Start up: find a doppelgänger!, privacy woes, voice input’s promise, Brazil’s smartphone boom, and more


Like this, but online. Photo by pvantees on Flickr.

A selection of 9 links for you. Spreadable from the fridge. I’m charlesarthur on Twitter. Observations and links welcome.

How my doppelgänger used the Internet to find and befriend me » Fusion

Kashmir Hill:

For some reason, we’re obsessed with the idea of finding people in the world who look like us and the wondrousness of looking into a flesh-and-blood mirror. It’s fascinating enough that Canadian photographer Francois Brunelle has spent the last 14 years finding doppelgängers and taking their portraits. He told CBS News he loves capturing the shock that happens when they meet, and that he endlessly gets emails from people who want him to help them find their look-alike. I asked him why he finds face-twins so compelling. “I don’t really know,” he responded by email. “The fascination of seeing two same-looking people side by side.” With the rise of facial recognition, having a doppelgänger can sometimes be problematic. In 2011, a Massachusetts man had his license revoked because an anti-fraud system that scanned people’s photos decided he looked too much like another driver.


My ears, my eyes, my Apple Watch » Living with Usher Syndrome

Molly Watt:

On leaving the ReSound Offices [where she was fitted with hearing aids that connect directly her iPhone] and within 15 minutes I had my Apple Watch set up and it was a real “WOW” moment when I made my first call to my Dad, via my Apple Watch, his voice came straight into my ears, he sounded different, so much clearer than before, it dawned on me, I’d never heard my Dad’s real voice before, my Mum, ever faithful support and chauffeur sat beside me sounded totally different, even I sounded different to myself, it was strange, very strange, hard to process but it made me feel so emotional that day, day one, I was experiencing so much, new things for the first time ever!

I’ve linked to Watt before; her posts are such wonderful examples of how technology can enable people who would otherwise be excluded from so much.


Meet Apple PR’s worst nightmare » Fortune

Philip Elmer-DeWitt:

it’s at WWDC that Gurman’s shoe-leather reporting shines brightest, and he’s worked this year’s event harder than ever. If you want to know what’s coming Monday — or at least what’s expected — you might as well start with the round-up Gurman published Friday. It’s the post everybody else is linking to, including Wall Street analysts. I caught up to Gurman on Saturday at his parents’ home in Los Angeles where, lacking an invitation from Apple, he will watch Monday’s keynote remotely. He’s got one more year in Michigan, where he’s taking a lot of technical courses — software design, server structure, data analysis — at the School of Information. To carve out more time for coursework he cut back this year on day-to-day rumors to focus on the big scoops. After graduation he’s thinking about business school — he likes Stanford — and relocation to San Francisco or New York.

Gurman has got more and more things exactly right as time has gone on.


Talking computers pose a threat to current Apple versus Google market segmentation. Beyond Peak Google. » Praxtime

Nathan Taylor:

Google Now is already shipping and riding a technological tidal wave of machine learning. Let’s tie this back to the discussion on native ads. If Google owns the voice interaction channel to the internet, and can do branded “native ads” whenever someone talks into their phone or watch, then Peak Google is solved. Google will be launched into the next wave without being eclipsed. Billions are (potentially) at stake. Where’s the closest restaurant I’ll enjoy? What’s the best toothpaste to buy? How much are tickets to the game? What apartment can I afford to rent? What kind of car should I buy? Who should I marry? Except for that last question, I’m sure Google will eventually be capable and quite happy to answer. With proper brand product placement of course. And a small finder’s fee owed by the end vendor for any purchase. As Google becomes the front end to a potentially huge new voice interaction distribution channel, they’ll take their cut.


A complete taxonomy of internet chum » The Awl

John Mahoney on those annoying boxes that try to tempt you to click somewhere else, which he calls “chumboxes”:

Like everything else on the internet, traffic flowing through chumboxes must be tracked in order for everyone to be paid. Each box in the grid’s performance can be tracked both individually and in context of its neighbors. This allows them to be highly optimized; some chum is clearly better than others. As a byproduct of this optimization, an aesthetic has arisen. An effective chumbox clearly plays on reflex and the subconscious. The chumbox aesthetic broadcasts our most basic, libidinal, electrical desires back at us. And gets us to click.

Come and meet “Skin Thing”, “Old Person’s Face”, “Miracle Cure Thing” and the rest.


Global markets foreshadow low-cost smartphone opportunity in Brazil » Jana Blog

137 million people in Brazil own a mobile phone, and one-third [41m] of them own a smartphone. Brazil is the second largest country for downloads within the Google Play Store, and its citizens are some of the most eager app consumers. Brazil’s active Android smartphone market presents a huge opportunity for device manufacturers to capture the other 91 million mobile subscribers as they make their first ever smartphone purchase. In recent years, other countries have seen a massive adoption of smartphones thanks to a rush of competing brands entering the market and driving down handset costs. The smartphone market in Brazil is big, but could it be bigger?

