Start Up: Google gets launching, Facebook’s miserly video, Trumps’ private email server, and more


Want that unsettling continually rising or falling sound from Dunkirk, the film? Coming to a computer near you in a moment. Photo by waldopepper on Flickr.

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A selection of 11 links for you. Use them wisely. I’m @charlesarthur on Twitter. Observations and links welcome.

Equifax can’t protect data, but it can keep a secret • Bloomberg Gadfly

Stephen Gandel:

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Equifax, as everyone knows now, proved inept at securing the most sensitive personal and financial data of as many as 143 million Americans. But it turns out the company was exceptionally good at protecting news of the hack from getting out.

The credit-reporting bureau was, it seems, able to keep that news from top executives, the board and eventually the public for far longer than other corporate victims. LinkedIn confirmed a 2012 hack just three days after the social network found out about it.

Target confirmed its huge hack in 2014 seven days after it was discovered, and a day after rumors, spread by cybersecurity bloggers, had begun circulating that the retailer’s customers’ credit card information had been breached. At Equifax, however, the company was able to keep that information safe from the public for 39 days. And you say former CEO Richard Smith isn’t deserving of a $7.6m stock bonus?…

…[John] Kelley, the company’s top lawyer, and, once again, also the head of corporate security, signed off on the stock sales [by insiders] although he had been made aware of suspicious cyber activity on July 30. It wasn’t until two weeks later, in the afternoon, that Smith’s crack team of 225 cybersecurity experts were able to report back to the CEO that its consumer database had been hacked. That’s important, because just that morning, conveniently before his hack briefing, Smith gave a rosy speech about the company and how it understood the importance of cybersecurity.

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This is just gobsmacking. Equifax isn’t out of the woods by a long way.
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3 billion Yahoo users hit in 2013 data breach, the company now says • USA Today

Elizabeth Weise:

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All 3 billion of Yahoo’s users as of 2013 were affected by a data theft the company originally said had only affected 1 billion users, Yahoo said Tuesday in a statement. That makes the Yahoo hack far and away the largest in history. 

The additional two billion data theft victims came to light as Yahoo was being integrated with Verizon, which bought the company in June for $4.5 billion. 

“During integration, the company recently obtained new intelligence and now believes, following an investigation with the assistance of outside forensic experts, that all Yahoo user accounts were affected by the August 2013 theft,” the company said in a statement posted on its website Tuesday. 

The revelation isn’t a huge security issue for the company or for users, though it is a black eye at a time when cybersecurity is in the limelight due the Equifax hack. 

The 2016 investigation found that the stolen user account information did not include passwords in clear text, payment card data, or bank account information. 

Yahoo said it would send email notifications to the additional affected user accounts.

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Yahoo has 3bn users? Yeah right. 3bn accounts, maybe. I’d love to know how many of those email notifications never get read.
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What to expect from the Google event this week • AndroidAuthority

Mitja Rutnik:

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Google will be holding an event on October 4 in San Francisco, where the company is expected to announce a number of new devices. Rumor has it that we’ll see a Chromebook, an upgraded VR headset, a couple of smart speakers, and more revealed alongside the two new Pixel smartphones.

In this post, we’ll take a closer look at all of the devices that might make their debut at the event, to give you a better idea of what to expect. Just keep in mind that most of what you’ll read down below should be considered as a rumor for now, as Google hasn’t shared any specific details regarding the products it will show off.

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New Pixel phones, new big and little Google Homes, new Daydream View VR headset, new Google Pixelbook. There you go. Reaction to the new Pixels will be interesting; more interesting will be what sort of volume it can make them in. Given it’s LG making this line, it could be substantial – if Google has committed enough.
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Pivot to pennies: Facebook’s key video ad program isn’t delivering much money to publishers • Digiday

Sahil Patel:

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Six months in, Facebook’s test of mid-roll ad breaks within live and on-demand videos is driving scant revenue for publishers.

Five publishers participating in Facebook’s mid-roll ads test, which began in March, said the product isn’t generating much money. One publisher said its Facebook-monetized videos had an average CPM of 15 cents. A second publisher, which calculated ad rates based on video views that lasted long enough to reach the ad break, said the average CPM for its mid-rolls is 75 cents. (Facebook’s mid-roll ads don’t show up inside videos in the first 20 seconds, which means many three-second video views aren’t “monetized views.”)

A third publisher made roughly $500 from more than 20 million total video views on that page in September.* (This publisher had not calculated its CPM, as its total video view count includes videos that were not monetized by Facebook mid-rolls.)…

…“They are paying literal pennies in CPMs,” said the first publishing source. “They are only paying if a view gets to the 20-second mark and the user consumes the ad. But if Facebook is counting views at 3 seconds, the majority of the views are not going to quality. If you got a million views on a piece of content, maybe 100,000 of them would actually get to the mid-roll.”

