Start up: Samsung eyes Note 7, iOS 10 further limits ad tracking, the Olympics and doping, and more


How far would you go out of your way to avoid walking through a graveyard? It might give some indication about your political alignment. Photo by VirtKitty on Flickr.

A selection of 11 links for you. They don’t write good. I’m charlesarthur on Twitter. Observations and links welcome.

iOS 10 to feature stronger “Limit Ad Tracking” control • Future of Privacy Forum

Stacey Gray:

»Most ad networks treated this flag [Settings – Privacy – Advertising: Limit Ad Tracking] as a user request to opt-out of “behavioral advertising” or “interest based advertising.” Some ad networks continued to target ads based on location or continued to use the ad to help enable cross-device tracking. Other companies treated the flag as a broader opt-out of any targeting and tracking. Apple specifically permitted companies to continue to use the ID for certain limited other uses when Limit ad Tracking was enabled, including “frequency capping, attribution, conversion events, estimating the number of unique users, advertising fraud detection, and debugging.” (iOS Developer Library)

Beginning in iOS 10, when a user enables “Limit Ad Tracking,” the OS will send along the advertising identifier with a new value of “00000000-0000-0000-0000-000000000000.” This will more effectively ensure that users are no longer targeted or tracked by many ad networks across sites. or over time. But it will also prevent the previously permitted “frequency capping, attribution, conversion events, estimating the number of unique users, advertising fraud detection, and debugging” uses of this ID.

The number of users who enable “Limit Ad Tracking” is now at roughly 17% of iPhone users, down from earlier years. Some speculate this is due to users moving on to use adblocking.

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Possibly people just didn’t know about it.
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The Internet of Things will turn large-scale hacks into real world disasters • Motherboard

Bruce Schneier:

»With the advent of the Internet of Things and cyber-physical systems in general, we’ve given the internet hands and feet: the ability to directly affect the physical world. What used to be attacks against data and information have become attacks against flesh, steel, and concrete.

Today’s threats include hackers crashing airplanes by hacking into computer networks, and remotely disabling cars, either when they’re turned off and parked or while they’re speeding down the highway. We’re worried about manipulated counts from electronic voting machines, frozen water pipes through hacked thermostats, and remote murder through hacked medical devices. The possibilities are pretty literally endless. The Internet of Things will allow for attacks we can’t even imagine.

The increased risks come from three things: software control of systems, interconnections between systems, and automatic or autonomous systems. Let’s look at them in turn…

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…from between our fingers, behind the sofa.
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Doping and an Olympic crisis of idealism • The New Yorker

Louisa Thomas:

»Most of the major anti-doping success stories—the cases of Lance Armstrong; balco; and, now, the Russian Olympic team—relied on whistle-blowers and methods more commonly associated with criminal investigations. Doping is a problem in the N.F.L., N.B.A., M.L.B., N.C.A.A., in tennis, in horse racing, in Nascar—everywhere the rewards far exceed the punishment. But it is a particular challenge for the Olympics, because the Olympics are supposed to mean something more than an athletic competition.

The distance between the ideal and the reality has never seemed greater. The bribery scandal during the bidding for the 2002 Salt Lake City Winter Games exposed an organization rotted by corruption. The price of hosting an Olympics has become so astronomical that few cities, especially in democratic countries, are willing to do it. In the cities that do, the residents who are least prepared to bear the costs often end up bearing the most. The runaway spending during the 2004 Athens Games—much of which was public debt—became a symbol of what was wrong with Greece’s economy when it went bust a few years later. In Beijing, the magnificent “Bird’s Nest” stadium sits underused and rusting. The risk of terrorism has led to draconian surveillance and security measures. Right after the Sochi Olympics, the host nation forcefully annexed Crimea.

And now Rio seems to be a catastrophe even before it begins. The water is polluted, the country is in a deep recession, the government is in the midst of political scandal, and the city is facing rising crime rates. Then came the Russian doping scandal.

