Google Limiting Political Ad Targeting Worldwide; Facebook Looks at Limiting Pol Ad Microtargeting; PayPal Picking up Honey; Tesla Cybertruck Reveal Tonight

Google is going to begin limiting political ads worldwide. According to 9to5google.com, ‘the company’s advertising networks are limiting election ads audience targeting to age, gender, and general location (postal code level). This includes Search, YouTube, and display ads that appear on third-party sites.’ Before now, Google’s basic political targeting in the US allowed ads to be served based on public voter records and general political affiliations like left-leaning, right-leaning, or independent. The changes start next week in Britain ahead of elections there, and in the EU by the end of the year. They will be in place worldwide on January 6th. While it isn’t an outright ban like on Twitter, it will have a major effect on ‘deep fakes,’ misleading claims, and other ‘demonstrably false claims’ that have been made in some political ads.

Facebook is considering changing its rues around political ads. The Washington Post says the present microtargeting tech from Facebook allows advertisers to focus on specific groups of users and deliver messaging directly to them. One major user is already objecting to Facebook limiting microtargeting….the Trump campaign…which has used it extensively and is doing so right now. This may be a reason Trump hosted Zuckerberg at the White House for dinner last month. Up to now, Facebook has refused to limit political ads, or even police them for false information. Twitter has banned them outright, and Google (as noted above) is limiting political targeting. Facebook claims microtargeting will still be possible, but any changes could materially alter how a campaign like Trump’s uses the features.

PayPal is buying shopping and rewards platform Honey, which tracks prices, alerts, and manages rewards programs for some 30,000 plus retailers. Businessinsider.com reports that the deal is worth some $4 billion, making it PayPal’s biggest acquisition to date. PayPal expects the adding of Honey to help its network of some 24 million merchants to attract shoppers ‘earlier in the deal-hunting process.’

Tonight in LA, Elon Musk will reveal the Tesla Cybertruck at the company’s design center. According to theverge.com, Musk has described the vehicle as being inspired by the movie ‘Blade Runner.’ He has also claimed it will have Porsche-level performance and ‘utility that makes a Ford F-150 look like a Tonka truck.’ Pickups are the fastest growing segment in the US auto industry, and some sell for sky high prices. They are also profitable, which is why many makers have pushed SUVs for years (most of which are built on a truck chassis, partly to take advantage of easier truck emission standards.) Musk has said the truck will start at under $50,000. More will be revealed tonight.


Free Spotify Will Stream on Alexa Devices; Apple Austin Breaks Ground; Twitter List Reporting Function; Police Can Keep Ring Videos Forever

You have been able to get Spotify on an Amazon Echo for several years. Now, the free tier comes to Alexa devices, as well as Sonos and Bose smart speakers. Techcrunch.com reports that the Alexa support will be available in the US, Australia, and New Zealand. Sonos and Bose users can pull in the free Spotify stream worldwide. This comes on the heels of Amazon announcing yesterday that its free (ad supported) music service is now available across devices, including Fire TV, iOS, and Android. It is also available on the web. The Amazon service ‘only’ has 2 million tracks. Spotify boasts a catalog of 50 million songs.

Apple has started construction of its Austin, TX campus. The campus will be considerably larger than the present Mac Pro facility there…the one Donald Trump is flying out to tour today. According to 9to5mac.com, the new facility will be 3 million square feet, and cost a billion dollars. It will house 5,000 employees, with room to grow to 15,000. The facility opens in 2022. The present Mac Pro plant is 244,000 square feet, and employs 500.

After 10 years, Twitter is adding a tool to its lists feature to combat people using the feature to harass others. Mashable.com says there will be a reporting feature specifically for lists. If you report a list, you will get a confirming email. List reporting is live right now on iOS, and will be soon on Android and the Web. Trolls who have used Lists to harass will go to Twitter jail until the list is removed. At least for now, there is no way to opt out of Lists completely, so people will have to be diligent in reporting the toxic ones.

A bombshell from Amazon as they acknowledge that their police agency partners can keep homeowners’ Ring doorbell videos forever, AND can share them with whomever they want. Engadget.com notes that the admission comes after a letter from Senator Ed Markey, asking for details about the footage and steps to protect civil liberties. In a chilling aside, Amazon did not rule out using facial recognition tech within the Ring system. Amazon claims that such a feature would only be released with ‘thoughtful design,’ which isn’t terribly reassuring.


