Facebook ‘Shadow Profiles’; Snapchat Tries V. 2.0 Spectacles; Gmail Web Redesign

Of all the deliberately boring and evasive answers Mark Zuckerberg gave at the congressional hearings this week, one of the most interesting was to a question by New Mexico Representative Ben Lujan, who asked about ‘shadow profiles.’ The term refers to data Facebook collects about non users, and other info the company has but doesn’t admit to to users. TechCrunch.com reports that Zuckerberg said the company collects info on people who haven’t signed up for security purposes to try to prevent data scraping and the like, but balked at calling them shadow profiles. He also played dumb about how many data points FB has on each user. Zuck did admit that non users can’t really opt out of data collection the company does to prevent scraping info of others…and the Congressman pointed out that those are folks who have never signed any sort of consent or privacy agreement. Privacy? They’ve got your stinkin’ privacy!

Snapchat’s first swing at Spectacles was a 40 million dollar whiff. Now, the company is teeing up for another shot at the concept. According to 9to5mac.com, they have filed with the FCC for second generation ones. In the filing, they are identified as a
‘wearable video camera,’ and model ‘002.’ No drawings were included, but they will come with 802.11ac WiFi and will work over both the 2.4 and 5 gig bands. They do apparently have Made for iPhone branding and mention support for iPhone X as well as other earlier devices. There may be a higher end version running around $300 and built of nicer materials like aluminum. So far, nothing as far as when we might actually see version 2.0 of Spectacles.

It’s been a year since Google noted that a revamp was coming to Gmail. It looks like the redo is coming in the form of an early access program in the next few weeks. We received an email blast that came out to G Suite administrators yesterday, with the promise of a new design for the Gmail web interface, and some new features including Calendar within Gmail and Smart Reply. There will also be a snooze feature which will hide emails for a selected amount of time. Perhaps the coolest upcoming feature is offline support. Google says we can expect native offline support by July. (This will replace the Gmail Offline Chrome app.) Many popular Chrome extensions will continue to work on the new Gmail experience, however.

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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 Privacy Issues Multiply & Their Damage Control; iPhone X Will Add a Color; FedEX Orders Tesla e-Big Rigs; Google Assistant Gets Philips Hue Scene Support

Over the weekend, Facebook ran full page ads in several US and British newspapers, with an apology from Mark Zuckerberg for the recent data privacy scandal involving Cambridge Analytica. Since the ads ran, a new report from arstechnica.com says in some cases, Facebook’s Android apps will keep logs of the names of people you called and texted, how long the convos were, and the other person’s phone number. Users are now madder than ever. Facebook claims it got permission to scrape the call and text data, but that likely won’t help. A Reuters/Ipsos poll came out Sunday indicating less than half of Americans trust the social media giant to obey US privacy laws. It’s 41% that trust Facebook, compared to 66% trusting Amazon, 62% trust Google, 60% trust Microsoft, and 47% Yahoo. The Federal Trade Commission has an investigation underway into Facebook now.

After production problems limited the iPhone X to two colors, it looks like Apple will add another color to try to boost sales of the successor phones out this fall. According to 9to5mac.com, it will be a ‘blush gold’ tone. A more iffy rumor also has a (Product)Red iPhone in the mix. Apple’s education event in Chicago is Tuesday…we’ll cover what they bow there…a cheaper iPad is expected.

FedEx has preordered 20 electric big rigs from Tesla. The rigs go into production next year, and rival UPS has preordered 125 of the e-rigs. Techcrunch.com says each of these orders is a pretty small pilot fleet, but will jump start the Tesla truck production. Tesla is already running test rigs between the Gigafactory in Reno, Nev. and the production factory in Fremont, CA.

Google Assistant has picked up a handy feature…native support for Philips Hue scenes. 9to5google.com reports that Assistant has been supporting Hue lights since it came out, but that support didn’t extend to the preset ‘scenes’…which the Hue app and Amazon Alexa could control. Now, Assistant can use them, too. One note…you may have to delete and re-add your Hue lights to Assistant, or at least sync before the new feature works. A lot of users find it quite handy to be able to adjust colors on several lights or in multiple rooms with just a voice command.


