More than 70% of Smartphone Apps Track Users, Study Finds

While smartphone users generally agree to share some kinds of data with software publishers when they download apps, many are giving up far more personal information than they realize, according to a team of information technology researchers.

One reason for this: while different apps request different specific permissions, many also share information with the same third-party libraries containing pre-written code to help developers track user engagement and earn money through display ads. And information shared through these libraries isn’t usually transparent to users.

More than 70 percent of the 5,000 apps the researchers studied reported users’ personal data to third-party companies. In fact, through its many tracking domain properties, Google parent company Alphabet alone collected user data from more than 48 percent of the apps studied, according to the researchers.

1 out of 4 Trackers Collects Unique Identifiers

Writing this week in The Conversation, Narseo Vallina-Rodriguez of the University of California-Berkeley’s International Computer Science Institute and Princeton University computer scientist Srikanth Sundaresan described how they and five other researchers from several other organizations created a free Android app called the Lumen Privacy Monitor to gather data for their study. Published on the Google Play Store, the app has been downloaded and used by more than 1,600 people since October 2015.

“We discovered 598 Internet sites likely to be tracking users for advertising purposes, including social media services like Facebook, large Internet companies like Google and Yahoo, and online marketing companies under the umbrella of Internet service providers like Verizon Wireless,” Vallina-Rodriguez and Sundaresan said. “We found that more than 70 percent of the apps we studied connected to at least one tracker, and 15 percent of them connected to five or more trackers.”

What’s more, the researchers found that one out of every four tracking sites was harvesting a unique identifier such…
Source: Mobile Tech Today

Nest Wants Your Home Security Camera To Recognize You

Nest Labs is adding Google’s facial recognition technology to a high-resolution home-security camera, offering a glimpse of a future in which increasingly intelligent, internet-connected computers can see and understand what’s going on in people’s homes.

The Nest Cam IQ [pictured above], unveiled Wednesday, will be Nest’s first device to draw upon the same human-like skills that Google has been programming into its computers — for instance, to identify people in images via its widely used photo app. Facebook deploys similar technology to automatically recognize and recommend tags of people in photos posted on its social network.

The Cost of Facial Recognition

The new camera will set you back almost $300, and you’ll also have to pay $10 a month for a plan that includes facial recognition technology. The same plan will also include other features, such as alerts generated by particular sounds — barking dogs, say — that occur out of the camera’s visual range.

The camera will only identify people you select through Nest’s app for iPhones and Android devices. For instance, you could program the device to recognize a child, friend or neighbor, after which it will send you a notifications about that person being in the home. It won’t try to recognize anyone that an owner hasn’t tagged.

Even if a Nest Cam IQ video spies a burglar in a home, law enforcement officials will have to identify the suspect through their own investigation and analysis, according to Nest.

Privacy Concerns

Facial recognition is becoming much more common on home-security cameras. Netatmo , for instance, introduced a security camera touting a similar facial recognition system in 2015. That camera sells for $100 less than the Nest Cam IQ.

The way that the Nest and Netatmo cameras are being used doesn’t raise serious privacy concerns because they are only verifying familiar faces, not those of complete…
Source: Mobile Tech Today

Google Expands Paid Carpooling Across California

Google is expanding its paid carpool service throughout California, building on an effort to get more traffic-weary drivers to share their rides to work — and to collect data that could be useful for future transportation services.

The Wednesday move by Google’s Waze unit, best known for its navigation and traffic monitoring app, extends the year-old carpooling service outside its initial markets of northern California and Israel. Waze will now be pairing up drivers and passengers across a wider expanse that includes heavily congested highways in Los Angeles and other parts of southern California.

How It Works

Waze connects drivers and riders with similar commutes based on their home and work addresses. Riders request carpool rides in advance, but aren’t guaranteed matches. Drivers can only pick up one rider; they also get to review the profiles of potential riders in advance and to select the ones they prefer. Riders can only request two rides a day.

