, lots of companies innovate through acquisition, and everyone loves to speculate about what companies Apple might buy. Rumors have ranged from GoPro to BlackBerry to Tesla to the chipmaker ARM. Maybe Netflix. Maybe Tesla. Maybe Disney. Maybe Wired. (Apple News is a hugely successful product … mostly on iPhones, of course.) But at every turn, Apple has declined to move, other than its $3 billion Beats buy in 2014 (which it appears to be abandoning, or cannibalizing, these days).

Now, let me be clear, once again. None of this is to suggest that Apple is doing anything wrong. Indeed, according to Christensen, one of the hallmarks of the innovator’s dilemma is the company’s success, smooth operations, great products, and happy customers. That’s one of the things that makes it a dilemma: A company doesn’t realize anything’s wrong, because, well, nothing is. Smartphone sales may be slowing, but Apple is still a beloved brand, its products are excellent, its history and cachet are unmatched. But that doesn’t mean it has a plan to survive the ongoing decline in global smartphones sales.

The Innovator’s Dilemma does say an entrenched company can sometimes pull out of the quicksand by setting up a small, autonomous spinoff that has the power to move fast, pursue markets that are too small to move the needle for a company making $84 billion a quarter, and innovate before someone else gets there first.

Well, Apple has no autonomous innovation divisions that I know of, and the guys in charge are the same guys who have been in charge for decades: Tim Cook, Eddy Cue, Phil Schiller, Craig Federighi, Jony Ive—all have been associated with Apple since the late ’80s or ’90s. (I mean, has there ever really been a time without Jony Ive?)

You see what I’m saying here: brilliant team with a long record of execution and unparalleled success. Possibly not a lot of fresh ideas.

And then there’s the final option for innovation, one that Apple has availed itself of many times in the past. As Steve Jobs often said, quoting Picasso: “Good artists copy; great artists steal.” The iPod was born of existing MP3 players; the iPhone improved on clunky, ugly smartphones already on the market. Jobs was inspired by the GUI and mouse he saw at Xerox PARC and brought them to Apple.

So maybe Apple will find the hottest thing in tech that’s still slightly unknown and come out with a better version. But is there such a thing as a way-sexier cloud computing business?

I guess it’s possible that the rumored virtual- and augmented-reality headset that Apple is supposed to release in 2020 will take the world by storm and popularize VR in a way that no one imagined, and like AirPods, will take a look that’s painfully dorky on the surface and turn it into a not-quite-ironic must-have statement of affluence and cool. It’s happened before. But this time, I think the company will get beaten to that punch—or whatever punch is next. Apple will be around for a long time. But the next Apple just isn’t Apple.


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Updated 2-4-19, 5:25 pm EST: Edited to clarify that the new MacBooks have a charging port only and that the mouse was not invented at Xerox PARC.

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Hexbyte  Tech News  Wired By Defying Apple’s Rules, Facebook Shows It Never Learns

Hexbyte Tech News Wired By Defying Apple’s Rules, Facebook Shows It Never Learns

Hexbyte Tech News Wired

Hexbyte  Tech News  Wired

Alain Jocard/AFP/Getty Images

If an app on Facebook behaved the way Facebook has been behaving, Facebook would probably have shut it down by now.

Tuesday’s scathing TechCrunch investigation all but guarantees it. The report found that Facebook has been paying people as young as 13 years old to download an app that grants Facebook access to users’ entire phone and web history, including encrypted activity and private messages and emails. The app, called Research, allows Facebook to see how people’s friends, who have not consented to having their data collected, interact with those users, too.

Facebook says the app was purely for market research. Explained another way: The app allowed Facebook to spot competitive threats on the horizon to help it retain its unprecedented power. Facebook has used another app, called Onavo, to collect similar information; for example, data from Onavo alerted Facebook to the growing popularity of the messaging app WhatsApp before the company acquired it in 2014.

“I think it speaks to the growth-at-any-cost mentality of the company,” says Ashkan Soltani, who served as chief technologist to the Federal Trade Commission during its 2011 investigation of Facebook.

Facebook didn’t respond to WIRED’s request for comment.