Android Spying Flaw Fixed by Google & Samsung; Snap Fact Checking Political Ads; Breakthrough by Gates Backed Solar Co; Apple ‘Special Event’ December 2nd

A weakness in Android camera apps from Google and Samsung has made it possible for rogue apps to record video, audio, and take images and upload them to an attacker-controlled server, with no user permission or even knowledge. According to arstechnica.com, the flaw was discovered by Checkmarx. Google swatted the bug in an update to its Pixels with a cam update in July. Now, apparently Samsung has fixed the vulnerability as well. Other Android handset makers have not reported that they have fixed the problem, so if you are using an Android other than a Google Pixel or Samsung (or haven’t updated software), be warned!

In an interview on CNBC yesterday, Snap CEO Evan Spiegel said that the company “all advertising to review, including political advertising.” That includes fact-checking. Spiegel also noted that it was trying to create a space for its younger leaning user base “engage with the political conversation, but we don’t allow things like misinformation to appear in that advertising.” This appears to position Snapchat squarely between Facebook…which for now is taking a hands off position to fake news and propaganda…and Twitter, which is banning political ads. Google has thus far not taken a position, but did ban political ads in Canada ahead of that country’s elections earlier this year. Facebook— are you listening?

An interesting breakthrough has been announced by a solar company backed by Bill Gates. Geekwire.com says Heliogen has been able to concentrate sunlight at a temperature high enough to replace fossil fuels in industrial processes. They are using cutting-edge computer vision tech to align a giant array of mirrors to reflect sunlight to a precise target. This gets the temperature at the spot up to 1832 degrees Fahrenheit, and therefore to a temperature that can replace coal, gas, and oil in the production of materials such as cement, steel, and petrochemicals. The company says the innovation is a “major step towards solving climate change” that could dramatically reduce greenhouse gas emissions from industrial processes. Such processes are thought to account for one-fifth of the world’s carbon emissions. Heliogen believes it can ultimately produce temperatures up to 1500 degrees Celsius…hot enough to split carbon dioxide and water to make hydrogen and other fossil-free fuels.

Apple will hold a special event December 2nd in NYC, hi lighting its favorite apps and games of 2019. It will revolve around app and game awards for developers, and thus far, no rumors about any hardware being shown off…although….being Apple, there could always be ‘one more thing.’ 9to5mac.com notes that the new Mac Pro will be out in December, so it is possible a firm drop date for that will be revealed.


Samsung Galaxy Note 10+ Rise of Skywalker Bundle; Fresh 13 Inch MacBook Pro in 2020; Ford Mustang Mach-E, Amazon Grocery Store in 2020 (NOT Whole Foods)

Samsung is partnering with Disney and will release a special edition Galaxy Note 10+ bundle with a ‘Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker’ theme. 9to5google.com reports that the handset is black with red accents all over including around the triple cam housing. The back of the phone gets the Star Wars logo along the bottom, and sports the First Order’s logo, too. The S Pen comes in bright red to match. There is also a special edition leather case that shows Kylo Sen and a metal badge Samsung is pitching as a collector’s item. Included are Galaxy Buds in and black and red case, and all comes in a unique box. Samsung says it will be on sale in limited quantities starting December 13th for $1299, and will be available from AmaZON, Best Buy, Microsoft, and direct from Samsung.

Since the new 16 inch MacBook Pro hit, lots of people have wondered about the smaller profile MacBook Pro…the 13 inter. When will it be updated. According to macrumors.com, it should be out the first half of next year, with the ‘scissor’ keyboard as revived on the 16 inch model. There is a question as to the size…will it be 13 inch, or grow an inch like the bigger model? In an interview, Phil Schiller wouldn’t say, but didn’t foreclose the idea that it might end up 14 inches. Noted Apple watcher Ming-Chi Kuo says Apple will be transitioning all its notebooks to the scissor keyboards in 2020. The company has had complaints for several years about the butterfly keyboard in the Pros and Airs, and may just want to get away from them. Some people have no problems, but others have had sticky, repeating, or non-functioning keys since the keyboard hit in 2016. Apple continues to offer free repairs to affected customers with the butterfly keyboard.