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Is your brain Republican or Democrat? • ChartsMe

»27 strange non-political scenarios will appear. Please respond honestly and alone and we’ll guess your brain’s political ideology.

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Honestly, this is fun to try. Have a go.
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Gawker founder Nick Denton files for bankruptcy • POLITICO Media

Peter Sterne:

»On Monday afternoon, Denton sent the following memo, with the subject line “Before the dawn,” to Gawker employees:

“You may have seen the news that I have, as expected, had to join the company in bankruptcy. Peter Thiel’s legal campaign has targeted individual writers like Sam Biddle, editors such as John Cook, and me as publisher. It is a personal vendetta. And yes, it’s a disturbing to live in a world in which a billionaire can bully journalists because he didn’t like the coverage.

“Still, I’m in a positive frame of mind, because our influential brands will soon be free to thrive under new ownership, and our very existence as an independent entity has been a triumph. For once, the journalistic cliché is appropriate: We’ve spoken truth to power. Sometimes uncomfortable truths. Sometimes gossipy truths. But truths. There is a price to pay for that, and I am paying it now. But we never gave up our souls in the pursuit of an easy life.”

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There’s more to the memo; Gawker traffic is up, ad revenue is up. The bankruptcy filing is to avoid Hulk Hogan moving to seize his assets.
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Samsung’s new jumbo phone unlocks with iris scanner • Associated Press

Anick Jesdanun:

»You’ll be able to unlock Samsung’s new phone by just looking at it.

The Galaxy Note 7 will come with an iris scanner, which matches patterns in your eyes with what was detected by your phone during setup. It offers an alternative to fingerprint ID, which doesn’t work well when fingers are wet. Of course, the four-digit passcode will still work.

“We challenged our engineers to design a security system that’s convenient and safe at the same time,” said Justin Denison, a senior vice president for product strategy at Samsung. “It took five years to perfect, but it only takes a glance to unlock your phone.”

Samsung isn’t first, though. Microsoft’s Lumia 950 phones had it.

Beyond that, the updates in the Note 7 are mostly enhancements, such as a stronger glass screen and more storage — 64 gigabytes, or double what Samsung usually offers, plus a slot to add more.

The Note 7 comes with a better camera — but it’s the same one that the smaller Galaxy S7 phones got in March, save for interface enhancements to access settings and switch between the front and rear cameras more easily.

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Neat idea, the iris scanner. Look forward to hearing about the accuracy. Also: August is a strange time to release a phone, but Samsung is now pushing everything forward to get away from the iPhone and to beat its previous year figures.
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How Samsung plans its phones • The Verge

Sam Byford interviews Kim Gae-youn, who is in charge of smartphone planning at Samsung:

»Why was it not possible to include things like waterproofing and a microSD slot before [in the Galaxy S6] — what can you do this year that you couldn’t do last year?

Kim Gae-youn: It takes time, right? So we at Samsung scrutinize what’s the real need for the consumer, so we understand the market and the consumer needs. And we have an end goal, but it takes time. So the S6 was our first time to apply the glass and metal materials for a smartphone design, and we tried to incorporate all that the customer needs, but there was a time limit so we prioritized which features went to the S6 and then we adopted other customer needs for the S7. So it’s a matured product.

SB: How important do you think those features are, if you released the S6 without them?

KGY: So we prioritized, as I said. At the time there were technological and time limitations so we had to decide whether we were going to choose the better aesthetic design, or waterproofing and the SD card slot. We chose the better design at that time, but we understand the market needs for the higher memory size, right, so that’s why we expanded our memory SKUs to 32, 64, and 128. With the S7, now we have the SD card slot so we’re going to reduce the memory SKUs. 32GB and maybe 64GB in the future.