At a time when Facebook is under the microscope for violating its users’ privacy, such techniques are bold enough. But what makes the operation even more brazen is that Facebook continued running the program, which launched in 2016 and was sometimes called Atlas, even after Apple banned Onavo from the App store less than six months ago. Apple said it would no longer allow developers to collect information from other third-party apps.

Apparently undeterred, Facebook created a workaround for the Research app. It circumvented Apple’s vetting process using a technical loophole that is only intended for apps Facebook distributes to its own employees. That allowed Facebook to ingest everything a user did on their phones, including teens and minors. While kids under the age of 17 had to receive parental consent to participate, the disclosure form analyzed by TechCrunch minimized the extent of what could be done with all that data. “There are no known risks associated with the project,” it read. Facebook told TechCrunch only 5 percent of the app’s users were teens.

Still, even the solicitations adults would have received about the app weren’t entirely forthcoming. When users referred their friends to the app, for which they could also get paid, the email they received encouraged them to “Install it and forget it,” making the act of giving away unlimited access to their private communications sound as harmless as setting up a Ronco Rotisserie.

“I think it speaks to the growth-at-any-cost mentality of the company.”

Ashkan Soltani

The Research app is just the latest example of Facebook’s doublespeak. In public and even under oath, executives like Mark Zuckerberg and Sheryl Sandberg have spent at least a year—if not their entire careers—promising to do better by their users. But in private, evidence abounds that the company continues to flout every rule and attempt at oversight placed before it. They’ve promised to protect user privacy by cutting off developer access to data while continuing to give it away to corporate giants and major advertisers. They’ve vowed to investigate foreign interference in elections, all while withholding information about the extent of that interference on Facebook. They’ve launched efforts to make their ads more transparent, while crippling external efforts by organizations like ProPublica to pull back the curtain even further.

Even as privacy hounds and antitrust watchdogs at the FTC and on Capitol Hill sniff and scratch at Facebook’s door, the social media giant, apparently high on hubris, just keeps tossing them red meat. If Facebook has learned anything from the last two years of public and regulatory scrutiny, it has a funny way of showing it.

In a tweet, security researcher Will Strafatch, who helped TechCrunch with its story, said Facebook’s actions were “the most defiant behavior I have EVER seen by an App Store developer.”

After TechCrunch’s story published, Facebook shut down the iOS version of the app, but kept its Android counterpart running. In a statement to TechCrunch, a Facebook spokesperson said the story ignored “key facts.” “Despite early reports, there was nothing ‘secret’ about this; it was literally called the Facebook Research App,” the spokesperson said. “It wasn’t ‘spying’ as all of the people who signed up to participate went through a clear on-boarding process asking for their permission and were paid to participate.”

Apple has revoked Facebook’s access to its so-called Enterprise Developer Program, which allows Facebook to disseminate apps to test internally with its employees. “Facebook has been using their membership to distribute a data-collecting app to consumers, which is a clear breach of their agreement with Apple,” an Apple spokesperson said in a statement. “Any developer using their enterprise certificates to distribute apps to consumers will have their certificates revoked, which is what we did in this case to protect our users and their data.” Apple didn’t respond to questions about whether Facebook’s broader family of apps, including Instagram and WhatsApp, would be affected.

It’s hard to imagine Facebook wouldn’t have done the same, if not more, to another developer that so clearly crossed the line. After the political consulting firm Cambridge Analytica was accused of violating Facebook’s rules by harvesting and retaining data on tens of millions of users without their knowledge, Facebook banned nearly every app the company had ever touched, including some unaffiliated research apps that were associated with the University of Cambridge.

What Facebook has done with the Research app isn’t so different, says Soltani. Like Cambridge Analytica, which hired an academic named Aleksandr Kogan to do the work through his company, Facebook used third-party companies to recruit people to the app. And, like the Cambridge Analytica app, which collected data on users’ friends, the Research app had access to its users’ communications with other people who had no idea the app was snooping on them.

“Even if users’ consent was sufficient, everyone they communicated with did not consent,” says Soltani.

By Facebook’s standards, Apple is letting Facebook off easy.

