iPhone owners, beware. It appears Facebook might be actively using your camera without your knowledge while you’re scrolling your feed.
The issue has come to light after a user going by the name Joshua Maddux took to Twitter to report the unusual behavior, which occurs in the Facebook app for iOS. In footage he shared, you can see his camera actively working in the background as he scrolls through his feed.
The problem becomes evident due to a bug that shows the camera feed in a tiny sliver on the left side of your screen, when you open a photo in the app and swipe down. TNW has since been able to independently reproduce the issue.
Here’s what this looks like:
Maddux adds he found the same issue on five iPhone devices running iOS 13.2.2, but was unable to reproduce it on iOS 12. “I will note that iPhones running iOS 12 don’t show the camera (not to say that it’s not being used),” he said.
The findings are consistent with our own attempts. While iPhones running iOS 13.2.2 indeed show the camera actively working in the background, the issue doesn’t appear to affect iOS 13.1.3. We further noticed the issue only occurs if you have given the Facebook app access to your camera. If not, it appears the Facebook app tries to access it, but iOS blocks the attempt.
It remains unclear if this is expected behavior or simply a bug in the software for iOS (we all know what Facebook will say; spoiler: “Muh, duh, guh, it’s a bug. We sorry.”). For what it’s worth, we’ve been unable to reproduce the issue on Android (version 10, used on Google Pixel 4).
Whatever the reason for it, though, this behavior is particularly concerning — especially considering Facebook‘s atrocious track record when it comes to user privacy (remember Cambrdige Analytica?).
By now, everyone should be well aware that any iOS app that has been granted access to your camera can secretly record you. Back in 2017, researcher Felix Krause spoke to TNW about the same issue.
At the time, the researcher noted one way to deal with this privacy concern is to revoke camera access (though that arguably doesn’t make for a smooth software experience). Another thing he suggested is covering up your camera — like former FBI director James Comey and Facebook‘s own emperor Mark Zuckerberg do. Learn from the pros I guess.
We’ve reached out to Facebook for further comment, and will update this piece accordingly if we hear back.
FaceApp, a Russia-based app that applies filters to photos, is having another moment in the spotlight this week. The app first went viral in 2017, but this time it’s catching on because of a filter that makes users look older or younger. As with the last viral moment, however, users have been surprised to learn that the app’s creators are harvesting metadata from their photos.
Close research suggests FaceApp isn’t doing anything particularly unusual in either its code or its network traffic, so if you’re worried about FaceApp, there are probably a bunch of other apps on your phone doing the same thing. Still, the conversation does bring attention to standard tech practices that might be more invasive than users realize.
To use the app, iOS users select specific photos they want to put filters on, and there’s no evidence of the app downloading a user’s entire photo roll. The company then uploads the specific images to its servers to apply the filter. FaceApp never spells out that it’s downloading the filtered photo, but it’s not unusual, as iOS researcher and CEO of Guardian Firewall Will Strafach noted on Twitter.
Theoretically, FaceApp could process these photos on the device itself, but Yaroslav Goncharov, an ex-Yandex exec and CEO of the Russian company that created the app, previously told The Verge that photos uploaded to the app are stored on the company’s servers to save bandwidth if several filters are applied, and that they get deleted not long after. In a statement to TechCrunch, FaceApp said it accepts requests from users to remove their data from its servers. The team is currently “overloaded,” but users can send the request through Setting>Support>Report a bug with the word “privacy” in the subject line.
Of course, we don’t know if FaceApp actually deletes the photo data, but it’s worth remembering that we upload photos of our faces to companies’ servers all the time. The only difference in this case is that unlike Facebook or Google, FaceApp is Russia-based, and thereby inherits ill will because of Americans’ perception of the country. FaceApp says no user data is transferred to Russia. Researcher Jane Wong also publicized her findings around FaceApp and noted that she wished users could delete their own data, although it now seems they can issue a request.
FaceApp might not be a major privacy concern, but as with any app, there are always trade-offs. If you want to see what you could look like at 80 years old, you have to forfeit your photo, which includes your face. As some have pointed out, simply basing the app in Russia could expose your photos to the country’s security services. Similar claims could be made for apps based in China or even the US, but it doesn’t make the exposure any less troubling. Still, the FaceApp conversation is a worthy one to have; people should think about how their data is being used before sharing it with an unknown app.
In a surprise bit of weekend news that could have major implications on the smartphone market, Reuters reports that “Google has suspended business with Huawei that requires the transfer of hardware, software, and technical services except those publicly available via open source licensing.”
Translation: Huawei can no longer implement a full-fledged version of Android on future devices, losing access to Google services and more. Instead, it’ll only be allowed to use the open source components of Android. That means no Google Play Store, no Gmail, no YouTube – at least not without major workarounds.
We have since independently confirmed the Reuters report, as have several other publications. If the breakup is permanent, it could be a major blow to Huawei‘s smartphone business almost everywhere outside China.
The move follows US suspicion of Huawei‘s relationship with Chinese intelligence, including an indictment for stealing US tech and culminating with the Trump administration placing the company on ‘Entity List’ on Wednesday. It’s a trade blacklist that effectively barrs Huawei from doing business with American companies like Qualcomm, Intel, and Google without approval from the US government.
In other words, Google dumping Huawei appears to be a matter of compliance with the Trump blacklist rather than an independent decision to cut ties with the Chinese behemoth. The broad scope of the blacklist means other tech companies are sure to cut ties soon as well – Google is simply the most prominent partner.
When asked about Huawei‘s blacklist status, a Google spokesperson simply replied: “We are complying with the order and reviewing the implications.”
