Technology

Technology

AT&T Says It’ll Stop Selling Your Location Data

After a report earlier this week that the location of almost every phone in the United States could be bought, the carriers are saying they’ll stop doing that:

AT&T said Thursday it will stop selling its customers’ location data to third-party service providers after a report this week said the information was winding up in the wrong hands.

The announcement follows sharp demands by federal lawmakers for an investigation into the alleged misuse of data.

T-Mobile, Sprint, and AT&T Are Selling Customers’ Location Data

Joseph Cox, writing for Motherboard:

Nervously, I gave a bounty hunter a phone number. He had offered to geolocate a phone for me, using a shady, overlooked service intended not for the cops, but for private individuals and businesses. Armed with just the number and a few hundred dollars, he said he could find the current location of most phones in the United States.

The bounty hunter sent the number to his own contact, who would track the phone. The contact responded with a screenshot of Google Maps, containing a blue circle indicating the phone’s current location, approximate to a few hundred metres.

The bounty hunter did this all without deploying a hacking tool or having any previous knowledge of the phone’s whereabouts. Instead, the tracking tool relies on real-time location data sold to bounty hunters that ultimately originated from the telcos themselves, including T-Mobile, AT&T, and Sprint, a Motherboard investigation has found. These surveillance capabilities are sometimes sold through word-of-mouth networks.

Holy shit. This is outrageous.

A Look Back at Digital Music Piracy in the 2000s

Abhimanyu Ghoshal, writing at TNW:

What was particularly interesting back then was the wide range of ingenious methods people used to share tunes. Back in the day, people went beyond simply hosting music on public-facing websites, and instead, found ways to send and receive tracks directly with other internet users. Let’s take a walk down memory lane and take a look at some of the ways people grew their music collections in the late 90s and early 2000s.

How Much of the Internet Is Fake?

Max Read, writing for New York Magazine:

How much of the internet is fake? Studies generally suggest that, year after year, less than 60 percent of web traffic is human; some years, according to some researchers, a healthy majority of it is bot. For a period of time in 2013, the Times reported this year, a full half of YouTube traffic was “bots masquerading as people,” a portion so high that employees feared an inflection point after which YouTube’s systems for detecting fraudulent traffic would begin to regard bot traffic as real and human traffic as fake. They called this hypothetical event “the Inversion.”

Wonderful.

Twitter Is Relaunching the Reverse-Chronological Feed

Casey Newtom, writing for The Verge:

Twitter is offering users another escape hatch from its ranked timeline. The company said today that it will introduce a prominent new toggle in the app to switch from the ranked timeline to the original, reverse-chronological feed. The company says the move comes in recognition of the fact that Twitter is often most useful in real time, particularly during live events such as sports games or the Oscars.

How YouTube Built a Radicalization Machine for the Far-Right

Kelly Weill, writing for The Daily Beast:

YouTube has become a quiet powerhouse of political radicalization in recent years, powered by an algorithm that a former employee says suggests increasingly fringe content. And far-right YouTubers have learned to exploit that algorithm and land their videos high in the recommendations on less extreme videos. The Daily Beast spoke to three men whose YouTube habits pushed them down a far-right path and who have since logged out of hate.

We built all these tools, we wrote the code to keep people engaged, to keep them watching and clicking ads, and pushed it out into the world without ever thinking about the consequences. The other day I opened up YouTube in a browser I never use, via a VPN in incognito mode, and it was about six videos before I started getting recommended anti-feminism shit from known bigots. This is bad.

Tumblr to Ban Adult Content

Tumblr will ban all “adult content” from their platform beginning on December 17th:

Banned content includes photos, videos, and GIFs of human genitalia, female-presenting nipples, and any media involving sex acts, including illustrations. The exceptions include nude classical statues and political protests that feature nudity. The new guidelines exclude text, so erotica remains permitted. Illustrations and art that feature nudity are still okay — so long as sex acts aren’t depicted — and so are breastfeeding and after-birth photos.

Instagram Adds “Close Friends” Feature

Instagram has introduced a new “close friends” feature:

To use the new feature, open up the Stories camera and take a photo or video. After you finish your shot, you’ll notice a new green circle with a white star in it. Tap it, and you’ll be brought to the close friends list where you can add people to your inner circle. Instagram will suggest friends to you based on the people you interact with most, or you can use a search box to finish your list. In testing, people typically added around two dozen people, says Robby Stein, product lead at Instagram.

