Start Up: phishing Trump, Amazon’s Echo gets a screen, Pandora’s slim chance, Fyred!, and more


The way salt works on our bodies might be different from what we thought. Photo by Yair Aronshtam on Flickr.

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A selection of 9 links for you. Use them wisely. I’m @charlesarthur on Twitter. Observations and links welcome.

Danger ahead: the government’s plan for vehicle-to-vehicle communication threatens privacy, security, and common sense • Electronic Frontier Foundation

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Imagine if your car could send messages about its speed and movements to other cars on the road around it. That’s the dream of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), which thinks of Vehicle-to-Vehicle (V2V) communication technology as the leading solution for reducing accident rates in the United States. But there’s a huge problem: it’s extremely difficult to have cars “talk” to each other in a way that protects the privacy and security of the people inside them, and NHTSA’s proposal doesn’t come close to successfully addressing those issues. EFF filed public comments with both NHTSA and the FTC explaining why it needs to go back to the drawing board — and spend some serious time there — before moving forward with any V2V proposal.

NHTSA’s V2V plan involves installing special devices in cars that will broadcast and receive Basic Safety Messages (BSMs) via short-range wireless communication channels. These messages will include information about a vehicle’s speed, brake status, etc. But one big problem is that by broadcasting unencrypted data about themselves at all times, cars with these devices will be incredibly easy to track.

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To put it mildly.
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Here’s how easy it is to get Trump officials to click on a fake link in email • Gizmodo

Ashley Feinberg, Kashmir Hill, and Surya Mattu:

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three weeks ago, Gizmodo Media Group’s Special Projects Desk launched a security preparedness test directed at Giuliani and 14 other people associated with the Trump Administration. We sent them an email that mimicked an invitation to view a spreadsheet in Google Docs. The emails came from the address security.test@gizmodomedia.com, but the sender name each one displayed was that of someone who might plausibly email the recipient, such as a colleague, friend, or family member.

The link in the document would take them to what looked like a Google sign-in page, asking them to submit their Google credentials. The url of the page included the word “test.” The page was not set up to actually record or retain the text of their passwords, just to register who had attempted to submit login information.

Some of the Trump Administration people completely ignored our email, the right move. But it appears that more than half the recipients clicked the link: Eight different unique devices visited the site, one of them multiple times. There’s no way to tell for sure if the recipients themselves did all the clicking (as opposed to, say, an IT specialist they’d forwarded it to), but seven of the connections occurred within 10 minutes of the emails being sent.

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The even more amazing thing is that the lure is “Donald Trump has invited you to edit the following spreadsheet”.
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Did this experimental smartphone just solve one of tech’s big problems? • Fast Co Design

Katharine Schwab:

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Smart devices continue to infiltrate our homes, but they’re often dependent on slow, clunky smartphone apps. Manually pulling up a different app just to turn on a light, turn up the AC, or reboot your Wi-Fi isn’t just annoying – it’s bad design. While the smart home market is projected to grow from $46.97bn in 2015 to $121.73bn by 2022, actually living in a smart home can be incredibly frustrating – an example of how poor UX could have serious business implications as the industry continues to grow.

A new prototype smartphone called the EM-Sensing phone from the Future Interfaces Group at Carnegie Mellon University has the potential to address the problem, using a sensor and chip to recognize appliances nearby. When a user simply taps the phone to whatever product they want to control – whether that’s a refrigerator or printer – the phone automatically pulls up the appliance’s dedicated application.

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Wrong answer, because the question is being framed wrongly. The answer to “why are devices slow to respond on my smartphone?” isn’t “bring their apps up more quickly”. It’s about improving what the devices themselves can do, if that’s really what you need.

And the whole idea of the smartphone is that you don’t need to be right next to the device – that you can do it from elsewhere. So the “context” idea becomes even worse. (In passing: another success for Betteridge’s Law.)
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Why everything we know about salt may be wrong • The New York Times

Gina Kolata:

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[Classic theory says] If you eat a lot of salt — sodium chloride — you will become thirsty and drink water, diluting your blood enough to maintain the proper concentration of sodium. Ultimately you will excrete much of the excess salt and water in urine.

The theory is intuitive and simple. And it may be completely wrong.

New studies of Russian cosmonauts, held in isolation to simulate space travel, show that eating more salt made them less thirsty but somehow hungrier. Subsequent experiments found that mice burned more calories when they got more salt, eating 25% more just to maintain their weight.

The research, published recently in two dense papers in The Journal of Clinical Investigation, contradicts much of the conventional wisdom about how the body handles salt and suggests that high levels may play a role in weight loss.

The findings have stunned kidney specialists.

“This is just very novel and fascinating,” said Dr. Melanie Hoenig, an assistant professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School. “The work was meticulously done.”

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Turned out if they got more salt, the astronauts would drink less. Logically: they made their own water. How? Breaking down fat and muscle. (But don’t go starting a high-salt diet to lose weight.)
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Amazon unveils the $230 Echo Show, with a screen for calls, shipping June 28 • TechCrunch

Ingrid Lunden:

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While previous versions of the Echo have been all about asking Alexa questions and getting responses from her, this new device takes a more IRL turn: one of the main selling points is that you can use the Echo Show to make and take video calls, with other humans.

The device, which comes in black and white versions, will cost $229.99 and will be shipped from June 28, with preorders available now. It appears that it will be available first in the U.S. only.

For those who follow the company, the new device may not come as a surprise, following several leaks about the product before today, with two coming in the last week alone, one yesterday claiming the device would be unveiled today.

