The UpStream

In response to new law, Google will limit news results in France

posted Friday Sep 27, 2019 by Scott Ertz

In response to new law, Google will limit news results in France

Google can be a difficult company to predict. This is because, while the company ardently sticky to its values, those values can be near impossible to nail down at any given moment. In 2010, Googled ended operations in China over mandated search result censorship, taking moral exception to the requirement to censor human rights topics. Last year, however, they began work on a censored search product specifically for China. They have since canceled the project, but only because of employee and public backlash.

One area on which they have never wavered, however, is being charged for content. The process has been affectionately known as the Google Tax, where Google is specifically targeted with legislation that harms its business model. The European Union has been the biggest offender of the Google Tax with various laws passed targeting the company. Google's response to these laws has varied, but it has often been understandably harsh.

The most famous instance of Google's retaliation is in regards to Spain and Google News. The country passed a law requiring news aggregators to pay the data sources for the data they collect. In response, Google shut down Google News in Spain. This week, the situation has raised itself once again, but the response seems to be a little bit different.

France has passed a law similar to that of Spain, but Google has not yet shut down its service. Instead, the company has found a way to both punish France and refuse to pay for the data. They have announced that they will only show headlines of articles on France unless the publisher has specifically given Google permission to show a summary. This will be a change in policy from how it works today in France and other countries, where they show the article summary by default.

Microsoft is attempting to fend off a data request gag order again

posted Friday Sep 27, 2019 by Scott Ertz

Microsoft is attempting to fend off a data request gag order again

As the tech industry swings heavily towards cloud services, the government has been issuing a lot more data requests to cloud providers. Often, the requests for data are sealed, meaning that the cloud provider is legally forbidden from informing their client that their data has been taken by the government. While many companies simply turn the data over, one of the biggest players regularly fights these gag orders: Microsoft.

The company's most recent fight involves one of its big enterprise customers, whom they are prohibited from informing about a data request. The company has taken the gag order to court in an attempt to nullify the gag order, allowing them to inform their customer. Dev Stahlkopf, Microsoft's general counsel, wrote,

On Sept. 5, 2018, Microsoft challenged a secrecy order issued by a federal magistrate judge in Brooklyn, New York in connection with a federal national security investigation. Based on the limited information available to us in this case, we feel the secrecy order was too broadly drawn and is inconsistent with the U.S. government's policy that secrecy orders be narrowly tailored.

Microsoft argued that their client, which has thousands of employees, must have at least one employee who could be informed of the data access without compromising the case. Unfortunately, the court rejected the argument and left the gag order in place. Stahlkopf said that he intends to appeal the ruling, stating that the company has a responsibility to its customers.

As a cloud services provider, Microsoft has an important role in forcing governments to go before impartial judges to justify their conduct. Our thorough review of law enforcement demands helps ensure that governments are respecting the rights of internet users around the world.

The "narrowly tailored" orders that are referenced are care of a previous case that Microsoft waged against the Department of Justice in 2016, which was settled in 2017. The settlement included the limiting of scope for gag orders. They also famously fended off an FBI gag order in 2014 placed on an Office 365 request.

Project xCloud is closer to reality, Microsoft looking for testers

posted Friday Sep 27, 2019 by Scott Ertz

Project xCloud is closer to reality, Microsoft looking for testers

There is no doubt that the big players in the gaming industry believe that the future of gaming lies in streaming. Microsoft, Google, and even Electronic Arts are working on game streaming platforms. While EA began testing their platform a few weeks ago, Microsoft has been holding out on public testing of Project xCloud. That is until now, as the company has officially announced the beginning of their public platform test for October.

The testing is open to gamers in the United States or the United Kingdom and registration is open now. To register, you must have a compatible Android device (phone or tablet), a Bluetooth 4 compatible Xbox One controller (2nd generation controller), and a 5GHz Wi-Fi connection or equivalent LTE or 5G connection. Just because you register and have all of the prerequisites does not mean that you will be chosen for this first round of testing, but don't worry - more rounds will be coming.

In the first phase, they will be testing just the cloud streaming capabilities, though the page does mention upcoming testing of the console streaming feature. As the testing will focus on the cloud capabilities, the available games will be limited in scope, with only a few big Xbox titles being on the menu: Halo 5: Guardians, Gears 5, Killer Instinct, and Sea of Thieves. These games represent a variety of gameplay, as well as a variety of release dates. Killer Instinct was released in 2013, while Gears 5 came out this month.

The variety of gameplay styles and release dates could be to test different aspects of the platform. For example, the game ages could be in an attempt to test rendering stress and data usage, while the gameplay styles could be an attempt to test the latency of commands in both directions. All of these aspects are important to test, especially at this point in development.