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$500 probably isn’t going to cover the cost of making the video. Sure, it’s going to be around forever, but its earning life is probably going to be mostly done already.
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Binaural Shepard tone generator • myNoise.net

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This brain-melting generator came from a user’s request for a Shepard Tone generator. The Shepard Tone is an auditory illusion, whose pitch sounds like it is ascending or descending, yet never seems to get any higher or lower. In this case, the odd numbered sliders produce the rising tones, and the even numbered sliders produce the falling tones. By mixing the two together you will produce truly mind-bending audio signals. As an added bonus, and to make this Shepard tone generator sound unique, each slider has been binaurally encoded, and throws the complete spectrum of brainwave frequencies into the mix!

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The Shepard tone is a favourite of film director Christopher Nolan – it’s used extensively in Dunkirk (and a little in Interstellar). Note the warnings:

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This sound can cause anxiety and panic attacks. If you suffer from either of these conditions, do not listen to this sound generator. Instead, try one of our more soothing ones, like Osmosis. Shepard Madness can be very unpleasant, or amusing, depending on the person who is listening. Make sure you can tolerate side effects including increased heart rate, headache, dizziness, and nausea. If you feel faint, just leave this page, and put your head between your knees to recover quickly.

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Enjoy!
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Ivanka Trump, Jared Kushner have secret email account hosted by Trump Organization • Newsweek

Chris Riotta:

»

The married couple registered the domain ijkfamily.com on December 31, just 21 days prior to Trump’s inauguration, Politico reported Monday night. Internet sleuths including Arieh Kovler, a communications consultant, responded to the reporting by quickly uncovering a critical component of the story: A joint email account on ijkfamily.com, the Kushner family domain, that was used by two of the president’s closest advisers and monitored by their personal household staff was hosted on servers owned by the Trump family’s private organization.

The new finding is likely to raise a number of ethics and security concerns, including whether it’s appropriate or even legal for members of the White House administration to use email accounts hosted by the first family’s private business. There’s also the issue of who had access to the couple’s private email account during their time in the White House: Anyone from employees of the Trump Organization to the company it uses for IT purposes, BBH Solutions, as well as foreign adversaries and hackers, may have already gained access to the data—or could eventually retrieve the emails if they remain stored on Trump servers.

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People are going to be so exhausted of email pretty soon.
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Forget Russian trolls. Facebook’s own staff helped win the election • Buzzfeed

Daniel Kreiss and Shannon McGregor:

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our research shows another, less discussed aspect of Facebook’s political influence was far more consequential in terms of the election outcome. The entirely routine use of Facebook by Trump’s campaign and others — a major part of the $1.1bn of paid digital advertising during the cycle — is likely to have had far greater reach than Russian bots and fake news sites. And beyond this reach, our research reveals that firms such as Facebook, Google, and Twitter now play a much more active role in electoral politics than has been widely acknowledged.

Those companies had staff working hand in hand with Trump campaign digital staffers, according to Gary Coby, the director of advertising at the RNC [Republican National Congress] and director of digital advertising and fundraising for Trump’s general election campaign. “I required that if people wanted to work with us, they needed to send bodies to us in Texas and put people on the ground because Hillary had this giant machine, well-built out with digital operations, and we’re just a few guys and a big Twitter account,” he told us.

“Google, Twitter, and Facebook, we had people who were down there constantly and constantly working with us, helping us solve our problems in relation to how we’re using the platforms,” he said. “If we’re coming up with new ideas, bringing them into the fold to come up with ideas of how their platform could help us achieve our goals.”…

…Not all campaigns use Facebook, Twitter, and Google in the same way. Hillary Clinton built a large in-house staff to execute digital media on the campaign, but with a lean staff, the Trump team likely benefited more from the help provided by the tech companies. The expertise these firms provided to the campaign’s general-election San Antonio office was particularly important, and days after the election, Trump’s digital director said Facebook played a “critical role” in its success.

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iPhone 8, Qi wireless charging, and the challenge of open • Tech.pinions

Ben Bajarin on the fact that it’s easy to misalign the iPhone 8/Plus on a wireless charging pad – in which case it doesn’t charge:

»

While many third parties disliked Apple’s MFI accessory program, the guidelines Apple had in place for third parties to create accessories for their products led to consistent experiences with third-party products and Apple products. At the moment, we don’t have the same situation with Qi Wireless charging. While Apple’s embracing of the Qi standard means they will certainly get involved and help drive the standard and the technology forward, for now, Apple runs the risk of having third-party solutions not meet their standards of an accessory that will work with iPhones.

Further observations on the challenge of open ecosystems lead us to both Microsoft and Google now going full steam ahead with their own hardware roadmap. I do find it interesting that both the largest open software platforms in history have led the companies who created them into the hardware market. Both Android and Windows have such diversity in offerings that you can have a quality experience with the platform and a sub-par one all with the same software platform. Both platforms have a great deal of inconsistency in their user experience. They do try to manage this by defining the hardware and software specs as much as possible but in open systems, you can only define your standard so far and still allow your partners to differentiate. It is a double-edged sword.