Main installed base players: Samsung (50%), Motorola (21.1%) and LG (17%).


Exclusive: In ‘year of Apple Pay’, many top retailers remain skeptical » Reuters

Nandita Bose worked through the top 100 retailers in the US asking whether they would support Apple Pay:

Many companies that accept Apple Pay report that they and their customers are happy with it. Whole Foods spokesman Michael Silverman said that Apple Pay transactions accounted for 2% of its sales dollars as of March and that it expects use to rise. “Our shoppers are really enjoying the speed, convenience and security of Apple Pay,” he said. But for other retailers and consumers, Apple has yet to answer the question “what is in it for us if we use Apple Pay?” said Alberto Jimenez, program director for mobile payments at IBM, which provides technology to mobile wallet makers and retailers. Jimenez would not say whether Apple is among their customers. The program doesn’t offer loyalty rewards to customers, as companies such as Starbucks do with their mobile applications, nor does it provide customer information to retailers about Apple Pay users. For 28 of the retailers surveyed by Reuters, lack of access to data about customers and their buying habits is a key reason they don’t accept Apple Pay. “One of the biggest concerns is data control,” said Mario De Armas, senior director, international payments at the world’s largest retailer, Wal-Mart Stores Inc.

Apple is expected to provide some sort of way for retailers to collect loyalty data about customers – although this seems contrary to its point about not tracking your purchases. Clearly though there’s a tension between retailers and Apple over this. Now read on…


The online privacy lie is unraveling » TechCrunch

Natasha Lomas:

The [US] report, entitled The Tradeoff Fallacy: How marketers are misrepresenting American consumers and opening them up to exploitation, is authored by three academics from the University of Pennsylvania, and is based on a representative national cell phone and wireline phone survey of more than 1,500 Americans age 18 and older who use the internet or email “at least occasionally”. Key findings on American consumers include that — • 91% disagree (77% of them strongly) that “If companies give me a discount, it is a fair exchange for them to collect information about me without my knowing”
• 71% disagree (53% of them strongly) that “It’s fair for an online or physical store to monitor what I’m doing online when I’m there, in exchange for letting me use the store’s wireless internet, or Wi-Fi, without charge.”
• 55% disagree (38% of them strongly) that “It’s okay if a store where I shop uses information it has about me to create a picture of me that improves the services they provide for me.”


HMRC ditches Microsoft for Google, sends data offshore » The Channel

Kat Hall:

Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC) is the first major department to move to Google Apps, part of an apparent loosening of Microsoft’s stranglehold on the government’s software services. The department will join the Cabinet Office and Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) in deploying the fluffy white stuff. HMRC has 70,000 staff, and as such will be Whitehall’s first mass deployment of Google’s cloud services. The Cabinet Office currently has 2,500 users on Gmail. The government said in March the Google Apps suit best met the user needs for the Cabinet Office and DCMS. “Other solutions (e.g Microsoft 365) also scored highly, but the advanced collaboration and flexible working features of Google Apps were the best fit for our needs,” it said at the time.

Wow. That’s a huge blow to Microsoft, huge win for Google.


Start up: spotting comment trolls, stopping piracy Of Thrones, where’s Android One?, and more


Try putting those on Bittorrent, suckahs. Photo by Jemimus on Flickr.

A selection of 8 links for you. Use them wisely. I’m charlesarthur on Twitter. Observations and links welcome.

Scientists develop algorithm that can auto-ban internet trolls » The Stack

Martin Anderson:

The study found that on CNN the studied trolls were more likely to initiate new posts or sub-threads, whilst at Breitbart and IGN they were more likely to weigh into existing threads.

The report does not exonerate host communities of all blame for troll behaviour, finding that immediately intolerant communities are more likely to foster trolls:

“[communities] may play a part in incubating antisocial behavior. In fact, users who are excessively censored early in their lives are more likely to exhibit antisocial behavior later on. Furthermore, while communities appear initially forgiving (and are relatively slow to ban these antisocial users), they become less tolerant of such users the longer they remain in a community. This results in an increased rate at which their posts are deleted, even after controlling for post quality.”

Seems mostly accurate, apart from calling breitbart.com a “political hub”. I’d go for “troll-employing troll magnet”, personally.


Game Of Thrones leak and watermark: a stupid tracking system » bru’s blog

The first four episodes of game of thrones leaked nearly 36 hours ago. They have been extensively downloaded, and the only tracking set up HBO seemed to be a watermark in the bottom left corner of the screen. Once blurred, it is useless. This impresses me. It’s 2015 and all you’re using is a “confirm you’re deleted” + “your copy is watermarked” for protection? There are simple schemes that would have allowed HBO to track the leak.

The idea is very simple: make each copy unique in a non-visible way.

Seems like the editing to create unique copies would be a hassle. Not sending them out (by getting people to come in to previews?) might be simpler. But there would be geographic reasons against that. No matter what, though, it only delays the piracy by 36 hours or so. That’s the bigger problem.