As promised, Ford showed off its new EV yesterday, and it lives at the intersection of SUVs and muscle cars…only electric! Engadget.com says Ford claims a range of 300 miles for the Mustang Mach-E. Calling it a mustang is really just marketing, since it’s a small SUV, but should generate lots of interest. The Mach-E will start at $43,895 and have 4 more expensive versions…the top one cracking $60 grand! All wheel drive will be available, and will come with 2 electric power plants. The RWD one will have a single electric motor. The thriftier model has 255 horsepower while the performance one will rock 459 horses and do zero to 60 in under 4 seconds. Of course, the performance version has less range….235 miles. The first models drop next year, with a couple more models taking until 2021 Ford is taking preorders now with a $500 deposit.

Amazon will opening a full sized grocery store in the LA area next year, and it won’t be a Whole Foods. According to the verge.com, it won’t use the cashier free checkout like Amazon Go, either…but will carry Amazon branding. The store is said to have a different variety of products at ‘a lower price point’ than Whole Foods. Besides the Woodland Hills location in the LA area, they will be opening in Chicago and Philadelphia.


The Motorola Razr Reincarnated; Ford’s e-SUV, Mustang Mach-E; Google Assistant Smart Speaker Sales Way Down; Apple May bundle Music, TV+, and News+

Motorola has unveiled a modern version of the Razr, and this one is a smartphone that folds in half. Theverge.com reports that it has a 6.2 inch foldable plastic OLED screen, and runs Android. It will cost an eye-watering $1499 when it gets into users’ hands in January. The Razr uses hinges on both sides of the screen, so the screen has no crease…think of folding a sheet of paper over but not creasing it. It runs on a Snapdragon 710, has 6 gigs of ram, and in addition to the folding screen, has a 2.7 inch quick view screen for reminders and the like on the front…a call back to the original. Speaking of a tip of the hat to the original, you can even use the software to emulate the old school one…displaying what looks like a Razr keyboard on the bottom half of the screen, and the top half displays images reminiscent of the original! Time will tell if people will go for this pricey a folder that doesn’t offer cutting edge processing and the like (it also has 2 smallish batteries), but perhaps nostalgia will help carry it to some success when it drops.

We are just days from Ford unveiling its e-SUV, and now we have a name. It will be called the Mustang Mach-E when it is shown off on Sunday. Not only that, according to techcrunch.com, you will be able to sign up online and reserve one with a $500 deposit. Early actors will have access to a ‘First Edition.’ Ford will reveal more details about that at the launch event this weekend. Targeted EPA range of the Mustang Mach-E is 300 miles, according to Ford, and you should be able to get 47 miles of charge in only 10 minutes with a 150Kw fast charger.

Alexa is growing like a weed…meanwhile, Google Assistant smart speaker sales have tanked, falling off 40%. 9to5google.com says a report from Canalys indicates that the smart speaker market grew by 44% in the third quarter of 2019, seeing 28.6 million shipped. A ton of those units were from Xiaomi, Alibaba, and Baidu. Amazon still holds down 31.9% of the market, and Google has 29.9%, but the others are growing so explosively, that Google is now 4th in sales. On the other hand, Apple is lumped in with ‘others,’ so it could be worse!

Apple is apparently thinking of offering a bundle next year that would include Apple Music, TV+, and News+. According to bgr.com, Apple has cut deals with publishers that would allow such a deal. Right now, News+ is $10 a month, Apple TV+ is $4.99 a month, and Apple Music runs $9.99 a month for single, $14.99 for Family Sharing. If you add them all up with the family plan, it’s $30 a month…a pretty good hit. No word on how much Apple might shave, but it’s a good bet it will be priced at either $25 or $20 a month.


Apple Drops 16 Inch MacBook Pro; Facebook Pay Looms; Google to Offer Checking Accounts; Court Blocks Suspicionless Border Searches

Apple has rolled out the expected new high end 16 inch MacBook Pro today, replacing the 15 inch lineup. A big deal has been made of the return of the previous scissor switch ‘Magic’ keyboard. 9to5mac.com reports that the 16 incher has a 6 speaker system, up to 8 core processor, and up to 64 gigs of RAM. The physical Escape keys back, and you can get the MacBook Pro with up to 8 TP of storage! The standard one ships with a 512 gig SSD….double that of the previous base model. It is shipping today and starts at $2399.

