Facebook Warned About Russia in 2014; Shopping on Phones Explodes, Top 5 Amazon Items; 10% iPhone Tariff Threat

Things just keep looking worse for Facebook when it comes to protecting user data. Businessinsider.com says a Facebook engineer warned the company in 2014 about a potential giant data issue involving Russia. This info is coming out after the British Parliament got hold of a cache of sealed Facebook documents. UK politician Damian Collins, who reviewed the documents, made the disclosure today at a hearing in front of the International Grand Committee. Mark Zuckerberg refused to show for the hearing, sending policy chief Richard Allen. Allen if this information had been given to an external body (like an agency of the US government) at the time. Allen refused to answer. The documents are sealed under court order in California, but they were published in the United Kingdom under UK parliamentary privilege.

A couple months back, a panicked friend told me ‘My phone is my life,’ as it was temporarily missing. That is more true that ever now. Cnet.com reports that total sales on smartphones through Cyber Monday was $2.2 billion, up from $1.4 billion last year! On Cyber Monday, phones accounted for 47% of traffic to online stores and 36% of actual sales. Overall Cyber Monday sales were $7.9 million, so the mobile component was substantial. Since the 1st of November $50.6 billion has been spent online, up 20% from last year!

Amazon has announced its 5 best sellers on Black Friday and Cyber Monday. Topping the list, according to bgr.com, the Amazon Echo Dot at $29.99 instead of $50 In the #2 spot, AncestryDNA: Genetic Testing Ethnicity (still on sale at $59 btw). The third place seller was the adored Instant Pot DUO60 6 Qt 7-in-1 Multi-Programmable Pressure Cooker…still at $30 bucks off. Bose Quiet Comfort 25 Acoustic Noise Cancelling Headphones bagged the 4th place spot…and those are now sold out. #5 was Michelle Obama’s new book Becoming, which is still available at a $20 discount.

Yesterday, Donald Trump threatened to slap a 10% tariff on iPhones and MacBooks imported from China, and the stock acted accordingly. Today, Tim Cook is visiting an Idaho school district with Ivanka Trump to talk tech. Coincidence? I doubt it. So far, Cook has gotten Trump to lay off Apple products. Macrumors.com says in 2016 Apple donated an iPad to every student, a Mac and iPad to every teacher, and an Apple TV to each classroom via its ConnectED initiative. Will a ‘charm trip’ with Ivanka keep tariffs off Apple products again? Stay tuned.


Verizon Rolls Out $80 Unlimited Data Plan; Google Maps Lets You Share Faves; Cook Says AR May Rival iPhone’s Impact

For the first time since 2011, Verizon has an unlimited data plan. Macrumors.com says the $80 a month plan called Verizon Unlimited gets you unlimited talk, text and 4G LTE data on one smartphone or tablet or $45 a month for 4 lines. Verizon has had an access charge of $20 per month per smartphone, but it’s not clear if that applies or is included. If it applies, the plan is really $100 per month. Unlike the cheaper T-Mobile and Sprint unlimited plans, Verizon’s includes full HD streaming.

Google Maps has unveiled Lists on Android and iOS. According to techcrunch.com, the feature lets you make lists of places you can share with friends. Some power users have been testing this out since Fall. It appears that Starred and Favorites have some overlap. The Lists can be shared with friends, and even public Lists can be created, similar to Foursquare.

More and more, AR looks like Apples Next Big Thing. In an interview with The Independent, picked up by cnet.com, Tim Cook called Augmented Reality a big idea, like the smartphone. He noted that like a smartphone, AR isn’t limited to certain demographics, countries, or other niche….it can be for nearly everyone. With AR overlays seen through some lightweight glasses….which Apple is reputedly working on with Carl Zeiss, Apple’s Next Big Thing could soon be right before our eyes.

Google Self-Driving Tech in Chrysler Minivans Next Year; New iPhones We Can’t Live Without

Tech companies and car makers are moving at warp speed towards self-driving vehicles. Now, 9to5google.com has picked up a Bloomberg report that Google self-driving tech will be featured in 2017 Chrysler Pacifica hybrid minivans. The non-exclusive deal may be in place this week. The vans will have a 30 mile electric only range, have a gas V-6 that kicks in after that, and the battery can be recharged in 2 hours when plugged into 240 volts.

In an interview Monday, Apple’s Tim Cook teased that the next generation of iPhones will have features you ‘can’t live without, that you don’t even know you need today…’ So far, Wall Street is not impressed, and the stock is still down, but it does make one wonder if there’s One More Thing or maybe Two that Apple has kept under wraps so that KGI Securities and other usually reliable sources haven’t been able to get wind of. We’ll know in September whether it’s just Tim Cook channeling Steve Jobs’ legendary reality distortion field, or if Apple is really going to knock our socks off with some killer feature or features.

Apple Opposes Court Order for Backdoor to iPhone; Superman Memory Crystal for Long Term Digital Storage

Apple CEO Tim Cook has posted a letter to customers online, stating Apple’s opposition to creating backdoor software to iPhones. The demand for the back door was issued by a federal magistrate yesterday, to get the FBI access to the San Bernardino shooter’s iPhone 5c. Cook points out that such software doesn’t exist, and were Apple to create it, it would act as a master key, making every iPhone owner’s private info available…not only to law enforcement and governments, but to hackers and thieves. It’s important to note that iPhones with Touch ID have the Secure Enclave…a separate, walled off processor, and even Apple can’t create a way around its protections at this point. We’ll be watching…as will Apple customers, other manufacturers, governments and no doubt thieves around the world…to see how this unfolds.

Scientists at the University of Southhampton have demoed new tech nicknamed the Superman memory crystal at a conference in San Francisco. Mashable.com says it uses lasers and nanostructures to record enormous amounts of data onto tiny glass discs. Back in 2013, they were able to load 300 KB of text on a disc. With advancements, they can now store 360 TB on a disc. The most amazing thing is the lifespan…they estimate data on the discs will survive 13.8 billion years at room temperature! The next step is designing a way to write the data without very expensive lasers. It does take a polarizer and optical microscope to read it, too.