Amazon Will Deliver Your ‘Junk’ to Your Trunk; Updated Gmail Bows; iPhone Unlocker GrayKey Hacked; Twitter Revenues Up..& Profit!

Amazon has launched a new service that gives its couriers access to a person’s vehicle for the purpose of leaving package deliveries inside. The service is in partnership with two major automakers — General Motors and Volvo — and will be rolling out in 37 cities in the US starting today. Theverge.com reports that initially, the service will only be available to Amazon Prime subscribers. who are also owners of 2015 or later GM and Volvo vehicles, with active OnStar and Volvo on Call accounts. Amazon says it plans to add other automobile brands over time. Packages that weigh over 50 pounds, are larger than 26 x 21 x 16 inches in size, require a signature, are valued over $1,300, or come from a third-party seller also are not eligible for in-car delivery. To access the new delivery service, add your car to your Amazon Key app and include a description of the vehicle, so Amazon’s couriers will be able to locate it. The car will need to be parked within a certain radius of an address used for Amazon deliveries, so either home or work. Driveways, parking lots, parking garages, and street parking are all eligible locations, Note that the courier will just send code to the Amazon Cloud, which contacts the OnStar or Volvo Cloud, and that service pops the trunk…Amazon doesn’t get access directly to unlock your car.

The freshened Gmail, with come new features, is live now. According to techcrunch.com, some highlights include an ever present sidebar with built in Google Calendar, Tasks, and Keep, and both snoozing and disappearing email (which Google calls Confidential Mode.) The confidential email can’t be forwarded, copied and pasted, or downloaded and printed…and goes ‘poof’ after a selectable amount of time. Another key feature is offline mode…you can save up to 90 days of email even when you aren’t connected to the web.

GrayKey, the unlocking system in a box that can crack an iPhone in 3 days…has been hacked. 9to5mac.com says part of their code leaked onto the internet, and the leaker has demanded $15,000 from the company…which happens to be the price of an entry level GrayKey device. Turnabout is fair play, it would appear!

Here’s a headline we haven’t seen in a while…well, actually ever! Twitter’s revenue was up 21% year over year first quarter, and the company made a profit! 9to5google.com reports that Twitter beat Wall Street expectations, with a net income of $61 million, and daily active users increased by 10%. Twitter also Tweeted out their updated privacy policy yesterday, and emailed about it early this morning. Video now accounts for more than half Twitter’s ad revenue.

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iPhone X Made Bank in 4th Quarter; New iPhone SE Soon; Facebook’s EU Privacy Compliance; Company Using Facebook for Massive Facial Recognition Database

There has been so much coverage about what a big flop the iPhone X is…now, comes word that the flagship handset brought in 35% of total worldwide iPhone profits in the 4th quarter….and really only 2 months of that quarter! Macrumors.com reports that Counterpoint Research crunched the numbers, and also found that the handset generated five times the profit of over 600 Android OEMs that quarter! For comparison at Apple, the iPhone 8 brought in 19.1% of the profits, and the iPhone 8 Plus 15.2%.

The diminutive (by today’s standards) and dated iPhone SE only amounted to .9% of Apple’s iPhone profits in the 4th quarter last year, and now it looks like it will be getting a long-overdue refresh. According to bgr.com, Apple has registered a number of new model numbers for iPhones that will run iOS 11 with the EU and with Russia, which require them in advance. The smaller and less pricey iPhone may be out in May, or around WWDC in June. It will have greatly improved internals, but one rumor has it staying the same on the outside, with another indicating a brand new design. At any rate, we will know in a matter of weeks.

The EU’s new privacy regs go into place next month, and Facebook has released some details about how they will comply. 9to5google.com says the US will get a watered down version, as had been previously rumored. The GDPR….General Data Protection Regulation compliance makes Facebook ask users specifically to agree to a number of things, and is not allowed to present pre-selected defaults. Three key things they must ask are to chose whether or not you want them to use data from partners to show you ads, if you want Facebook to continue to let them use info you’ve shared about political, religious, or relationship info (hint: they will still have the data!), and lastly if you will allow them to use face recognition tech (like for tagging in photos.) These are such mild requirements, don’t expect much change in the ‘watered down’ US version!

