Start Up: the duo who took on Google, cracking Facebook, Dyon’s electric cars, Nokia to drop wearables?, and more

It’s written in Telugu, and it can crash your iMessage app – until a forthcoming iOS update. Photo by Sean Ellis on Flickr

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A selection of 11 links for you. Also: Friday! I’m @charlesarthur on Twitter. Observations and links welcome.

Google will make copyright disclaimers more prominent in image search • The Verge

Thuy Ong:


Getty Images and Google announced the forming of a multiyear global licensing partnership, nearly two years after Getty filed a competition law complaint against Google with the European Commission. As part of the partnership, Google will be modifying its image search to improve attribution of contributors’ work. The changes will also include making copyright disclaimers more prominent and removing view image links to the image URL.

The April 2016 complaint, which Getty has since formally withdrawn, accused Google of creating galleries of “high-resolution, copyrighted content,” and of “promoting piracy resulting in widespread copyright infringement.” Getty also accused Google of distorting search results in favor of its own services. Today’s partnership deal means Google will be able to use Getty Images’ content in its products and services, principally the image search portion of Google search with which Getty took issue.


TL;DR Getty got Google to stop making it so easy to steal images.
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I cracked Facebook’s new algorithm and tortured my friends • Buzzfeed

Katie Notopoulos is the one to blame:


We’ve come to accept nonchronological feeds in our social media. Even on Instagram, where people do still seem to complain the most about it, we understand the rules of the new feed. It’s in the moments where the cracks start show — when the same awful video is at the top of your Facebook page for 12 days straight — that we remember how fucked up it is having our friendships ruled by an algorithm. It’s like in a sci-fi movie where a sexy android peels off her mask and you remember she’s made of steel, or the Wizard of Oz furiously cranking his noise machine behind the curtain. This algorithm doesn’t understand friendship. It can fake it, but when we see Valentine’s Day posts on Instagram four days later, or when the machines mistake a tornado of angry comments for “engagement,” it’s a reminder that the machines still don’t really get the basics of humanity.

I’ve been down this path before. In fact, I’ve written about this problem before. In the summer of 2016, Facebook did another recalibration of its News Feed that prioritized posts from friends and family over publishers, ending what seemed to many like a three-year tyranny of BuzzFeed quizzes and cooking videos. Soon after, I noticed a post from a coworker, asking if anyone had ever tried making overnight oats, had “stuck” to the top of my Facebook feed for five days straight, even though I had never commented or liked the post. I dubbed this phenomenon the overnight oats problem…

…You can try this yourself; it’s easy to game the system by posting something that drives comments. Try asking a question, or for advice: “Does anyone have a shampoo they love?” or “What was the most embarrassing thing that happened to you in middle school?”

Trust me, you will get lots of replies. And it will stick to the top of your friends’ feeds for days.

And if they are like my friends, they will hate you for it. Good luck.


Personally I detest nonchronological feeds. It’s a big reason why I rarely go on Facebook or Instagram.
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A new iOS bug can crash iPhones and disable access to iMessages • The Verge

Tom Warren:


The bug itself involves sending an Indian language (Telugu) character to devices, and Apple’s iOS Springboard will crash once the message has been received. Messages will no longer open as the app is trying and failing to load the character, and it appears that the only way to regain access to your iMessages is to have another friend send you a message and try to delete the thread that contained the bad character.

We’ve also tested the bug on third-party apps like Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, Gmail, and Outlook for iOS and found that these apps can become disabled once a message is received. It might be difficult to fix and delete the problem message for apps like WhatsApp, unless you have web access enabled. Telegram and Skype appear to be unaffected. The public beta version of iOS 11.3 is also unaffected. It appears Apple was made aware of the problem at least three days ago, and plans to address it in an iOS update soon.


Let’s hope soon is “very soon”. Though it’s clear that iMessage has real challenges when it come to rendering text – moreso, it seems, than any other app. Why?
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Apple iPhone takes huge 515 share of global smartphone revenues in Q4 2017 • Strategy Analytics


According to the latest research from Strategy Analytics, global smartphone revenues hit an all-time high of US$120bn during the fourth quarter of 2017. Apple captured a record 51% global smartphone revenue share, accounting for more than the rest of the entire industry combined.

Linda Sui, Director at Strategy Analytics, said, “We estimate total global smartphone wholesale revenues grew 8% annually to reach an all-time high of US$120bn during Q4 2017. The smartphone industry’s wholesale average selling price surged 18% annually from US$255 in Q4 2016 to US$300 in Q4 2017. The smartphone industry has managed to increase massively its pricing and revenues, despite a recent decrease in shipment volumes.”