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This is a fascinating interview, ranging over topics like removable batteries (better to have fast-charging non-removables), bloatware, pricing.. Samsung is a company which thinks clearly about these things. It is (as Benedict Evans has observed) much more like a smartphone version of the old featurephone king Nokia than it is like Apple.
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Murder victim’s phone unlocked with paper fingerprint after 3D printing fails • The Verge

Rich McCormick:

»Researchers who attempted to unlock a murder victim’s phone using a 3D printed replica of one of his fingers were forced to use an alternative method last week, after the models produced were found not to be accurate enough to gain access. The team from Michigan State University was asked by police to gain access to the phone, which was eventually unlocked with a 2D image of the dead man’s fingerprints, enhanced manually to fill in gaps in the original image, and rendered on conductive paper.

Both 2D and 3D versions of the dead man’s fingerprints were produced, but the poor quality of the original image kept in police files stymied the efforts of the team, led by professor Anil Jain. After a failed first attempt, the team used an image enhancement algorithm to fill in broken lines in the print, allowing them to successfully unlock the Samsung Galaxy S6 involved in the investigation. Fortunately for the team, the phone in question did not require a passcode after failed fingerprint attempts, allowing Jain and his colleagues to keep trying options indefinitely.

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So the Galaxy S6 doesn’t require a passcode after a certain time, which the iPhone does? You can play this both ways: yay, murder victim’s phone unlocked with potentially useful clues! Or: oh noes, police/crooks can get into your Galaxy phone given enough time.
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The future is dark…data • ZL Tech

Mike Flores:

»Gartner.com defines dark data as “the information assets organizations collect, process and store during regular business activities, but generally fail to use for other purposes (for example, analytics, business relationships and direct monetizing)” and blah, blah, blah…it’s basically unused or unprocessed and usually unstructured data that sits in storage. And while that might sound not so bad, it actually gets a little nefarious when you really start looking into it.

The thing is an estimated 80% of stored data is dark data – shoutout to our good friend, Vilfredo Pareto [of Pareto’s power law, on how most attention goes to a few things] – and that starts getting really bad really fast when you consider how much new data is created each day and how many tera- or petabytes of data exist in, say, your average Fortune 500. Or just your average business, even.

And even if you aren’t the CEO of a startup or multi-billion dollar corporation and are more like a casual reader who stumbled across this article, this should still be bad news to you. Why? Well, because your personal information exists somewhere in this black sea of unused bits and bytes and if you’re going to become the victim of fraud or identity theft or some cybercrime in the future, there’s a good chance it’s going to be due to the misplacement of this so-called dark data.

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Exclusive: Hackers accessed Telegram messaging accounts in Iran – researchers • Reuters

Joseph Menn and Yeganeh Torbati:

»Telegram’s vulnerability, according to Anderson and Guarnieri, lies in its use of SMS text messages to activate new devices. When users want to log on to Telegram from a new phone, the company sends them authorization codes via SMS, which can be intercepted by the phone company and shared with the hackers, the researchers said.

Armed with the codes, the hackers can add new devices to a person’s Telegram account, enabling them to read chat histories as well as new messages.

“We have over a dozen cases in which Telegram accounts have been compromised, through ways that sound like basically coordination with the cellphone company,” Anderson said in an interview.

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Searching for what’s next • Techpinions

Ben Bajarin:

»There are still a few hardware innovations in smartphones to come, like dual lens cameras, which will continue to drive new software innovations. But largely, we are moving from a hardware cycle to a software cycle. This hardware cycle adds roughly another billion consumers to the computing landscape and, between PCs, smartphones, and tablets, we now have roughly two billion people with an internet-connected computing device. During the PC era, our software scale was measured in hundreds of millions but now, thanks to the smartphone, the software industry scale is two billion global consumers and growing.

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Dual-lens cameras, allied to on-device or fast cloud connections, have huge potential – not for photographs, but for machine vision. The phone (app, service) won’t just know where it is but because the dual lens gives a 3D picture, it can work out what it is looking at, and all of the scene. That feels like a move with giant potential.
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