Apple Event Roundup

The Verge has a pretty good roundup of the Apple announcements today:

After a busy fall announcement season, Apple has unveiled what’s expected to be the last of its hardware refreshes this year with the introduction of a new iPad Pro, MacBook Air, and Mac mini. All new devices are available for preorder today with a ship date of November 7th. Here’s a look at them all.

That new iPad sure looks great.

Facebook Adds Music Features to Profiles

Dami Lee, writing for The Verge:

Facebook is rolling out more music features today, bringing more ways to integrate its licensing partnership with all three major labels into Stories, user profiles, and its Lip Sync Live feature.

Starting today, users will be able to add music stickers to their Facebook Stories. You can search for songs, pick out the part you want to share, and add the sticker with the artist and song name. It works exactly the same way as it does on Instagram Stories, which introduced the feature in June.

Spotify Opens Up Playlist Submission Feature

Spotify:

A few months ago, we unveiled a beta feature in the Spotify for Artists tool that gives artists, labels, and teams the ability to share new music directly with our editorial team for playlist consideration. Since the feature became available in July more than 67,000 artists and labels have submitted music and now we’re excited to announce our playlist submission feature is officially out of beta.

Creating a Simple App Launcher With a Custom Icon for iOS

In iOS 10 Apple introduced the ability for app makers to offer alternative app icons for their apps. A few of my favorite apps have taken advantage of this. Overcast has a cool dark icon for subscribers, Carrot Weather has a huge selection to choose from, and the MLB At Bat app lets you pick your favorite team’s logo as the icon. It’s a nice way to add a little bit of customization to your device. However, not every app has taken advantage of this new feature. For example, it’s a no brainer that the NBA should copy baseball and let you put a team logo as the app icon … but, they don’t. So when it came time to move from having the MLB app on my home screen, to the NBA, I started looking into all the different ways I could maybe change-up the icon. I have no desire to jailbreak my phone and this really isn’t an app I open up all that often anyway. I check it maybe a couple times a day, at most, to see what games are on, check scores, and watch one via League Pass if it’s coming down to the wire. Because of this, I thought about just using a Siri Shortcut to act as an app launcher and being done with it, but I didn’t love how the shortcut would launch, then switch to the Shortcut app, and then launch the NBA app. Sure, it worked, but it took longer than I wanted to even for an app I only open a few times a day.

However, I realized that if there was only one slight pause and a redirect to the NBA app, without first going through Shortcuts, that would probably work just fine for what I wanted this to do. So I took a look at how Shortcuts was creating these launchers and realized they’re basically just Web Clips that when opened redirect to a Shortcuts URL scheme. Looking a little closer I saw they created these Web Clips in a pretty clever way that kept everything local on the device. Usually a Web Clip will launch Safari and hit a web site, which is slow, however, if it’s a local HTML file it doesn’t need to do anything at all. So I copied their technique.

I created a basic HTML file that redirects to the NBA url scheme, created the icon I wanted for it, turned the background black, and then added a startup image that displays the logo on a black background. That way, when I tap the icon, instead of just getting a brief white background, I get a cool all black Trail Blazer screen before being sent to the NBA app. There’s still a slight delay, but it’s passable this time, since I’m sent right to the app and not to Shortcuts first.

And it means I can have the Blazer logo on my home screen:

If anyone is interested in how I did it. Here’s the basics: I started with a simple HTML document.

<html>
<head>
<title>NBA</title>
<meta http-equiv=”Content-Type” content=”text/html; charset=UTF-8″>
<meta name=”viewport” content=”width=device-width, initial-scale=1.0, maximum-scale=1.0, user-scalable=no, viewport-fit=cover” />
<meta name=”apple-mobile-web-app-capable” content=”yes”>
<meta name=”apple-mobile-web-app-status-bar-style” content=”black”>
<meta http-equiv=”refresh” content=”0;URL=’nba://'” />
<link rel=”apple-touch-icon” href=””>
<link rel=”apple-touch-startup-image” href=””>
</head>
<body style=”background: #000;text-align: center;”>
<img src=”data:image/png;base64,” width=”175″ style=”position:fixed;top:47%;left:49.2%;transform: translate(-50%, -50%);”/>
</body>
</html>

The meta refresh tag I set to the NBA URL scheme. I told the Web Clip to be full-screen (apple-mobile-web-app-capable). Set the status bar to black to match the background (apple-mobile-web-app-status-bar-style). (Change “black” to “default” to make it white.) And set the icon (apple-touch-icon) and the start up image (apple-touch-startup-image) to their respective images (you can find the recommended sizes via Google depending on what device you use).