What’s also notable is that revenues increased for Samsung, Apple and Huawei, but decreased for “others” – by $3bn. Smaller players are getting squeezed out or down in price.
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Dyson bets on electric cars to shake up industry • FT

Peter Campbell and Michael Pooler:


Through interviews with more than 20 people, the FT has gleaned details about the project’s scope and current status, including learning that Dyson is considering excluding its world-leading “solid state” battery technology from its debut model.

Dyson declined to confirm many of the details in this report.

The company is initially planning a range of three vehicles, according to two people.

The first car will be used to establish a route to market, a supply chain and a potential customer base. Because of this, the vehicle will have a relatively low production run — in the single-digit thousands, three people said.

The second and third vehicles, released later, will aim to be substantially higher volume.

“Even with a low-volume vehicle, they can make a business case and they will learn a tremendous amount about how to build a vehicle,” says Philippe Houchois, an automotive analyst at Jefferies investment bank. 

Dyson has worked extensively on lightweight materials, leading several people to speculate the first vehicle may be substantially comprised of plastics rather than metals, something usually reserved for high-end supercars.


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Nokia might give up on wearables (updated) • Engadget

Rachel England:


Less than two years after spending millions repositioning itself in the consumer health market, Nokia has announced a strategic review of its digital health business which comes after news that the company could shed up to 425 jobs in its home country of Finland. Nokia acquired French fitness tracker manufacturer Withings for $191m in 2016 as part of its new digital health strategy WellCare, which is not dissimilar to Apple’s HealthKit. The deal came amid a spate of acquisitions by Nokia, buoyed by investment from Microsoft following their Windows Phone agreement.

But despite the company’s confident move into the health market, it wrote down $175m of goodwill on the business in the third quarter of 2017, which essentially means Withings’ net assets weren’t as valuable as Nokia initially thought. Nokia has tried to replicate Withings’ previous accomplishments, but what works for a small French startup has clearly not worked for a conglomerate with expectations of huge success. And, there’s less demand for wearables now than when they first landed – by the time Nokia got involved, Apple already had a firm hold on the market.


Not necessarily withdrawal, but looks a lot like it.
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Why Silicon Valley singles are giving up on the algorithms of love • Washington Post

Drew Harwell:


Melissa Hobley, an executive at the dating app OkCupid, hears the complaints about the apps [being unable to find good matches] regularly and thinks they get a bad rap. Silicon Valley workers “are in the business of scalable, quick solutions. And that’s not what love is,” Hobley said. “You can’t hurry love. It’s reciprocal. You’re not ordering an object. You’re not getting a delivery in less than seven minutes.”

Finding love, she added, takes commitment and energy — and, yes, time, no matter how inefficiently it’s spent.

“You have a whole city obsessed with algorithms and data, and they like to say dating apps aren’t solving the problem,” Hobley said. “But if a city is male-dominant, if a city is known for 16-hour work days, those are issues that dating apps can’t solve.”

One thing distinguishes the Silicon Valley dating pool: The men-to-women ratio for employed, young singles in the San Jose metro area is higher than in any other major area. There were about 150 men for every 100 women, compared with about 125 to 100 nationwide, of never-married young people between 25 and 34 in San Jose, U.S. Census Bureau data from 2016 shows.

That ratio permeates the economy here, all the way to the valley’s biggest employers, which have struggled for years to bring more women into their ranks. Men make up about 70% of the workforces of Apple, Facebook and Google parent Alphabet, company filings show. The firms are also so big that different departments, with differing gender balances, barely mix.


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Guess what? Sonos One speakers also damage wood • Tom’s Guide

Mike Prospero:


When I learned yesterday that Apple’s HomePod speaker—which I had been testing—can damage oil-stained wood, I was more than a little concerned, as it had been sitting on my cabinet for quite some time.

When I got home, I saw a large white ring, a telltale indication that the HomePod’s silicone base had messed up the finish. But, as I was inspecting the damage, I noticed a series of smaller white marks near where the HomePod was sitting.

A closer inspection revealed that the Sonos One speaker, which also has small silicone feet, had made these marks on my cabinet. Looking around the top of the cabinet, I noticed a bunch of little white marks, all left from the Sonos Ones as I moved them around. So, they will damage your wood furniture, too. We’re awaiting comment from Sonos.


