Google tailors its privacy control tool for your phone, too

Google has adapted its privacy-control dashboard easier for mobile devices.
Google has adapted its privacy-control dashboard to make it easier for those on mobile devices.


If you want to understand and tweak how Google uses your private data, the internet giant hopes to make it a bit easier soon with a new dashboard that works better on mobile devices.

The dashboard already lets you see what data Google stores about you, like websites you’ve opened with the Chrome web browser and destinations that Google Maps thinks you’ve visited. And you can nudge Google’s approach to personalized advertisements.

The mobile-friendly version of the site will arrive “in coming days,” Google product manager Greg Fair said in a blog post Friday.

“We redesigned Dashboard from the ground up. The most important change was to improve usability on touchscreens, ensuring Dashboard works well on any device. We also worked to make it easier to see an overview of the Google products you use and your data in each of them. And we made the process for downloading data much easier,” Fair said. “It should always be easy for you to make meaningful decisions about your data — and we decided we could do better.”

Online privacy is a big deal, especially with companies like Google, Facebook, Apple, Amazon and Microsoft offering ever more personal services and trying to target ads at just what you’re interested in.

Google is trying to get a better handle on what we all want when it comes to privacy, though. It interviewed more than 4,000 people in 2016 to try to learn what’s needed.

Police tell Facebook group not to fire guns at hurricane

UK - Gun sports - Double barrels of shotgun

Facebook is home to many peculiar gatherings.

Some may be more offensive than others.

However, as Hurricane Irma barreled its way to Florida on Sunday, causing more devastation, one event group decided to make a stand. Or so it seemed.

The “Shoot at Hurricane Irma” Facebook event group offered these simple words of encouragement to everyone out there: “O SO THIS GOOFY LOOKING WINDY HEADASS NAMED IRMA SAID THEY PULLING UP ON U, LETS SHOW IRMA THAT WE SHOOT FIRST.”

Oddly, this attracted more than 80,000 people, with 27,000 of them insisting they would attend the event, which was to begin at 10 a.m. Another 54,000 said they were interested.

Many might have thought this was a joke. Yet, the minute such things appear on social media, some are going to take it seriously.

This drove the Pasco County Sheriff’s Office to take to Twitter and implore: “To clarify, DO NOT shoot weapons @ #Irma. You won’t make it turn around & it will have very dangerous side effects.”

Did this need to be explained? It seems that it did.

The Coalition to Stop Gun Violence also intervened on Twitter: “Unfortunately we must issue the following warning DO NOT SHOOT YOUR GUNS AT THE HURRICANE!!!”

The two organizers of the Facebook group, Ryon Edwards and Zeke Murphy, are both residents of Deland, Florida.

Edwards told me that he was “very surprised” that the group became so big.

“I figured no one would take this seriously, but, like anything can, this got a bit out of hand,” he told me.

What’s clear from the Facebook comments is that at least some took the idea seriously. Yes, someone really did post a picture of their husky with a gun in a holster.

Facebook commenter Larry Larson scolded the creators: “When you attempt sarcasm in print — and do so very poorly — you need to understand that at least half the gun-owning population is as stupid as you are, and will follow through, endangering others needlessly.”

Others, though, took the humor in reasonable heart.

“I had to shoot at the hurricane in self-defense. It was coming right at me!,” offered Jonathan Cowley-Thom.

Still, the whole thing hasn’t been without its personal unpleasantness for Edwards.

“Some people are saying their going to sue me or call the cops,” he told me.

Facebook seems to have become the home of messaging that might be funny, might be nonsense and might even have ulterior motives.

Far more important at this time is that people use it to help those who are suffering and will suffer from Irma’s fury.


Pasco Sheriff


To clarify, DO NOT shoot weapons @ #Irma. You won’t make it turn around & it will have very dangerous side effects 

Photo published for Florida gun owners encouraged to 'shoot the storm' and fire their guns at Hurricane Irma

Florida gun owners encouraged to ‘shoot the storm’ and fire their guns at Hurricane Irma

A Florida man who suggested shooting guns at Hurricane Irma out of “stress and boredom” has found that his idea has captured peoples’ imaginations – with over 46,000 signing up to join in. Hurricane…

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⚠️ Unfortunately we must issue the following warning ⚠️ DO NOT SHOOT YOUR GUNS AT THE HURRICANE!!! 🤦‍♂️🤦‍♂️🤦‍♂️ 