Now, in the middle of the screen I wanted to show the Blazer logo. However, I didn’t want this image to be hosted on a server somewhere and slow down my little launcher. So, I recommend optimizing your image as much as possible and then converting it to Base 64. Grab that code and set it as the source for the image. I tweaked the size and positioning so that on load the start-up image and my little website thing would look the exact same.

After that I borrowed how Siri Shortcuts adds home screen apps. Convert the entire HTML page to Base 64. You’ll get a giant string representing your Web Clip. Mobile Safari won’t let you just copy and paste this into your browser, so you’ll need to link it from somewhere. I created a page that just had one link on it:

<a href=”data:text/html;base64,”>click me</a>

After the comma, I put the giant base 64 string. I tossed that on my server, opened it on my phone, and clicked it.

(I’m sure you can use something like this to do that too.)

It opened up the HTML page I created and asked if I wanted to be redirected to the NBA app. I clicked cancel, then just created the home screen app like usual (share sheet, add to home screen). I tapped the icon, it showed my startup screen, and then the NBA app opened up. Exactly like any of the Siri Shortcut apps and all without having to jailbreak my device or create a custom profile on the phone. Just a basic local HTML page turned into a web clip. I’d never do this for any app I open all the time, but this use case is just about perfect.

I share other things like this in the Apple thread from time to time.

Oh. And go Blazers.

Genius Teams Up With Apple Music

Genius will be providing lyrics to Apple Music:

Genius has the world’s best lyrics database and now it’s available on Apple Music. Genius will provide lyrics to thousands of hit songs on the service—bringing world-class accuracy and timeliness powered by Genius’s global community of artists and fans.

Instagram’s Co-Founders Leave Company

Mike Isaac, reporting for The New York Times:

Kevin Systrom and Mike Krieger, the co-founders of the photo-sharing app Instagram, have resigned and plan to leave the company in coming weeks, according to people with direct knowledge of the matter. The exits add to the challenges facing Instagram’s parent company, Facebook.

Mr. Systrom, Instagram’s chief executive, and Mr. Krieger, the chief technical officer, notified Instagram’s leadership team and Facebook on Monday of their decision to leave, said the people, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the matter publicly.

Whoa. This isn’t a good sign for the future of Instagram.

Streaming Accounts for 75% of Music Industry Revenue

The RIAA have released their mid-year revenue report for the music industry. Patricia Hernandez, writing at The Verge, has a good rundown:

Turns out, streaming makes more money than physical CDs, digital downloads, and licensing deals combined.

Streaming in this context includes paid subscriptions to services such as Spotify and Tidal, but also digital radio broadcasts and video streaming services such as VEVO. It’s a broad category that nonetheless has made $3.4 billion dollars in 2018 so far, a total that amounts to 75 percent of overall revenue for the record industry.

Overcast 5 Is Here

Overcast, my favorite podcast player, has a great new 5.0 update. Federico Viticci reviewed it for MacStories:

The most notable difference between the old Overcast and the updated version is the redesigned Now Playing screen. Page indicators and hidden gestures to navigate show notes and chapters are gone, replaced by a carousel of swipable cards containing effects, podcast artwork, show notes, and chapters (if available).

It’s a nice update and I’m excited to try out the stand alone Watch playback.

Spotify Lifts Song Download Cap

Amy X. Wang, writing at Rolling Stone:

A common gripe among Spotify users is that the app limits the number of songs that can be downloaded to phones and computers for offline listening (3,333 tracks per device, with a three-device limit, to be exact). In its latest software update, the streaming service has quietly increased the limit threefold.

A number of power-users first noticed that they were able to save more than 3,333 songs this week, and the Swedish streaming giant confirmed the change on Wednesday to Rolling Stone.

A well deserved finally.