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Tech News

Ridesharing livestreams on Twitch raise privacy worries

July 21, 2018 — by Engadget.com0

Lane Turner/The Boston Globe via Getty Images

When you step into a ridesharing car, you probably assume that whatever you do inside the vehicle won’t be recorded for posterity. But what if it turned out that you were not only on camera, but live on the internet? Like it or not, that’s happening — and not always with permission. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch has cited the example of Jason Gargac, an Uber and Lyft driver who has been broadcasting “hundreds” of trips on Twitch without explicitly obtaining consent. While Gargac has taken steps to protect passengers (such as muting addresses and moderating lewd chat comments), at least some of these customers said they wouldn’t have entered the car had they known they were in a livestream — and it was possible to identify some of them through details in archived videos.

Gargac has asserted that his streams are legal, since Missouri allows one-party recording of conversations. However, it doesn’t appear that he’s entirely forthright with passengers about what’s happening. A sticker on the car tells passengers that they consent to being recorded if they enter the vehicle, but it describes the camera as “for security.” There’s no mention of the internet stream. And in a sense, it’s taking advantage of customers who either aren’t aware of the sticker or don’t have much choice. If you’re entering the car at night or are in a hurry, are you going to give much heed to a sticker as you hop in?

There might not be much the ridesharing companies can do, at least not without changes to their policies. Both Uber and Lyft have responded with statements that drivers are required to obey local laws, which technically puts drivers like Gargac in the clear. Uber has offered passengers credit and promised not to pair affected riders with the driver. We’ve asked Twitch for comment as well. Gargac has taken care to avoid at least some terms-of-service violations, but it’s not certain whether these are enough.

Regardless of the legality, streams like this raise plenty of questions about the nature of recording laws in the livestreaming era, not to mention the policies of the companies involved. Although Gargac argues that his car is a public space and thus doesn’t have an expectation of privacy, that’s clearly not how some passengers see it. They’re often holding deeply personal conversations or conducting themselves in less-than-flattering ways, and certainly aren’t expecting to have their behavior broadcast online. Stricter policies could ensure that passengers both offer genuine consent and know that their privacy will be protected if they do agree to a livestream.

Tech News

San Francisco aims to issue electric scooter permits next month

July 20, 2018 — by Engadget.com0

Mario Tama via Getty Images

The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA) said this week that it is aiming to issue electric scooter permits next month, and the staff who have been reviewing the 12 permit applications will make their recommendations in the coming weeks. The move to require permits came after Bird, Spin and LimeBike unveiled their e-scooter sharing programs earlier this year, resulting in hundreds of scooters peppering public areas and taking up sidewalk space. They quickly became a nuisance and in April, the city told the three companies that they had to remove their scooters from the streets. Permit applications opened up soon thereafter.

Companies seeking a permit to operate in the city had to submit an application by June 7th, and the SFMTA has been reviewing the dozen applications it received, assessing them for safety, sustainability, access, accountability, financial impact and other measures. Up to five companies will be selected to participate in a year-long pilot program that will evaluate the scooters and their impact. As many as 1,250 scooters may be allowed to operate in San Francisco during the first six months of the trial, and depending on how things play out, an additional 1,250 may be approved for the last half of the trial period.

Once the final firms are selected, the SFMTA will work with them to finalize and clarify the permit terms and conditions. Permits should be issued in August.

Tech News

Mark Zuckerberg: CEO, billionaire, troll

July 20, 2018 — by Engadget.com0

We imagine the scene at Facebook right now is like Kim Jong-il’s funeral. Employees weeping in hallways, dripping anguished snot onto keyboards, beating their chests with unsold Facebook phones in an orgy of anguish at the injustice of media coverage regarding Mark Zuckerberg’s unprompted defense this week of giving Holocaust deniers a voice on the platform.

But I think we’ve finally figured out what’s going on at Facebook after all.

You know that guy. The one who pops into a chill online community and makes everyone miserable. The one who says he’s “just asking questions” about women able to do math, black people and evolution, shooting victims and paid actors, the validity of the Holocaust.

He’s the one that mods have to kick out for “JAQing off” (“Just Asking Questions”) because he clearly has bad intentions to harm the community and recruit hate. The troll who feigns naïveté and uses free speech as a foil.

This week we learned that if you give that guy a platform for his voice, he’ll out himself real fast. Right now, headlines blare Zuckerberg in Holocaust denial row and Fortune 500 C.E.O. Says Holocaust Deniers Must Be Given “a Voice”.

To be clear, on Tuesday Zuckerberg gave a wandering kid-glove interview with Kara Swisher of Recode, the same day Facebook’s representatives went to the mat to avoid telling the House Judiciary Committee exactly how InfoWars gets to stay on Facebook while it pretends to decry hate speech.