Photo published for Florida gun owners encouraged to 'shoot the storm' and fire their guns at Hurricane Irma

Florida gun owners encouraged to ‘shoot the storm’ and fire their guns at Hurricane Irma

A Florida man who suggested shooting guns at Hurricane Irma out of “stress and boredom” has found that his idea has captured peoples’ imaginations – with over 46,000 signing up to join in. Hurricane…

The death of Amazon’s 1-Click patent could save shoppers

Image result for The death of Amazon’s 1-Click patent could save shoppers

Amazon’s controversial 1-Click patent opens with a summary that’s decidedly dry. It goes: “A method and system for placing an order to purchase an item via the Internet.”

Despite its stiff language, that US patent, which was granted in 1999, helped open the internet to droves of shoppers by allowing customers on to buy stuff with — you guessed it — just one click. It also became a lightning rod for what’s wrong with the US patent system, with some griping that too many and too broad patents were getting OK’d.

With the patent set to expire Tuesday, the change could shake the world of payments. It’s a world that’s gotten particularly messy and confusing in recent years as you have to grapple with multiple ways to buy that new frying pan online. The good news is the sites you visit will now be able to get their hands on the 1-Click technology without having to cough up licensing fees to Amazon in the process, leading to a more consistent experience regardless of where you shop.

Shopping on the mobile web, a big nuisance for customers, could start seeing improvement as more retailers adopt simpler payment systems. For now, shopping cart abandonment, the term for people adding items into their virtual shopping baskets but not completing purchases, is rampant on mobile.Also, PC shopping — where the bulk of online purchasing happens today — could be streamlined thanks to an initiative including Google, Apple and Facebook. This project would let customers add payments information into their web browsers and use these credentials at any participating website. The process could be even faster than auto-filling your payments and shipping data.

Amazon’s 1-Click patent was filed in 1997 and granted in late September 1999, back when many people were leery about buying on the internet and skeptical of its benefits. Amazon used the patent to ease more people into online shopping. It also used it to gain an upper-hand over rivals, suing Barnes & Noble the month after it got the patent to prevent the competing bookseller from using a similar technology on its own website. The suit was settled in 2002. Apple in 2000 started licensing 1-Click technology to power and later iTunes, letting customers easily buy laptops or new songs.

In 2000, Amazon CEO and founder Jeff Bezos even addressed the controversy around 1-Click, which is a fairly simple technology to code, by suggesting patents should have much shorter lifespans and noting that Amazon’s competitive advantage will come from better “service, price, and selection.” But he declined to give up the 1-Click patent.

Amazon didn’t respond to a request for comment for this story.

Buying Big Macs

It’s not like everyone in retail has been waiting for Amazon’s patent to run out to make improvements, so a lot has changed in the past two decades. The problem is that too many companies have come out with competing ideas on what the future of payments should look like, from Apple Pay to Android Pay to Samsung Pay to Walmart Pay (there are more).

You can now buy a Big Mac at McDonald’s with the swipe of your watch, pay your bills through your phone’s banking app, or complete a purchase at a new e-retailer in a few clicks using PayPal One Touch, Visa Checkout or Mastercard’s Masterpass. The reason so many of these payment methods exist is that these companies are still trying to figure out what customers want to use while also fighting each other to make sure they can take a cut of every sale.

Amazon, too, didn’t just rest on its payments laurels. It’s introduced voice shopping through its Echo smart speaker, purchasing with physical Dash buttons for Trojan condoms and Slim-Jims, and even taught your printer to automatically repurchase its own ink. (Separately, the company has started filing several patents for drone deliveries, pointing to what could become a new big battleground in retail.)

The next step may be more biometrics, with iris scanning and facial recognition becoming more common forms of payments, cutting out the need to even push a button.

While making payments a little easier should help other retailers compete against Amazon, it won’t fix all their problems, Tom Forte, an e-commerce analyst for DA Davidson warned. Amazon became a big deal in retail by offering a lot of stuff at cheaper prices with fast, free shipping, he said. Tech like 1-Click provided an additional advantage, but isn’t the sole reason you spend all your time shopping there.

That means improving the website for a lousy product won’t solve anything.

“If the consumer doesn’t want to buy your product,” Forte said, “it doesn’t matter how easy it is to buy it.”

The Smartest Stuff: Innovators are thinking up new ways to make you, and the things around you, smarter.