A new iPhone jailbreak is unpatchable on all affected devices

posted Friday Sep 27, 2019 by Scott Ertz

A new iPhone jailbreak is unpatchable on all affected devices

It is not unusual for companies to discover software vulnerabilities. The thing that makes software great is that it can be patched if an issue is discovered so that the issue can be mitigated. However, a hardware-level vulnerability is far less common and even harder to repair. This is the situation that Apple has found itself in, as a hardware-level vulnerability has been discovered and actively exploited in a wide range of iPhones.

Devices sporting the Apple A5 through A11 processors, meaning the iPhone 4S through the iPhone X and a variety of iPads, are vulnerable to this issue, dubbed checkm8. The issue involves the devices' bootloader, which is the mobile equivalent of a desktop computer's BIOS. Unlike a BIOS, an Apple bootloader is not able to be updated, which means that the exploit is permanent and unfixable. This means that it exists in the wild on these devices forever.

The issue was reported and exploited by Twitter user axi0mX, along with an open-source project to take advantage of the exploit. While the majority of the issues are simply going to annoy Apple, some of them are legitimate problems. On the casual side, iPhones are now able to run operating systems other than Apple's iOS, including Android. Through this new feature, d potentially breathe new life into older devices. For example, the iPhone 4S maxes out at iOS 9, but the hardware could potentially support far newer Android builds especially Android Go.

On the negative side, however, is the potential for security issues. With access to the bootloader, it is possible that some personal data on the device could be vulnerable. Of course, this means that the hacker would require physical access to the device, but it is still possible. The need to have access to the device could potentially reignite a mostly dead market of stolen phones.

TiVo is testing adding additional ads to DVR content before video

posted Saturday Sep 21, 2019 by Scott Ertz

TiVo is testing adding additional ads to DVR content before video

You've used your DVR to record a television program with the hopes of watching the show without commercials. You turn on your TV, fire up the DVR, and start your show. As the show starts, a pre-roll ad runs that isn't part of the original broadcast. You leave the show and come back, and a different ad is played before the episode. This is new behavior and one that is not in the spirit of the DVR that you are using.

This new behavior is a beta feature being tested by TiVo on a small number of users' devices. The existence of this new "feature" came to light thanks to a post on the TiVo forum, where a user described a similar experience to the one at the top of this article. Originally, the forum responded with confusion, as no one else had seen this behavior. Eventually, a few other members said that they had experienced the same thing and were as confused as the original poster.

This new move comes just days after a report that TiVo was working on a new offering called TiVo Plus, something mentioned by CEO Dave Shull in passing, without context or details beyond saying that it "better integrates new streaming services" into the company's other offerings. It is possible that this trial could be part of that new roll-out. With a name like Plus, it suggests that there is now a lower-level offering that Plus will make better. In the case of Hulu and Hulu Plus (before the former was retired and the Plus was removed), Hulu was a free, highly ad-supported offering with content being made available later than the Plus version. Those details could easily be applied to a DVR product, with a Standard TiVo offering hosting a pre-roll ad, and a Plus version removing that advertisement.

Facebook suspends tend of thousands of apps over privacy concerns

posted Saturday Sep 21, 2019 by Scott Ertz

Facebook suspends tend of thousands of apps over privacy concerns

No one could confuse Facebook with a company focused on privacy. In fact, over the past few years, the company has become the poster child for big tech violating the privacy of its users. Since the Cambridge Analytica controversy, the company has been forced to take a step back and reevaluate the way they do business. This has involved heavily researching the way their websites, apps, and APIs are used by third parties.

The first big move they made was against a company that was using an Instagram feature which showed photos based on location to track people's movements. When they found out what was happening, Instagram shut off access to the data. This was just the beginning, as the company has announced it has suspended tens of thousands of apps on the Facebook platform over privacy concerns.

All of this is part of Facebook's App Developer Investigation, which is a direct response to Cambridge Analytica. The program has analyzed millions of apps and "of those, tens of thousands have been suspended for a variety of reasons while we continue to investigate." It is important to note that the suspended apps do not mean that they are gone for god, or that the apps actually violated any privacy rules. Instead, the suspensions are temporary because the apps were suspicious and require further investigation. After that investigation completes, a permanent decision will be made.

While the majority of the connected apps have been suspended, some have gone farther, based on data acquired during the search. The company has banned a collection of high-profile apps, including one from a South Korean data collection firm similar to Cambridge Analytica. They have also filed suit against "two Ukranian men" for survey scraping, again similar to Cambridge Analytica.

The apps currently under investigation are ones that, like the apps that led to Cambridge Analytica, exist within the confines of the Facebook platform. Those include apps like Facebook games, survey apps, etc. External apps, like those which allow you to log in via Facebook, are not currently under the company's magnifying glass. That is because most of these apps ask for access to basic data, like name and email address. However, there is a realistic chance that they will be the next round of investigation.

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