That’s just what Facebook seems to be counting on. For all of the talk about cracking down on the company these last few years, Facebook has faced few penalties that aren’t purely reputational. Later today, the company is expected to report record profits. It’s little wonder executives there would believe they could get away with unscrupulous behavior.

“Facebook continues to demonstrate its eagerness to look over everyone’s shoulder and watch everything they do in order to make money.”

Senator Richard Blumenthal

The TechCrunch story is not the first scandal for Facebook within the last week. It’s not even the first scandal involving minors. A recent investigation by Reveal showed how Facebook knowingly duped kids into racking up monster fees on their parents’ credit cards while playing Facebook games. Staffers toyed with whether they should stop it, by requiring kids to reenter credit card numbers before they could spend the money, but opted against it because it would threaten Facebook’s revenue. They fought efforts by parents seeking a refund, and even had a name for this gambit: “friendly fraud.” Facebook has since said that it updated its policies in 2016 to “provide dedicated resources for refund requests related to purchased made by minors on Facebook.” But the fact that Facebook willingly engaged in activity it defined itself as fraud suggests just how far the company will go to grow.

On Tuesday, Democratic senators Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut and Ed Markey of Massachusetts wrote to Facebook, demanding answers about the gaming issue. Now, both senators are voicing similar concerns about the Research app, particularly its targeting of children as young as 13.

“It is inherently manipulative to offer teens money in exchange for their personal information when younger users don’t have a clear understanding how much data they’re handing over and how sensitive it is,” Markey said in a statement, emphasizing his intention to reintroduce a bill called the Do Not Track Kids Act. “Congress also needs to pass legislation that updates children’s online privacy rules for the 21st century.”

Blumenthal, meanwhile, called the story an “astonishing example of Facebook’s complete disregard for data privacy and eagerness to engage in anti-competitive behavior.” Indeed, the scandal could amplify calls to break Facebook up, giving critics a shining example of how the company uses its market dominance to figure out which competitors to copy or crush.

“Facebook continues to demonstrate its eagerness to look over everyone’s shoulder and watch everything they do in order to make money,” Blumenthal wrote. “Mark Zuckerberg’s empty promises are not enough. The FTC needs to step up to the plate, and the Onavo app should be part of its investigation.”

In 2011, Facebook signed a consent decree with the FTC, barring the company from making “deceptive privacy claims.” The FTC declined to comment on whether these new revelations about the Research app will have any bearing on its ongoing investigation into whether Facebook violated the decree. Making that determination, Soltani says, will take a careful reading of the app’s disclosures. But if the Washington Post’s reporting turns out to be true, Facebook may soon face a “record-setting” fine from the Commission. Of course, as Soltani points out, even a fine of $100 million would constitute “a couple minutes of operating time” for Facebook.

Still, it would be the first real test of whether money’s the thing that could teach Facebook the lesson it has failed to learn on its own.


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Hexbyte  Tech News  Wired Apple Takes Drastic Measures to Stop a Nasty FaceTime Bug

Hexbyte Tech News Wired Apple Takes Drastic Measures to Stop a Nasty FaceTime Bug

Hexbyte Tech News Wired

Hexbyte  Tech News  Wired

Group FaceTime chats allowed people to eavesdrop on anyone they called, a bug so bad that Apple pulled the plug until it comes up with a fix.

Josh Edelson/AFP/Getty Images

It’s often hard to tell just how seriously to take reports of a new vulnerability. The jargon is inscrutable, and the skills needed to pull off the attacks are possessed only by highly skilled professionals. But a bug afflicting Apple’s FaceTime chat has no such ambiguity. How bad is it? Rather than risk exposing people to it, Apple pulled the plug on FaceTime group chats altogether.

Unlike other high-profile gaffes, what makes this bug so alarming isn’t the depth of knowledge someone could glean by exploiting it. It doesn’t give hackers access to your emails or banking information. Instead, it lets a FaceTime caller listen in on whatever’s happening on the other end of the line—before the recipient answers the phone. With a few extra steps, they could trigger a video feed as well.