If you thought the Cambridge Analytica scandal was creepy, you’ll love this…a surveillance company founded by former Israeli intelligence officers called Terrogence has been using social networking sites like Facebook and YouTube to build a giant facial-recognition database. Mashable.com reports they’ve been at this for five years! The database is part of their facial recognition service called Face-Int. Terrogence, and its parent company Verint supply intelligence tech to the US government including the NSA and the Navy. They would not disclose whether or not the US government utilizes their face database.


Android Apps Track Kids; Making Facebook Friends Portable; Amazon’s Choice Secrets; Mini Sega Genesis Coming

In the wake of the Facebook Cambridge Analytica flap, more people are becoming re-sensitized to their privacy…or lack of it. Bgr.com is pointing out that Google does a much better job of protecting privacy, but…and there’s always a but…with their third party apps, not so much. Researchers at the International Computer Science Institute have discovered thousands of Android apps that track young kids. In fact, the majority of 5855 of the most popular children’s apps were guilty of tracking in some manner. 19% of them collect personally identifiable information, while 66% transmit non-resettable persistent identifiers that negate the privacy preserving properties of the advertising ID. So…those thousands of apps are free, except for the data they steal to serve targeted ads to your kids. What a deal! ‘OK, Google! Fix this!’

Some people are leaving Facebook after the Cambridge Analytica mess…I count 31 that have bailed or deactivated on my friends list. For me, the horse got out of the barn a long time ago, so it seems a bit late to leave when you’re privacy has been violated continuously for 8 or 10 years. TechCrunch.com notes that you can download your facebook info, including your friends list…but it’s just a text list…you can’t easily take it to a competing platform. It’s just not going to work having to type them all in, or letting another platform use your email list and keep sending out pestering email to your friends. If people want the government to regulate Facebook as a utility, being able to export your friends list in a useable form to port them to another platform would be a great start. Meanwhile, we’ve speculated that somewhere, some brilliant geeks are working on programming to do it whether Facebook likes it or not. Whatever platform gets that kind of feature first will have a hell of a leg up in giving Facebook some real competition.

What kind of magic formula does Amazon use to give a product the Amazon’s Choice designation? No one has had a clue…until now. Geekwire.com reports that the online giant has started placing a ‘why we like this product’ link next to the Amazon’s Choice logo. If you click it, it will give you 3 specific reasons Amazon has awarded the Choice designator to that particular product. Some of the criteria seem heavily skewed towards highly rated, but also seen have been low return rate and popularity in Amazon search results. At least it’s a peek behind the curtain. So far, all the factors seem to be ones that lend themselves to a high degree of automation..hey, it IS Amazon!

Having purchased probably every system Sega ever made for a certain family member (which paid off in a way…he now works for a game company), I was interested to see that Sega is probably going to bring out a Sega MegaDrive Mini later this year. Cnet.com says the little box has just rolled out in Japan to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the system (MegaDrive was the original name for the system.) Now, a number of reports are surfacing saying the diminutive Genesis will e hitting the US later this year. It appears that Sega is presently asking users to let them know what classic games they want pre-loaded onto the system. Apparently the system will feature both Japanese and English voiceovers, and choice of classic or modern controls.


Apple News- Phone Screens & New AI Head; Facebook Privacy Standards; Parallel Reality Tech ‘Magic Pixels’

Apple is reportedly working on some wild ideas for future iPhones. Bloomberg.com reports that two ideas Cupertino is pursuing include touches gesture control, and curved screens….but different from those of Samsung. The control feature would let users interact in some ways by moving a finger near the screen, without actually touching it. This possible feature is a couple years away, if they go through with it. The curved screen curves inward gradually from top to bottom. There was no info on how this type of curve might help the user.

Apple also lured away Google’s Chief of Search and Artificial Intelligence. John Giannandrea will oversee Apple’s machine learning and AI strategy, and will report directly to CEO Tim Cook. One major item on his to-do list: Make Siri work better!