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Coinhoarder: tracking a Ukrainian bitcoin phishing ring DNS-style • Talos Intelligence

Edmund Brumaghin:


On February 24, 2017, Cisco observed a massive phishing campaign hosted in Ukraine targeting the popular Bitcoin wallet site with a client request magnitude of over 200,000 client queries. This campaign was unique in that adversaries leveraged Google Adwords to poison user search results in order to steal users’ wallets. Since Cisco observed this technique, it has become increasingly common in the wild with attackers targeting many different crypto wallets and exchanges via malicious ads.

Cisco identified an attack pattern in which the threat actors behind the operation would establish a “gateway” phishing link that would appear in search results among Google Ads. When searching for crypto-related keywords such as “blockchain” or “bitcoin wallet,” the spoofed links would appear at the top of search results. When clicked, the link would redirect to a “lander” page and serve phishing content in the native language of the geographic region of the victim’s IP address.

The reach of these poisoned ads can be seen when analyzing DNS query data. In February 2017, Cisco observed spikes in DNS queries for the fake cryptocurrency websites where upwards of 200,000 queries per hour can be seen during the time window the ad was displayed…

…Based on our findings associated with this syndicate, we estimate the COINHOARDER group to have netted over $50m over the past three years. It is important to note that the price of Bitcoin has shot up drastically over 2017, starting around $1,000 in January and hitting a high point just under $20,000 in December. While criminals were able to profit from this, it also adds a new level of complexity for criminals to convert their cryptocurrency funds to a fiat currency like US dollars. The historic price of Bitcoin during the height of this campaign would have made it very difficult to move these ill-gotten finances easily.


“Google AdWords really paid off for our phishing business!”
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Google’s nemesis: meet the British couple who took on a giant, won… And cost it £2.1bn • Wired

Rowland Manthorpe speaks to Adam and Shivaun Raff, who set up Foundem – a price comparison site – in 2007 and then saw Google demote it in favour of its own offerings:


Because Google is hosted across numerous data centres, Adam was able to watch, horrified, as the penalty swept across the search engine, downgrading Foundem for every search except its own name.

One second Foundem ranked first or third (a status it maintained on Yahoo! and Microsoft’s Bing). The next, it was down in the 70s and 80s. For huge swathes of online life, Google is the default entry point. In a single stroke, Foundem had effectively been disappeared from the internet.

The Raffs knew instantly this was an existential threat. “We didn’t kid ourselves for one second,” says Adam. “If Google didn’t lift this penalty, we’d be dead.” But when they tried to contact Google, it was like sending messages into the void. Through a contact, they reached the firm’s head of search quality. The response came back from a colleague, saying he had “no specific insights to offer”.

No matter what they tried – and over the next two years the Raffs pursued every conceivable avenue – there was no reasoning with Google. Their only option was to find alternative sources of revenue, by licensing Foundem’s software to publishers such as Bauer and IPC Media.

To the Raffs, this is Google’s real crime: its inaccessibility and unwillingness to respond, even to legitimate complaints. “We’ve never said that the fault was being penalised,” says Adam. “Collateral damage in complex algorithms is inevitable. The fault was not having a procedure by which we could appeal and get timely relief.”


The Raffs have done analysis after analysis of the ways that Google’s “solutions” to the antitrust complaint on search are self-serving. But it has taken years, and Google’s present “solution” is one which was rejected previously. Even though Vestager, the new EC antitrust commissioner, has found against Google, it’s too slow.

Justice delayed is justice denied, and this has been delayed at least seven years.
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Search tool accesses firms’ documents in the cloud • BBC


A website created by anonymous hackers has been launched that allows anyone to search for sensitive data stored in the cloud.
Buckhacker is a tool that trawls servers at Amazon Web Services (AWS), a popular cloud computing platform.

AWS provides data storage to private firms, governments and universities, among others.
Exposed data has been found on it before, but Buckhacker makes searching for it much easier.

The name comes from the fact that AWS Simple Storage Servers (S3) are known as “buckets” – this is the part of AWS that Buckhacker accesses.

The BBC alerted Amazon to Buckhacker shortly after it went live, but the firm has yet to issue a statement on the matter.

On Wednesday afternoon, Buckhacker went offline “for maintenance”, though it had previously been working allowing a number of cyber-security experts to explore it.

“We went online with the alpha version [too] early,” said a Twitter account associated with the Buckhacker site.

Security expert Kevin Beaumont told the BBC: “It’s a goldmine of stuff which shouldn’t be public.”


“Goldmine of stuff which shouldn’t be public” can describe much of the internet, but in this case it’s pretty accurate. Amazon has done well at security before, but now it has a serious problem.
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Errata, corrigenda and ai no corrida: none notified.

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