Zuckerberg Will Respond to Cambridge Scandal; Latest On Upcoming iPhones; Google Buying Lytro

So far, there has been no response at Facebook from CEO Mark Zuckerberg or COO Cheryl Sandburg. The head of internet security is leaving. Now, it’s being reported by cnet.com and others that Zuckerberg will respond publicly about ‘rebuilding trust’ within 24 hours. There is also an all-hands meeting scheduled for Friday at 10am Pacific, and both Zuck and Sandburg are supposed to talk then. The hashtag #wheresZuck has been appearing on Twitter.

Most rumors point to 3 new iPhone models this fall, and most have also said that there will be 5.8, 6.1, and a 6.5 inch model. A fresh report from 9to5mac.com says Digitimes is now hearing that Apple has been able to slash materials costs by 10%. Now, it looks like the cheapest of the 3 will be the 5.8 inch OLED screen model, not the 6.1 inch LCD screen one. This is apparently because they have cut a better deal on the OLED screens with Samsung and will have cheaper memory costs. It’s unclear if that means less RAM or crummier RAM. At any rate, it’s possible the bottom end phone will start at around $800, which might reel in more customers than the $999 price point, which has apparently put off a significant number of prospective buyers.

Google is buying the assets of Lytro, the makers of the light field camera. You may recall the odd, rectangular cams that allowed you to take a picture, then adjust the focus after the fact. 9to5google.com reports that Google could incorporate the tech in their Pixel phones, already arguably the best cameras in smartphones, but more interestingly, Google is wanting to use the tech in virtual and augmented reality. The asset sale means not all Lytro employees will be picked up by google, but Lytro’s 59 patents for light fields and digital imaging will be.


Oculus Connect 3 Headlines; Where NOT to Buy Your Google Pixel Phone

Mark Zuckerberg was front and center yesterday for Oculus Connect 3. The VR company is working on a standalone headset that will tuck into the lineup between the expensive, PC tethered Oculus Rift and a Gear VR. It will have position tracking.

There’s a drop date for the very late Oculus Touch motion controllers…they’ll be out December 6th, and run $199. They do include an extra camera sensor for tracking. You can also add a 3rd sensor for an additional $79 for room scale VR, according to theverge.com.

Another December present….$49 in-ear Rift headphones to complement the on ear models the Rift comes with.

More games are on the way, and they have partnered with Disney on some original short films based on classic characters.

If you are lusting for a new Pixel phone from Google, here’s a tip…don’t buy it through Verizon, unless you want to wait and wait for software updates. According to arstechnica.com, Verizon will control when updates get pushed out, not Google, on the phones they sell. Although they are the ‘exclusive’ provider, you can buy the phones unlocked from the Google Store, Best Buy, Target, and Walmart. The phone will work with any carrier. If you want to ensure that your software gets updated in a timely way, don’t buy it through Verizon.


Not Quite a Facebook ‘Dislike’ Button

Marketingland.com says that while Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg has said the social network is working on something like a ‘Dislike’ button, it’s not exactly that. They are very close to shipping a test of the new feature, but Zuckerberg has reiterated his opinion that Facebook doesn’t want to create a situation where people are downvoting other people’s posts. He gave no specifics about what the button or buttons would be called but said the idea is to give people a way to express empathy. He says the real trick is to make something that fits this criteria, but still keep it simple enough for a button.

AT&T has kicked up it’s so-called ‘unlimited’ plan to a ceiling of 22 gigs of downloads a month before getting throttled. The old policy was 5 gigabytes. The move wasn’t due to their great altruism…it was the threat of a 100 million dollar FCC fine that did the trick. Throttling is actually prohibited under the new net neutrality rules, according to theverge.com, but the federal agency does allow for ‘reasonable network management.’