BOMBSHELL: MUSL employee might have rigged Hot Lotto computerized drawing » Lottery Post

Prosecutors countered this motion by claiming they have a “prima facie,” or at first glance, case that Tipton tampered with lottery equipment.

In their reply to the defense’s motion, prosecutors argued that Tipton’s co-workers said he “was ‘obsessed’ with root kits, a type of computer program that can be installed quickly, set to do just about anything, and then self-destruct without a trace.” The prosecution claimed a witness will testify that Tipton told him before December 2010 that he had a self-destructing root kit.

Prosecutors also argued in their reply that Tipton was in the draw room on Nov. 20, 2010, “ostensibly to change the time on the computers.” The prosecution alleged the cameras in the room on that date recorded about one second per minute instead of how they normally operate, recording every second a person is in the room.

“Four of the five individuals who have access to control the camera’s settings will testify they did not change the cameras’ recording instructions; the fifth person is Defendant,” the prosecution wrote.

Someone’s writing the screenplay already, yes? The accused bought a ticket that won $14.3m.


What’s Become of Android One? » CCS Insight

Peter Bryer is an analyst:

our checks indicate that Android One has had a limited direct effect on the market, despite initial enthusiasm for the programme. Sales of Android One-based smartphones began more than half a year ago in India, but volumes don’t stand out.

The first Android One products came from Karbonn, Micromax and Spice, with more familiar brands expected to begin adopting the platform. Acer, Asus, HTC, Lenovo and Panasonic were among the smartphone manufacturers listed by Google as partners in the project, but this interest appears to have stalled.

The fading momentum of Android One is an indication of the expanding selection of equally well-specified, low-cost smartphones and tablets in emerging markets. Hundreds of models are available at $100 or below — a once impossible price band has become very ordinary.

The standard having been set, others have matched it. All works for Google. But see later…


Flipkart’s move to dump mobile site could hit Google » WSJ

Rolfe Winkler:

Indian e-commerce giant Flipkart has decided it doesn’t need to rely on the Web to lure shoppers, dumping its mobile site and pushing visitors to its app. That move may spell trouble for the future of Google ‘s cash-cow search engine, which relies heavily on links to shopping sites.

Smartphone users that go to the mobile websites of either Flipkart or its sister site Myntra no longer see the same virtual store shelves as when they visit those sites from a personal computer. Instead they see a message to download the sites’ mobile apps.

The problem for Google is that a large percentage of its ad business is driven by paid links that direct users to e-commerce sites. But mobile apps are walled gardens unto themselves, unconnected by links to the broader Web.

A general problem, but if it starts happening early in countries like India, that is a problem for Google.


Brazil’s iPhone investment falls short on promises of jobs, lower prices » Reuters

Brad Haynes:

The Brazilian iPhone was meant to mark a new era.

When Taiwan’s Foxconn Technology Group agreed in April 2011 to make Apple products here, President Dilma Rousseff and her advisers promised that up to $12 billion in investments over six years would transform the Brazilian technology sector, putting it on the cutting edge of touch screen development. A new supply chain would be created, generating high-quality jobs and bringing down prices of the coveted gadgets.

Four years later, none of that has come true.

Foxconn has created only a small fraction of the 100,000 jobs that the government projected, and most of the work is in low-skill assembly. There is little sign that it has catalyzed Brazil’s technology sector or created much of a local supply chain.

Not quite clear where the blame lies – high expectation by Foxconn, local taxes or local culture.


Formal charges may be next in Europe’s Google antitrust inquiry » NYTimes.com

James Kanter and Conor Dougherty:

Some experts say that Mr. Almunia’s unsuccessful strategy makes further attempts to settle the case without formal charges unlikely.

“Given the history of failed attempts to reach a commitment decision, I just don’t see what she would gain from going down this route again, unless Google has promised more concessions that we don’t know about,” said Liza Lovdahl-Gormsen, the director of the Competition Law Forum at the British Institute of International and Comparative Law.

Without formal charges, Ms. Lovdahl-Gormsen said, “Google might try to buy themselves time by offering commitments that are unlikely to be accepted by the commission, and that it knows won’t be accepted by the market, simply because it does not want to be faced with the instrument of torture — the statement of objections.”

Expect news on Wednesday.


My voice is my passport: Android gets a “Trusted Voice” smart lock » Ars Technica

How secure is this system? We’re wondering the same thing. The popup when you enable “Trusted Voice” warns that the feature is not as secure as a traditional lock screen and that “Someone with a similar voice or a recording of your voice could unlock your device.” We’d love to test it out, but it hasn’t rolled out to any of our devices yet—we only know about it thanks to a report from Android Police.

Android Police hasn’t given it any scrutiny (none of its devices – even Nexuses – seem to have got it.) The commenters on AP don’t seem enamoured, though, pointing out how easy it would be to spoof (as Google itself admits). So there’s now pattern, PIN, face and voice unlock, and also “trusted device” (Android Wear). Flexibility is good, but they aren’t all equally robust, which feels like a problem.