The service is primarily focused on rush-hour commutes, when the odds of successfully matching drivers and riders are highest. Waze said tens of thousands of drivers and passengers have registered for carpooling in northern California. It won’t begin booking carpooling requests outside northern California until June 6 to give interested drivers and riders a chance to sign up for the program.

Since signing up for Waze’s carpooling service in February, Lesley Watson says she gets paid $3.50 to $5.50 every time she gives someone a ride on her morning commute from her home in Oakland to her job at an advertising agency in San Francisco. Sometimes, she also picks up a passenger on her evening commute home, although she usually drives solo on her return trip.

“It has helped me offset my commute costs for gas, tolls and parking,” Watson, 28, says. It also has given her a chance to…
Source: Mobile Tech Today

Motorola Debuts New Round of Moto Mods to Accompany the Moto Z2 Play

Motorola today provided details about a handful of new modular attachments for the Moto Z2 Play and other Moto Mod-compatible handsets. The Moto GamePad snaps onto the back of Moto’s phones and provides dual control sticks, a d-pad, and four action buttons. The GamePad includes its own built-in 1,035mAh battery and costs $80. The JBL SoundBoost 2 is a new attachable speaker that provides 10 hours of playtime. The SoundBoost 2 is water-repellant, comes in red, black, or blue, includes a kickstand, and has an improved shape for better hand fit. It costs $80. The TurboPower Pack is a snap-on battery mod for quickly recharging Moto handsets on the go. Motorola says it can add an extra day of battery life when kept in place one time, or can provide a rapid recharge at 15W when users need to power up in a hurry. It costs $80. Last, the Moto Style Shell with Wireless Charging combines a shell case and battery in one Mod. It costs $40. Motorola said all the new Moto Mods will be available when the Moto Z2 Play launches later this summer. The new Mods will be backward compatible with all Moto Mod handsets, including the Moto Z, Z Force Droid, Z Play, and Z Play Droid.

Source: Phone Scoop – Latest News

Internet Trends Report Shows Smartphone Growth Slowing

Smartphone growth is slowing down, voice searches are set to replace typing requests, e-sports viewing is growing exponentially, and Netflix now owns a large chunk of the entertainment industry. These are some of the takeaways from the Internet Trends Report released this week.

Every year, former Wall Street analyst-turned-technology-venture-capitalist Mary Meeker releases a lengthy report that is widely accepted as a look into the state of the Web for that year.

Meeker, who is a partner at Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, delivered the report at the annual Code Conference, which is currently taking place in Silicon Valley.

The first major insight looked at global smartphone growth. It showed that in 2016, global smartphone shipments only grew by 3% as opposed to 10% the previous year and 28% in 2014. This while the global Internet user base had a flat growth rate of 10%. There are now 3.5 billion people connected to the Internet.

Meeker noted that people are spending more and more time on their mobile devices; the average American now spends more than three hours per day staring at their phone. This time was less than an hour five years ago. In the last five years, the amount of time per day on average spent in front of a computer or on a laptop has been two hours.

Mobile online advertising is accelerating while desktop advertising is decreasing slightly. In the US, $73 billion was spent altogether on online advertising as opposed to $23 billion in 2009 — of the $73b, $37 billion was mobile ad spend.

Meeker says there is a $16 billion opportunity in the US for mobile ad spend as the amount of time users spend on mobile far outweighs how many adverts are appearing there. Radio, TV and desktop roughly equal how much time is spent on the mediums versus…
Source: Mobile Tech Today