It seems Apple’s foray into financial services with the Apple Card is spawning more branching into financial services by tech firms. First, we that Facebook’s Libra cryptocurrency….which took a hit recently when a number of financial giants bowed out of the program. Now, Facebook is back with something new…Facebook Pay. According to theverge.com, Facebook Pay is a new payment system that will live inside WhatsApp, Instagram, Facebook, and Messenger. It is intended to facilitate sending money to friends, shopping for goods, and donating to fundraisers. It is separate from Facebook’s Calibra wallet and the Libra network. Pay will support most credit and debit cards, as well as PayPal. Facebook is using PayPal, Stripe, and others to process those payments.

Not to be left out of the finance party, Google is going to offer checking accounts in partnership with banks, starting next year. Techcrunch.com says the project is dubbed ‘Cache.’ Banks will handle all the financial and compliance activities related to the accounts. While at first glance, it seems like Google isn’t getting much out of the deal that way, they are. They will have access to the account info, and it will paint Google a clear picture of a users financial behavior. First partners include Citigroup and Stanford Federal Credit Union. Google will offer a set of online tools to manage the accounts that they believe will appeal to younger, more digital savvy customers.

In a victory for privacy, a federal court has ruled that US policies allowing device searches in or within 100 miles of the border without valid suspicion or warrants violates the Fourth Amendment protections against unreasonable searches and seizures. Engadget.com reports that Judge Denise Casper stated that the exemption for border searches was ‘not limitless,’ and still needed a balancing test between privacy and government interests. That generally means focusing on contraband, the court noted. The lawsuit was filed by the ACLU and EFF back in 2017 on behalf of 11 travelers…all but one of whom was a US citizen. In some cases, officials were examining highly sensitive data, such as attorney-client communications, business dealings and the contents of a work phone from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. If this ruling survives appeal, it could force big changes in how border agents conduct searches.


Google Has Massive Trove of Detailed Health Records; Facebook ‘Facebug’ Activates Cam on iOS; Disney+ Is Live; IBM Says Mac Users Perform Better at Work

Google has hoovered up millions of detailed medical records. Arstechnica.com reports that they partnered with Ascension (the 2nd largest US health system) last year on the down low, and gained access to tens of millions of detailed medical records. ‘Project Nightingale’ has at least 150 Google employees getting access to the records….including diagnoses, lab test results, hospitalization records, and more. It contains patient names and birth dates, too. Neither Google nor Ascension notified patients or doctors of the deal. Ascension is a Catholic non-profit with 34,000 providers, 2600 hospitals, doctors offices, and other facilities in 21 states and D.C. Ascension says its goal was to improve patient care. Internal documents seen by the Wall Street Journal say the Google data mining actually identifies additional ways to generate revenue for patients…but you still love your health insurance and don’t want Medicare for all…right?

As if they didn’t know enough already, we’re back to cameras stealthily watching us, apparently. According to cnet.com, iPhone cams can be turned on in the background while your are looking at your Facebook feed. It happens while watching video…if you click to full screen, then return the video back to normal, a bug is created, and facebooks mobile layout moves slightly to the right. With the open space on the left, you can see that your phone’s cam activated in the background. The bug was first discovered November 2nd. The bug happens in iOS 12 and later. Going in and turning off permissions for Facebook gives a black screen, but the cam still seems to activate. Both Facebook and Apple have been notified.

For those under a rock or just waking from a Rip Van Winkle length sleep, Disney+ has launched its new streaming service today. Macrumors reports that it is available in the US over a wide range of devices: iPhone, iPad, Apple TV, Android smartphones, Roku streaming boxes, Amazon Fire TV, and more. It’s $6.99 a month or $69.99 per year. Your big Disney, Star Wars, and Marvel loving friends are already watching. I know someone who probably already watched the first episode of the Star Wars saga ‘The Mandalorian’ just after midnight!

IBM dropped a big item concerning productivity. Big Blue has, the last few years, given employees the choice of PCs or Macs. Now, 9to5mac.com reports that IBM’s research shows that 22% more Mac users exceed expectations in performance reviews as compared to Windows users. Also, they found that Mac users produced high-value sales deals at a 16% higher rate than PC users. In addition, Big Blue found that Mac users were 17% less likely to leave IBM compared to PC users. IBM presently has 200,000 Macs in service supported by only 7 engineers. They report that 200,000 Windows devices require 20 engineers.