The word is out that Mark Zuckerberg will testify before Congress next week, in the wake of the Cambridge Analytica data mess, and the Android phones tracking calls and texts. Now, we’ve all heard that Facebook was putting in new privacy standards, which it should. The bad news? According to 9to5google.com, the gold standard privacy protection European Union users will get WON’T be extended to the US! The social media giant only says they will do something ‘in the same general direction.’ Facebook has made it easier to remove apps, though. You could always do this, but had to jump through hoops. Now, you merely click each app you want to remove, and hit the Remove button to delete them.

A Redmond, WA company has given a peek into the future of what they’re creating, and it’s pretty amazing. Misapplied Sciences was started by former Microsoft and Disney geniuses. Geekwire.com says the tech will…for example…allow you to be walking along in an airport, look up at the screen to find your gate, and only see YOUR gate info! Others walking along will only see their info. There’s no smoke, but mirrors are involved in what they call ‘parallel reality’ display technology. They have developed a ‘multi’view’ pixel, which can send different colors of light in up to millions of directions. No goofy looking (sorry, Disney) goggles or glasses are required!


Facebook to Update Privacy; Apple iOS 11.3 Features; Bitcoin & Real Estate

Facebook will roll out a global privacy settings hub later this hear. Techcrunch.com says. The social media giant claims it will put core privacy settings on FB in one place and make it much easier for people to manage their data. This has been expected due to their need to support the General Data Protection Regulation…or face penalties. Those standards go into effect for the European Union starting May 25th. Fines can reach 4%, which would be over a billion dollars based on 2016 revenue…so we can anticipate compliance!

Apple will roll out iOS 11.3 this spring, with controls to allow you to undo throttling of older iPhones to save battery life, new Animoji, and health record access. Macrumors.com reports that the new Animoji include a lion, bear, dragon, and skull, bringing the total to 16. Apple is expanding the Health App, and you will be able to view available medical data from providers who are participating including Johns Hopkins and Cedars-Sinai. That data is encrypted, and will be protected by a passcode. In addition to removing processor throttling to save battery on older iPhones, the updated software will give more info about the health of a device’s battery, including a recommendation that the battery be serviced (translation: replaced.)

In Bitcoin news, real estate has become a hot market. It may seem crazy to trade in the cryptocurrency with transactions involving pricey real estate, but properties are for sale and changing hands in the US, Canada, and Australia now using it. In fact, according to Mashable.com, At the end of 2017 a Miami condo reportedly sold for 17.7 bitcoin and actual cryptocurrency was exchanged between the buyer and seller. Not just bitcoin converted into cash, which is the more popular way to use the coin. Meanwhile, at the lower end, online payments company Stripe is dropping Bitcoin as a payment option effective April 23rd. They say it’s just too expensive for small transactions. Mining fees spiked at $37 per purchase in December.


Future iPhones Could Be Inductively Charged-WITHOUT Added Parts!

A patent application by Apple is all about inductive charging…which several other smartphones have had for a while. Bgr.com reports that this is different because NO additional parts are required…a clever idea from thinness-obsessed Apple. Using software, Apple’s system uses electric coils already in the speakers, microphones, and haptic engines in iOS gadgets. It may even be possible to charge older iOS devices in this manner, using a dock designed for inductive charging. Amazingly, the tiny speakers and microphones would still be able to do their normal duties while charging. Since these coils are tiny, don’t expect rapid charging with them, and no word on when…or if Apple will introduce the feature.

Here’s a biggie for those of us in California that value what little privacy we think we have left…yesterday, Governor Brown signed into law an act that requires police to get a warrant before collecting email, IP addresses, or other electronic information. The new law has been pushed by the Electronic Frontier Foundation and ACLU, and it should apply to the notorious Stingray, the surveillance gadget that scoops up your info by posing as a cellular tower. Washington state has a similar new law, and the US Department of Justice has vowed to obtain a warrant when they utilize such tech.


Privacy Based App Store Coming

The ultra-secure Blackphone is getting its own privacy-focused app marketplace. Bgr.com says it’s called Spaces, and will roll out with a major system update to the PrivatOS early next year.

People who love their Netflix and especially binge watching series will be cheered about this…the verge.com reports that over the next 5 years, the streaming content provider plans to have 20 original series running!

Amazon’s Fire TV and Fire TV Stick can now run web apps. Techcrunch.com says as an incentive to lure app developers, Amazon is allowing them to make money from their apps on Amazon.