The vulnerability was first discovered by a 14-year-old in Arizona, who found that he could eavesdrop on his friends when setting up a chat for a round of Fortnite. He told his mother, who in turn first attempted to notify Apple on January 20, and received no response to various inquiries for over a week.

The exploit was also relatively simple to pull off. All someone had to do to trigger the illicit audio was start a normal FaceTime call, then quickly add their own number as a third person in a group chat. If the person you were calling pressed the power button from their iOS lock screen, they would have transmitted both video and audio. The bug was first reported on Monday by Apple-focused news site 9to5Mac.

The implications are clear. While it’s not the sort of high-wire attack you’d find a nation state trying to pull off to steal intel secrets, it has deep potential consequences on a personal level. Even a few seconds of eavesdropping on an unguarded moment—especially when the target is deciding whether to pick up your call—is an unacceptable breach of privacy.

“We’re aware of this issue and we have identified a fix that will be released in a software update later this week,” Apple said in a statement.

But rather than wait for that fix to come around, as generally is the case, Apple took the additional step of shutting down group FaceTime chats altogether in the interim. It appears to be the first time the company has taken such aggressive steps to quash a software issue. The combination of high stakes and low barriers apparently made it not worth the risk.

Apple had a rocky year of security stumbles in 2017, including a macOS High Sierra bug that let anyone gain root access to a Mac by simply using the password “root.” But Apple regrouped last year, focusing on stability improvements rather than flashy new features, a gambit that appears to have largely paid off.

Group FaceTime chats, which were also introduced last year, have not gone so smoothly. Last fall, security researcher Jose Rodriguez used a flaw in the new function to bypass the iOS lock screen and view someone’s entire address book. The two issues appear to be unrelated but speak to Apple’s continued need to more rigorously vet new software pushes.

“We have not had the time to dig in and reverse-engineer the root cause of this bug yet, but there is no specific or special reason this would occur,” says Will Strafach, an iOS security researcher and the president of Sudo Security Group. “It seems to be most likely an unfortunate chain of bad programming logic coded into the process for group FaceTime handling.”

The best thing you can do for now? Well, nothing, really, given that Apple has already voided the issue. But do install that software update as soon as it comes through, whenever it does. In the meantime, there are other group chat apps to tide you over. And take this whole ordeal as a not-so-gentle reminder that your smartphone has a microphone and a camera on it, and so does your computer, and maybe it’s healthy not to trust all of those implicitly.

Additional reporting by Lauren Goode.

This story has been updated to include comment from Will Strafach.


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Hexbyte  Hacker News  Computers Apple is indeed patenting Swift features

Hexbyte Hacker News Computers Apple is indeed patenting Swift features

Hexbyte Hacker News Computers

Disclaimer: I’m not an apple employee and not am not lawyer, this is just my understanding of the situation having spent lots of time talking to lawyers and other experts about this:

I agree with much of the sentiment that software patents are often silly and the system is broken in many ways. This patent is a reasonable example of that (patenting syntactic sugar for monads, really?). I have no idea if there is prior art, but I wouldn’t be surprised. For sake of discussion, lets assume the patent is valid.

Even if I and others don’t like it, the software patent system exists. As is pointed out upthread, one of the major reasons that Swift uses the Apache 2 license is to provide more certainty for the community w.r.t. licensing and patents. An additional bonus of the Apache 2 license is that the open source project as a whole benefits from companies having and contributing their patents under the terms of the license: to say more directly, it is good for the Swift project that Apple has this patent and has contributed it to the project.

The reason for this is the Apache patent revocation clause, the end of bullet 3:

If You institute patent litigation against any entity (including a cross-claim or counterclaim
in a lawsuit) alleging that the Work or a Contribution incorporated within the Work constitutes
direct or contributory patent infringement, then any patent licenses granted to You under this
License for that Work shall terminate as of the date such litigation is filed.

This basically says that if someone sues someone else over Swift then they lose access to the patents contributed to the project, and are therefore subject to countersuits. This is a significant part of the protection that the Apache license provides (it is a big deterent to lawsuits in general) but it only has teeth if there are actually patents in play!

The LLVM.org community is actively working on a multi-year relicensing effort specifically to achieve these sorts of projects for LLVM as well.

-Chris

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