I view both Microsoft’s and Google’s efforts in hardware as strong evidence of the challenge open systems create and their attempts to address those challenges and provide a “best of” experience that they hope others aspire to duplicate.

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OK, but in general, you do this wrong once and you don’t get it wrong again. But he is right: this isn’t an elegant solution at all, which is classic “open system” effects – cheaper wins.
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Apple quietly acquired computer vision startup Regaind • TechCrunch

Romain Dillet:

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Regaind has been working on a computer vision API to analyze the content of photos. Apple added intelligent search to the Photos app on your iPhone a couple of years ago. For instance, you can search for “sunset” or “dog” to get photos of sunsets and your dog.

In order to do this, Apple analyzes your photo library when you’re sleeping. When you plug your iPhone to a charger and you’re not using your iPhone, your device is doing some computing to figure out what’s inside your photos.

Regaind goes one step further and can tell you the technical and aesthetic values of your photos. For instance, if you shoot a bunch of photos in burst mode, Regaind could automatically find the best shot and use it as the main shot in your photo library. Regaind could also hide duplicates.

With this technology, Apple could improve the Memories tab in the Photos app. iOS automatically creates albums based on events, location and more. With Regaind, iOS could also look for photos that are visually similar, surface the best shot as a cover art and create a recap video with the best shots.

Interestingly, Regaind also analyzes your face to determine your gender, age and emotion. It’s unclear if Apple had enough time to leverage Regaind with iOS 11.

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My guess: not. But this is likely to get incorporated laer.
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Consumers want Apple’s iPhone X more than the iPhone 8, analyst says • TheStreet

Annie Palmer:

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Apple’s iPhone X appears to be winning over more consumers than the iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 Plus. 

That’s according to new data from RBC Capital Markets, which surveyed more than 4,000 people interested in buying an iPhone and found that 28% of respondents said they plan on purchasing the iPhone X. By comparison, about 17% said they want to buy an iPhone 8, while 20% intend on purchasing an iPhone 8 Plus. 

“Our survey helps confirm our thesis that the rich feature set and differentiated design of the iPhone X will enable a mix shift toward it despite its significant price premium,” RBC analyst Amit Daryanani wrote in a note to clients on Monday. “It is the most popular iPhone among our survey respondents with 28% planning to buy it.” 

Wall Street has been growing increasingly concerned that consumers aren’t buying the iPhone 8, in favor of waiting for the iPhone X. Reports suggested that there was substantially lower demand for the cheaper iPhone 8/8 Plus, due to only incremental changes to the phone’s form factor and features, compared to the iPhone X, which may represent the biggest overhaul in the iPhone’s design and functionality in several years.

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The pent-up demand for the iPhone X is no surprise, though note that the demand for those three new models only adds up to 65%. So a third of would-be buyers are looking to older phones. What will be fun to watch is how supplies of the X are allocated between China, the US and Europe. I’d imagine its cachet will be enormous in China, and that to revive its sales there Apple will send a fair number of devices there rather than, say, Europe.
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KGI: TrueDepth camera gives Apple 2.5 year lead over Android competitors • Mac Rumors

Juli Clover:

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It will take Apple’s Android competitors up to two and a half years to replicate the functionality and user experience of the TrueDepth Camera in the iPhone X, KGI Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo told investors in a note shared this morning.

In a previous report, Kuo predicted it would take one to two years for competitors to catch up, but having watched Apple’s official technical demonstrations in detail, it’s now believed it will take longer to replicate the user experience.

The TrueDepth camera will give Apple a solid technological lead throughout 2018 and 2019, leading Kuo to say KGI has “full confidence” in the iPhone’s growth prospects in the high-end smartphone market over the next couple of years despite iPhone X constraints in 2017.

KGI Securities has revised its 2017 iPhone X shipping estimates from 40 million to 30-35 million units, but Kuo says the firm stands by its “positive outlook” on shipments of future iPhones equipped with the TrueDepth Camera.

Apple’s TrueDepth camera system enables its Face ID facial recognition system and other features like advanced face tracking and analysis for Animoji. Rumors suggest the difficulty of manufacturing the TrueDepth camera is what has led to significant iPhone X production issues, severely limiting initial available supply.

Apple’s competitors like Samsung and Google will also need to overcome these development and manufacturing hurdles to create a product that’s similar to the TrueDepth Camera. Samsung has already released a device with facial recognition capabilities, but it is inferior to Apple’s solution as it is limited to 2D tracking making it less secure and easy to fool.

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Errata, corrigenda and ai no corrida: none notified

One thought on “Start Up: Google gets launching, Facebook’s miserly video, Trumps’ private email server, and more

  1. Re: Qi, I rarely hear people complain that gazoline is standard, or power plugs. It certainly is convenient to have a whole infrastructure usable by anyone.
    If they find mis-placing the phone too easy… design a better charging mat, say with a built in cradle for the phone ?
    The whole rant feels like a snob’s whining about using the same as everyone else.

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