Lawsuit over copyright for monkey’s selfies settled


A lawsuit exploring whether animals own the copyright to their own selfies is finally over.

The bizarre legal journey began when a crested macaque monkey named Naruto took selfies using British nature photographer David Slater’s camera during a 2011 trip to Indonesia. The People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) sued Slater and self-publishing company Blurb in 2015, arguing the monkey owned the copyright to the photos and proposing it administer all proceeds for the benefit of the monkey.

As part of a settlement announced Monday, the photos will belong to Slater, but he will donate 25 percent of future revenue derived from the images to charities that protect Naruto and other crested macaque monkeys.

“PETA and David Slater agree that this case raises important, cutting-edge issues about expanding legal rights for nonhuman animals, a goal that they both support, and they will continue their respective work to achieve this goal,” the parties said in a joint statement.

The photos, captured when the monkey grabbed Slater’s camera, posed and clicked, became an instant hit, appearing in newspapers, magazines, websites and on TV shows around the world. But it took a controversial turn when Slater threatened to sue Wikimedia, a database of millions of images, videos, and audio files that are free for anyone to use.

Slater was frustrated that Wikimedia, the US-based nonprofit behind Wikipedia, told him he didn’t own the copyright to the images, thereby depriving him of revenue from licensing them for publication. Last year, a federal judge ruled the monkey didn’t own the copyright to the photos.

The 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals took up the case in July, with the San Francisco panel asking PETA’s attorney why the group should represent the monkey’s interests.

Spectra gears up to disrupt the “broken Indian broadband market” with its rebranding


Spectranet has been one of India’s fastest fiber internet service provider covering Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai, and Bangalore, for almost a decade. The Gurgaon based broadband provider was recently ranked by Netflix as the fastest ISP in India. And now, the company has undergone a massive rebranding as they gear up to more on the business to customer services, in addition to enterprise and businesses.

With a new brand, Spectra aspires to deliver not just speed but will also follow on three principles – Speed, Service, and Simplicity. The company will provide more services to its customers apart from being a high-speed internet with unlimited data usage, by bringing a new level of broadband experience to consumers.

Speaking to TechRadar India in an exclusive interaction, MD & CEO Udit Mehrotra explained Spectra’s vision going forward. “When we look at the market for broadband services, it is very broken, people don’t get a consistent experience”, said Mr. Mehrotra, as he explains how many of the current providers fail to deliver on what they promise.

“In the industry, we don’t even bother to put an asterisk on the brochures anymore, we just go ahead and lie to the customer”, added Mr. Mehrotra.  “When we say unlimited, that means throughout the month, irrespective of how much  you use, you continue to get the same service experience.”

Spectra aims to disrupt the broadband service industry by providing 100 Mbps speed across all its packages at affordable price points.”We don’t look at where everybody in India is, we look at where everybody else in Asian is, how can we do better than other Asian countries for that matter”, explained the CEO.

“Our approach to the market and customer has always been how to become an enabler rather than a limiter”, pointed Mehrotra.“ People don’t realize that the consumption of the data has been going up  so much, the same 5 minute YouTube video you once watched in 480p now consumes 100 times more data as the quality of the video has gone up to 4k”

The skeptic may question about the space broadband providers have in Indian internet space after the Jio revolution, which saw mobile data prices, especially 4G, being slashed at alarming rates. However, according to Mehrotra, the Jio revolution, in fact, was a positive factor. “What Jio has done is they have enabled millions and millions of Indians who never had access to good quality broadband at a very affordable price. Jio has finally brought affordability more in line with their aspiration, and now more and more people are talking about data.”

Shahnawaz Karim, GM of Marketing at Spectra was quick to point out that “in longer term people will want more reliability and predictability with the broadband network, which mobile broadbands does not’ provide, making broadband services an essential.”

In fact, Spectra is betting on reports that eventually, people even in grassroots levels, experiencing the internet for the first time are will be willing to pay for experience and quality of service, once internet became a necessary part of their daily lives.

Speaking on the rebranding, Udit Mehrotra says “our visions and actions have evolved over a decade, and a little over a year ago, we realized that there was a huge mismatch between how we looked and what we did. It was time to us to bring our look more in line with what we did, as a result today we have very crisp, clear, and sharp brand identity.  “

The rebranding efforts began from bottom up, with the old name Spectranet slashed to just Spectra.The company roped in Ochre, a brand and experience consultancy based in London and Dubai. Ochre had been working closely with the leadership team and customers to create the overall brand expression and experience strategy.