“Echo Show brings you everything you love about Alexa, and now she can show you things. Watch video flash briefings and YouTube, see music lyrics, security cameras, photos, weather forecasts, to-do and shopping lists, and more. All hands-free—just ask,” Amazon notes in its blurb on its product page.

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Essentially this and the Apple Watch are two versions of a similar idea: take some of the things that are inconvenient on a smartphone, or that you like to do a lot (set a timer, check the weather, control some music) and put them into a device that doesn’t do everything a smartphone does, but is embodied differently.

Imagine an Amazon wearable: it would do much the same as the Echo does. Imagine an Apple “Echo”: what would it do any differently?

The only question now is how big the market for these things is. The Echo Show is basically an iPad without a touch screen or battery (power only).
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Pandora looks for a buyer as losses increase • Fortune.com

Mathew Ingram:

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The music industry graveyard is full of once-hot digital players who fell on hard times due to the changing economics of the business over the past decade or so, and they could soon be joined by one of the earliest music startups: Pandora Media.

On Monday, the company said that it is exploring “strategic alternatives,” which is thinly disguised code for “we are looking for a buyer.” The stock is down by 24% this year, and it has lost more than 75% of its market value since 2014.

Pandora has been for sale before, although not officially. It was said to be looking for acquirers early last year, and reportedly had talks with Amazon and satellite music operator Sirius XM. But then founder Tim Westergren returned as CEO, and said that a sale wasn’t in the cards.

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It just took a $150m investment from KKR, its losses have increased despite revenue going up by 6% and it has more subscribers (4.7m). But they’re spending less time listening to music, and active listeners is down. Only a matter of time before someone (probably Sirius XM) buys it – probably forced by the hedge funds which own big chunks of it.
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What’s wrong with Twitter’s live-video strategy • The New Yorker

Om Malik:

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[Jack] Dorsey, who has struggled to make shareholders happy, seemed determined not to waste the momentum—video is where advertisers want to be, so video they shall have.

As someone who has used Twitter since its earliest days, I found this announcement frustrating. Twitter’s hope is that news, sports, and celebrity live shows will keep its three hundred and twenty-eight million monthly active users coming back to the platform. And, with almost four billion dollars in the bank, Twitter can afford to experiment. Yet, despite Dorsey’s declaration that the video strategy fits with his company’s focus on being “the first place that anyone hears of anything that’s going on that matters to them,” it seems to fight against what makes the platform tick.

Twitter is short-form, real-time, and text-based. It’s built for instant alerts and rapid consumption. It is an ideal system for delivering sips of information from an abundant stream. But the live-video effort forces you not only to leave the stream but to set aside time to watch. This is an idea that must have come from a financial guy’s head: we need to boost engagement and make money, so let’s live-stream and keep people longer and sell advertisements. The question is, does any Twitter user want this?

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Nope. But these days it’s not about what users want (on any platform that has achieved sufficient scale). It’s about what will mollify the advertisers, and by proxy, future or current investors.
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Fyre Festival lawsuit targets social media endorsements • Fortune.com

Jeff John Roberts:

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The Fyre Festival controversy also comes weeks after the Federal Trade Commission issued a warning to Instagram influencers saying that they must do more to disclose when they are paid to shill for stuff. In the past, the agency has censured brands for using celebrities in stealth social campaigns, but has not taken against the celebrities themselves. The Fyre debacle could prove an occasion to do just that.

For now, the California class action suit has yet to name specific influencers, instead referring to 100 unnamed “Jane Does.” McGeveren says this decision not to name Fyre influencers like Jenner or model Emily Ratajkowski could be a tactic to encourage the influencers to turn against the organizers to keep themselves out of trouble. It could also be a tactic to use the legal process known as discovery to learn more about how Fyre recruited and paid the influencers.

But however the legal process unfolds, it’s likely to make Instagram celebrities think twice about how they rent out their social media profiles. Not only did the Fyre Festival promotions hurt their credibility with fans—it could also hurt them in the pocket books if a judge decides they share any of the legal blame for the event.

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OK, but it’s hard to see exactly what the people like Kendall Jenner who posted stuff saying there was a festival happening and that they were “hyped” and “stoked” and “excited” about it can be prosecuted for. How do you prove that they *weren’t* hyped, stoked, etc, but that their ardour then dimmed? The posts also don’t make any representation about what the festival will be like (wisely, as it turns out). Not an open goal.
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Workflow update restores Google Chrome and Pocket actions, extends Apple Music integration • MacStories

Federico Viticc:

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Workflow 1.7.4 restores integration with Google Chrome and Pocket, bringing back actions that allow users to open webpages in Google’s browser and save articles to and retrieve them from the popular read-later service, respectively.

While the Google Chrome actions that were pulled from Workflow 1.7.3 could be replicated manually by using Google’s documented URL schemes, the visual actions are easier to use and better integrated with other features of Workflow. Similarly, while advanced users could recreate their own Pocket integration by calling the Pocket API from Workflow, the process was inconvenient; native actions enable deeper, faster integration with Pocket, which can be used to save links for later and search the user’s saved article history.

Today’s update brings good news for Google Chrome and Pocket users, but other integrations that had been removed with the March 22 update – including Google Street View, Telegram, and Uber – still haven’t been restored by Apple.

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I really want to see how Apple integrates this into iOS, as is generally expected. Scripting tends to be a minority sport, but an essential one for power users.
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Errata, corrigenda and ai no corrida: none notified

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