Zuckerberg told Recode that Facebook won’t ban Holocaust deniers or race-war conspiracy propagators like InfoWars just because they’re “getting it wrong.” Also, booting them would go against his and Facebook’s “responsibility” to “give people a voice.” Even in his next-day backtracking, Mr. Zuckerberg and his company doubled-down on giving that guy a safe space, a voice, and a platform.

As Matt Ford at The Atlantic tweeted, in the original interview Zuckerberg wasn’t even asked about his company’s policy of fostering Holocaust denial, “he just said he’d keep it on Facebook on his own.”

So, I guess that was Zuckerberg’s last podcast? pic.twitter.com/niUS5NPuQR

— Mat Honan (@mat) July 19, 2018

Then came the headlines. Quickly followed by Mark Zuckerberg pulling a Trump, telling his softball interviewer that he misspoke. “I personally find Holocaust denial deeply offensive, and I absolutely didn’t intend to defend the intent of people who deny that,” he wrote in a warm personal email to Kara Swisher.

We imagine loyal Facebook employees on the floor in the breakroom, tearing up chunks of rubber floor mats and chewing them, swallowing through their own howls and moans, sobbing. “No one understands what Mark really means,” they cry.

But we all know that one way to double-down is to split hairs. It’s the hallmark of trolling. It’s what that guy is really good at.

Nowhere is this more clear than this week’s Channel Four (UK) Dispatches episode Inside Facebook: Secrets of the Social Network. The episode

Tech News

Dish customers can chat with service reps through iMessage

July 20, 2018 — by Engadget.com0

DISH Network Corporation

Dish announced today that its customers can now chat with service representatives through Apple’s Business Chat messaging service. Apple launched Business Chat earlier this year and it lets companies interact with their customers through iMessage. So far, companies that have begun providing support through Business Chat include Discover, The Home Depot, Hilton, Lowe’s, T-Mobile and Wells Fargo. Dish says that its customers will be able to ask live agents questions, make account changes, schedule appointments and order pay-per-view movies and sporting events with Business Chat.

“TV should be simple, so we’ve made reaching our live customer service representatives as easy as sending a text,” Dish COO John Swieringa said in a statement. “Adding messaging with Apple Business Chat is a powerful way to connect with us, giving another choice so you can pick what fits with your life.” Message threads will remain open until customers delete them from their Messages app and conversations can be picked up at any time.

To contact Dish through Business Chat, your device must be running iOS 11.3 or higher. Just search for Dish on your iPhone or iPad and tap the Messages icon that shows up next to the Dish search result. Dish says that it will soon launch the ability for customers to open a chat through the contact page of the MyDish app.

Tech News

WhatsApp clamps down on forwarding to reduce hoaxes and spam

July 20, 2018 — by Engadget.com0

An attendee holds a mobile phone displaying a fake message shared on Facebook Inc.s WhatsApp messaging service while attending an event to raise awareness on fake news in Balgera village in the district of Gadwal, Telangana, India, on Tuesday, June 12, 2018. Bloomberg via Getty Images

While parent company Facebook shifts policies on how to handle content that it said can lead to violence, WhatsApp is also in a state of change. A blog post describes how it’s limiting the ability to forward messages to multiple chats at once, apparently in hopes that it will slow the spread of hoaxes and misinformation that have incited recent lynchings in India. Previously users could forward to over 250 people at once, and now the limit globally has been reduced to 20. In India, it will be restricted to five, and a “quick forward” button next to media messages will be removed.

The company called these changes a “test,” while a spokesperson said to Recode that “We’re horrified by the violence in India, and we’ve announced number of different product changes to help address these issues.” WhatsApp already shifted to labeling forwarded messages, it recently started funding research into the problem and now it’s making another attempt to put the brakes on. TechCrunch points out a report from The Economic Times that WhatsApp execs have met with India’s election commission and plan to bring over the news verification model recently used in Mexico.

Tech News

'Star Wars: The Clone Wars' to return on Disney's streaming service

July 19, 2018 — by Engadget.com0

Star Wars

The original run of Star Wars: The Clone Wars ended after five seasons and a bundle of “Lost Missions” episodes on Netflix, but now the CGI series is coming back. Today at Comic-Con supervising director Dave Filoni made a surprise announcement that a new 12-episode season will arrive on Disney’s upcoming streaming service, complete with the poster above and a brief trailer.

Disney CEO Bob Iger had promised a “few” Star Wars series in development for the new service, and now it’s clear that this is one, joining a live-action show from Jon Favreau. The (still-canon) Clone Wars makes sense, with a fan base already set up and a storyline ready to pick up after its main character has just left the Jedi Order. Entertainment Tonight notes that in 2014, one of the writers told a fan that scripts for season seven and eight were already written, but it remains to be seen how long the revival will last. F

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Tech News

Amazon's Part Finder helps you find those weird screws you need

July 19, 2018 — by Engadget.com0

parts.jpeg

mihalec via Getty Images

If you have a home hardware part you can’t really identify but need more of, you might find that the camera in Amazon’s iPhone app is a bit more useful after a low-key recent update. The new Part Finder tool uses computer vision to determine the type of screw, nut, bolt or other fastener you have, and points you to where you can buy more in its store.