By renaming Spectranet to Spectra, the company aspires to become more than just a broadband service provider. It recently forged a partnership with content service provider and is also planning to add more content solutions for its customers to enjoy a wider range of services to its customers.

Google Drive App for Mac and PC Will Shut Down on March 2018


Google has officially announced in a blog post that its Drive application for desktop is being shut down to make way for the next generation cloud synchronization solutions. Support for the existing app shall be stopped from December 11, 2017, and it will cease to work permanently on March 12, 2018.

Do note that the Google Drive service is not going anywhere, it is only the PC and Mac apps that are being discontinued. Those who are using the said applications will start to see the ‘going away’ notification from October onwards. If you access the Google Drive through the web, this termination won’t affect you at all and you can continue using the cloud service through your web browser.

Alternatives of the Google Drive App

Basically, there are two replacements of the Google Drive app for PC and Mac. The first and the easiest one is the ‘Backup and Sync’, while for the enterprise users, there is the ‘Drive File Streamer’. Let’s talk a bit about them.

Backup and Sync

This is the successor of the Google Drive app and it comes with all the functionalities of its precursor. The Backup and Sync is a comprehensive cloud solution and caters every type of content and even the photos and videos saved through Google Photos. Precisely speaking it is the combination of the departing Google Drive app and the Google Photos app.

Speaking of usability, the Backup and Sync works very similarly to the Google Drive software and normal users won’t feel much difference in shifting to it. To download the new app, visit here.

Drive File Stream

Google has also enabled the support for offline access in the Drive File Stream application. You just need to pre-select the files or folders which you wish to use without being connected to the internet and the app intelligently store them on your PC storage.

This is purely meant for the professionals and is currently being beta tested by some G Suite Enterprise, Business and Education customers. As its name suggests, the Drive File Stream is an advanced cloud synchronizing solution that is mostly based on live streaming contents directly from the web.

Unlike the Google Drive, you would not need to download the files to your desktop, but, Drive File Stream shall straightway stream them to your PC or Mac. You will be able to use those files as if they are stored on your computer’s storage. This is going to save a lot of disk space and also save you from the hassle of downloading a file and then opening it.

With Drive File Stream, you may work with Drive files directly from the application of your choice, for example, Microsoft Word and Adobe Photoshop. Any alterations you make to files in those apps are saved automatically to Drive and you can access them later from any of your devices.

Facebook claims it can reach more young people than exist in UK, US and other countries

Facebook claims that it can reach more millennials and people in other demographics than actually exist in the UK, US, Australia, Ireland and France, according to census data.

In the UK, Facebook says it can reach 7.8 million users aged between 18 and 24. The Office of National Statistics, however, says there were only 5.8 million people in that age group in the whole in the country in 2016.

The problem appears to be systematic and global, with similar discrepancies having been found in various different countries around the world in Facebook’s key markets.

The questionable statistics were discovered by American analysts Pivotal, who noted that Facebook’s advertising tools claim a potential “reach” of 41 million Americans between the ages of 18 and 24.

According to the 2016 US Census, there were only 31 million people in that demographic in the entire country. A similar pattern holds for American 25-34-year-olds: Facebook claims 60 million people, while the census reports 45 million.

In a research note, Brian Wieser, a senior analyst at Pivotal, said that the gap is not widely known among ad agency executives. Now that its existence has been reported, he adds, it may cause large advertisers to step up demands for third-party measurement services.

“While Facebook’s measurement issues won’t necessarily deter advertisers from spending money with Facebook, they will help traditional TV sellers justify existing budget shares and could restrain Facebook’s growth in video ad sales on the margins,” Wieser said.

The problem is international. In Australia, the company claimed to be able to reach 2.3 million 20-24-year-olds in a country that only had 1.7 million of them in 2016, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics. In France, Facebook claimed 7.4 million 18-24-year-olds even though the French National institute for demographic studies (Ined) reported 5.2 million of them 2016. In Ireland, where Facebook’s European headquarters is based, Facebook claimed 560,000 young people while Eurostat reports just 353,000 in the country in 2016.

The question marks over Facebook’s audience reach will further erode relations with advertisers still angry about ads running around fake news sites, and the social media site’s admission of a string of measurement errors affecting their campaigns inflating the average time people spend watching videos, in some cases by up to 80%.