Motorola Moto Z2 Play Is Thinner, Lighter Than the Original

Motorola today announced the Moto Z2 Play, a second take on the company’s popular mid-range flagship. Like the original, the Z2 Play has a 5.5-inch full HD display and supports Moto Mods. At 5.9mm thick, the phone is a full millimeter thinner than its predecessor. In order to achieve this, Motorola cut the battery capacity from 3,510mAh to 3,000mAh. Despite the significant drop in capacity, Motorola claims total battery life is unaffected. Thanks to TurboPower, just 15 minutes of charging stuffs 8 hours of life into the battery. Another significant change is found in the fingerprint sensor, which now doubles as a trackpad for on-screen navigation. In terms of specs, the Moto Z2 Play is powered by an octa-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 626 processor with an Adreno 506 GPU, 3 GB of RAM, and 32 GB of storage. The 12-megapixel camera now relies on phase-detect and laser-assisted autofocus with dual focus pixels and an f/1.7 lens for better low-light performance. The front camera has a wide-angle 5-megapixel sensor with front-facing flash and f/2.2 lens. The phone relies on USB-C but still packs a 3.5mm headphone jack. It runs Android 7.1.1 Nougat with Moto Display and Moto Voice. Verizon Wireless will be the only carrier to sell the Moto Z2 Play in gray or gold later this summer. The phone will cost $499. Motorola will offer the Moto Z2 Play directly to consumers through its Moto Maker web site with the option to improve RAM to 4 GB and storage to 64 GB. Motorola will sell the Moto Z2 Play in gray, gold, blue, and black.

Source: Phone Scoop – Latest News

Amazon Integrates iCloud Calendar with Alexa

People who own an Alexa-enabled device can now interact with their iCloud calendar. Amazon added support for Apple’s iCloud calendar service to Alexa this week, making it possible for iPhone owners to access and use their calendar through devices such as the Amazon Echo, Echo Dot, and more. In addition to iCloud, Alexa also supports email from G Suite, Gmail, Office 365, and Outlook. Setting up iCloud requires users to use the smartphone-based Alexa app. Two-factor authentication through Apple iCloud is required. Once the link is established, Apple users need only say, “Alexa, what’s on my calendar today?” or “Alexa, add lunch with Sarah at noon to my calendar” in order to interact with their iCloud calendar. The feature is available to Alexa-support devices in the U.S., U.K., and Germany.

Source: Phone Scoop – Latest News

OnePlus Says OnePlus 3 and 3T to Get Android O

Peter Lau, the CEO of OnePlus, said via his Twitter account that the company’s top two phones will receive Android O. “A lot of you have been asking, so I’m proud to say Android O will come to OnePlus 3 and 3T,” noted Lau. The OnePlus 3 and OnePlus 3T are the firm’s flagship handsets from last year. OnePlus was fairly aggressive at updating the phones from Android 6 Marshmallow to Android 7 Nougat once Google released the newer operating system. Google itself has not indicated when Android O will be released in final form other than to say “this summer.” Owners of the OnePlus 3 and 3T should not expect to see the new operating system before late August or early September. OnePlus recently discontinued the 3T as it makes way for its 2017 flagship, the OnePlus 5.

Source: Phone Scoop – Latest News

AT&T's Throttled Unlimited Plan Scores a DirecTV Discount

AT&T today announced a new promotion that gives its Unlimited Choice subscribers DirecTV Now for $10 per month. AT&T Unlimited Choice, which provides unlimited data at speeds up to 3Mbps and video streamed at standard definition, costs $60 per month with autopay and paperless billing. Starting today, those customers can add DirecTV Now’s Live a Little package for $10 more, or a total of $70. The Live a Little package, which includes more than 60 channels, typically costs $35 per month. AT&T’s Unlimited Plus customers, who have access to full-speed mobile data and high-definition video streaming, can apply a similar $25 video credit toward DirecTV Now, regular DirecTV service, or AT&T’s U-Verse TV service. Unlimited Plus customers also gain access to HBO for free. The Unlimited Plus plan cots $90 after autopay and paperless billing. In addition to unlimited data, Unlimited Plus includes 10 GB of mobile hotspot or tethering.

Source: Phone Scoop – Latest News