Amazon added the feature to its iOS app a couple of weeks back, it confirmed to TechCrunch, but didn’t announce Part Finder or even mention it in the App Store release notes. There’s no sign of an Android release as yet.

To use the feature, you’ll need to place the part on a white surface next to a penny (likely for scale). The app will tell you how to line up the camera, and once it has scanned the item, Amazon will display some results. The following screen will ask you for more details to narrow down the suggestions, including whether a screw has a flat or round head, as well as with the type of screwdriver it needs (which you’d assume the algorithm would be able to determine).

It’s certainly a useful feature, especially if you’re not much of a home hardware type and need some guidance on which parts you need. Part Finder can currently identify more than 100 types of fasteners, which “represents thousands, if not millions of parts,” Amazon says. If it can help us locate the parts we need for flat-pack furniture but never seem to have enough of (so we don’t have to make follow-up IKEA trips), so much the better.

Tech News

Spotify lets artists submit unreleased tracks to playlist editors

July 19, 2018 — by Engadget.com0

Christian Hartmann / Reuters

Spotify announced today that it’s making it easier for artists and labels to submit new music to its playlist editors. The company has released a new feature, which is still in beta, that will allow artists and managers with a Spotify for Artists account or labels using Spotify Analytics to submit an unreleased song for curated playlist consideration. That track will then be available to the over 100 editors Spotify has around the world, who can search through submissions for appropriate additions to the playlists they design.

Spotify says that it’s important for those submitting tracks to provide as much information as they can about the song. That includes genre, mood, whether it’s a cover, the cultures the artist or the song represent and other data that will help editors find the song and make sure it lands in the right playlists. The company also said that as long as artists and labels tag and submit a song seven days in advance, it will automatically be added to the artist’s followers’ Release Radar playlists.

Recently, the music-streaming giant reportedly began offering advance fees to indie artists and managers who license their songs directly to Spotify, and it began displaying a track’s songwriter and producer credits earlier this year. The company said today that it features over 75,000 artists on its editorial playlists each week and another 150,000 on its Discover Weekly playlist.

Since the submission feature is still in beta, it’s subject to change. “We’ll continue evolving this feature based on your feedback, so artists, labels, managers and partners can all help us create better playlists for Spotify listeners,” Spotify said.

Tech News

AMC is selling movie tickets on Facebook

July 19, 2018 — by Engadget.com0

Bloomberg via Getty Images

Facebook’s Movies section gives users the option of searching for movies and showtimes and then purchasing tickets through Fandango or Atom Tickets. But now, AMC Theatres has partnered with the platform and users can now buy tickets for AMC showings through Facebook. Just click on a showtime at an AMC location and Facebook will take you to AMC’s ticketing page. “From the very beginning of online ticketing availability, it’s been our goal to make the process as simple and accessible as possible for all of our guests, and we are thrilled to further this endeavor through our partnership with Facebook, which continues to expand our guests’ choices on where they purchase tickets,” Stephen Colanero, AMC Theatres’ chief marketing officer, said in a statement.

AMC recently made moves to take on MoviePass, launching its own subscription service last month. The company said that the Facebook ticketing service is rolling out now and should be available for all AMC theaters over the coming days.

Tech News

Uber drivers can sell you goods during your ride

July 19, 2018 — by Engadget.com0

Uber/Cargo

Don’t be surprised if you get a sales pitch the next time you step into an Uber car. The ridesharing service has formed a partnership with Cargo to give drivers free boxes full of goods they can sell to passengers through a mobile app, ranging from snacks to phone chargers — if you didn’t get a bite to eat before leaving for the airport, you won’t have to wait to get your fix. Drivers in Los Angeles and San Francisco can pick up the boxes today at Uber’s support centers (known as Greenlight Hubs), and there are plans to expand to other cities with Cargo service (including New York City, Atlanta and Dallas).

There are a couple of requirements before a driver can receive a box, according to Cargo chief Jeff Cripe. They need to have both a minimum 4.7-star rating on Uber and be relatively active on the service. To put it another way, they want trustworthy drivers taking enough passengers to produce a good return on the investment. They don’t have to drive for Uber when they’re selling from the Cargo box, however.

Uber isn’t shy about its motivations: this gives drivers “extra income” in addition to enticing customers. While there are questions as to whether or not Uber pays drivers fairly in the first place, this would give them an extra revenue source that wouldn’t force them to drive extra hours. Cargo estimates that drivers can earn between $1,500 to $3,000 in extra income per year. That wouldn’t represent a huge change in quality of life, but it might be enough to keep drivers faithful to Uber instead of departing for Lyft or exiting the ridesharing business altogether.