“This is yet another self-reporting error by Facebook that doesn’t help it re-establish confidence with advertisers and the market,” said Michael Karg, group chief executive of media and advertising auditing firm Ebiquity. “They have been trying to improve things like transparency, but once again they are having issues.”

Between them, Facebook and Google are expected to take half of all internet advertising revenue worldwide, according to research firm eMarketer, and 20% of the entire advertising business.

Facebook said in a statement that its audience estimates did not match census data, but added that this was by design as ad reach numbers “are designed to estimate how many people in a given area are eligible to see an ad a business might run. They are not designed to match population or census estimates”.

The company added: “This is just an estimator and campaign planning tool. It’s not a business’ actual reach or campaign reporting, and is not billable.”

In November, Facebook launched a blog called Measurement FYI to share updates and corrections for its data. In its most recent post, the company said it was working on technology to identify accidental clicks on adverts, and announced it would begin to report the raw numbers of viewers received by adverts, before the figures are adjusted to deal with fraud, repeats, or accidentally delivered adverts.

On Wednesday, the company revealed that it had taken $100,000 (£76,300) over two years from an influence operation likely based in Russia that spread divisive social and political messages. The adverts didn’t back a particular candidate, but instead spread polarising views on topics including immigration, race and gay rights, Facebook said.

Facebook said it identified a further $50,000 in overtly political advertising that might have a link to Russia. Some of those ads were bought using the Russian language, even though they were displayed to users in English.

Hackers attacking US and European energy firms could sabotage power grids


A hacking campaign is targeting the energy sector in Europe and the US to potentially sabotage national power grids, a cybersecurity firm has warned.

The group, dubbed “Dragonfly” by researchers at Symantec, has been in operation since at least 2011 but went dark in 2014 after it was first exposed, secretly placing backdoors in the industrial control systems of power plants across the US and Europe.

Now, Symantec reports, the group has resumed operations, apparently working since late 2015 to investigate and penetrate energy facilities in at least three countries: the US, Turkey and Switzerland.

“The Dragonfly group appears to be interested in both learning how energy facilities operate and also gaining access to operational systems themselves, to the extent that the group now potentially has the ability to sabotage or gain control of these systems should it decide to do so,” the cybersecurity firm warns.

Dragonfly’s methods are varied, but all its attacks seem to be focused on researching the inner workings of energy firms. It has been seen sending malicious emails with attachments that leak internal network credentials, which are then used to install backdoors on the network allowing the hackers to take control of computers and systems. They’ve also been seen seeding fake flash updates to install the backdoors and carrying out “watering hole” attacks, hacking third-party websites that were likely to be visited by people working in the energy sector.

Currently, the group appears to be solely in information-gathering mode, but Symantec warns that a quiet beginning is often a prelude to deliberate attempts at sabotage. The latest campaigns “show how the attackers may be entering into a new phase,” Symantec says, “with recent campaigns potentially providing them with access to operational systems, access that could be used for more disruptive purposes in future.”

The researchers are unable to determine who is behind the Dragonfly campaign: some of the code is in Russian, but some is in French, “which indicates that one of these languages may be a false flag.

“Conflicting evidence and what appear to be attempts at misattribution make it difficult to definitively state where this attack group is based or who is behind it,” the report concludes.

Attacks on the energy sector have been increasing in frequency and damage in recent years, with Ukraine in particular being at the receiving end of multiple successful strikes. A blackout in west Ukraine in 2015 was caused by a group called Sandworm, while a second attack took out power in the nation’s capital, Kiev, in late 2016.

But other countries, including Britain and the US, have been subject to quieter attempts at infiltration, according to GCHQ. The agency’s National Cybersecurity Centre warned in July that it had spotted connections “from multiple UK IP addresses to infrastructure associated with advanced state-sponsored hostile threat actors, who are known to target the energy and manufacturing sectors”.

We must debunk this millennium bug myth


Please don’t perpetuate the falsehood that the millennium bug was a myth (Hard to stomach, G2, 30 August). The widespread use of two-digit years in computer systems was a serious threat. I led the Y2K teams for Deloitte Consulting internationally in the 1990s and those of us who spent years successfully finding and fixing many of the huge number of problems resent the implication that our work was unnecessary or fraudulent. Despite all the worldwide work (coordinated by a special UN team), many failures did occur, including 15 shut-downs of nuclear reactors around the world. Details and authoritative references from Gresham College can be found online at