The ban prevents Google from directly working with Huawei on hardware, software, and technical services. This primarily affects future devices, not ones already on the market. Aside from forcing future Huawei devices to use the public (Android Open Source Project) version of Google’s OS, those products won’t be able to access Google apps and services.
Luckily, existing devices don’t need permission from Google to continue to receive app and service updates. However, security updates will be delayed, as Huawei will have to wait for them to become available in AOSP rather sourcing them directly from Google. It’s also unclear whether future Google services will be able to work on existing Huawei devices.
It’s important to note that while Huawei is being prevented from doing business with American companies, the implications are global; Huawei won’t be able to use components and software from American businesses in any market. Google services are typically not available in China, but they’re an essential part of the Android experience virtually everywhere else. Without the Play Store, Huawei sales outside of its homeland could suffer dramatically.
Huawei is unlikely to go down quietly, and it’ll probably challenge its blacklist placement and Android revocation. Moreover, it’s unclear how permanent the ban is intended to be.
Last year, the US blacklisted ZTE for similar reasons – that ban only lasted from April to July. Though the Huawei ban puts pressure on China, preventing US companies from doing business with the world’s second largest smartphone maker will hurt their bottom line too. Trump is meeting with Chinese president Xi Jinping in Japan next month; the Huawei ban could be meant as leverage for that encounter.
To think it was less than four years ago that Google and Huawei worked so closely together to bring us the Nexus 6P. We’ll update this post if we learn any more relevant details.
Walmart is hiring robots to replace human tasks that humans didn’t “enjoy doing.” In a bid to save on labor costs, it’s betting on robots to clean floors, sort inventory, and replenish out-of-stock items in its stores, as reported by The Wall Street Journal.
Walmart has several jobs in mind for the new robots. Robot floor cleaners are coming to 1,500 stores. (The company says that floor scrubbing was previously a task that could take a human worker two to three hours each day to complete.) Walmart is also adding 600 conveyor belts that can sort inventory automatically, and at least 300 bots that can check if shelves are running out of stock after Walmart initially began to test this technology in 2017.
All of this is coming at the cost of human labor. The more robots Walmart hires, the fewer people it needs for each task, and the more money it saves across its 4,600 stores in the US. Walmart says that although it’s cutting down on labor for tasks like flooring cleaning, it is hiring employees to focus on growing its online grocery business. The move also comes after retail companies like Target and Walmart announced slight wage increases for store workers.
Walmart appears to be trying to make its online grocery service competitive to AmazonFresh and Amazon Prime Now’s Whole Foods delivery, both of which are still expanding. It’s part of a long feud between the two retail giants. While the brick-and-mortar Walmart has been pushed to acquire Jet.com and establish more of an online presence, Amazon has added physical stores to its e-commerce offerings and began to follow the playbooks of more traditional brands. Just last week, Amazon announced a new round of price cuts at Whole Foods stores around greens and tropical fruits. The company also reportedly has plans to expand grocery stores in major US cities later this year.
Google’s automated calling service, Duplex, is starting to roll out to iPhones and a lot more Android phones. The service, which lets a human-sounded robot voice make phone calls on your behalf to book restaurant reservations, launched on the latest Pixel devices in December. Google announced in March that it would come to more phones shortly, and now that rollout has begun.
In an email, a Google spokesperson confirmed that broader Duplex rollout started this week. The service is supposed to be available on all devices running Android 5.0 and higher as well as any iPhones with the Google Assistant app installed. Currently, the service only works in English, in 43 US states.
XDA-Developers reports seeing Duplex work on Samsung’s Galaxy S10 Plus. We haven’t seen reports of Duplex being live on any other phones yet, but it’s a sign that the expansion is underway.
Today, Tesla is taking a step closer to a true self-driving car future with a mode that entirely lets your car decide when to change lanes. (Yes, we’ve just entered a world where your car might pass other cars automatically.)
Previously, if you punch in your destination, keep your hands on the steering wheel and feet near the pedals, your Tesla’s optional “Navigate on Autopilot” mode would do its best to keep you on the freeway, proactively asking for confirmation before it makes any lane changes. But a new software update changes that. If the driver says they don’t require the car to confirm a lane change, the car will… just change lanes.
Here’s how Tesla’s new press release describes the change (bolding ours):
In the Autopilot settings menu, a driver can press the Customize Navigate on Autopilot button which will now display three additional settings – Enable at Start of Every Trip, Require Lane Change Confirmation, and Lane Change Notification. Through the Enable at Start of Every Trip setting, Navigate on Autopilot can be set to automatically turn on each time a driver enters a navigation route. Once enabled, anytime a driver is on a highway and uses Autopilot with a location plugged into the navigation bar, the feature will be on by default. If a driver selects ‘No’ to Require Lane Change Confirmation, lane changes will happen automatically, without requiring a driver to confirm them first. Drivers can elect to get notified about an upcoming lane change by receiving an audible chime as well as a default visual prompt. Additionally, all cars made after August 2017 will also have the option to have their steering wheel vibrate for the alert as well.
As Elon Musk himself points out, the press release sells the feature a little bit short:
Tesla says it’s already tested it internally, and with Early Access Program drivers, for half a million miles already. The feature’s starting to roll out today for US customers, and “will be introduced in other markets in the future pending validation and regulatory approval.”
Apple’s week of surprise product launches continues with the announcement of the second-generation AirPods, which will include a wireless charging case and a new H1 chip that the company claims offers improved battery life and “Hey, Siri” support to trigger the virtual assistant without pressing a button.
The new wireless charging case works with standard Qi charging, so it should work with nearly every wireless charger out there. Otherwise, both the second-gen AirPods and the case look virtually identical to the first model, except for a small LED light on the wireless charging case to indicate battery life.
Apple says the H1 chip offers a number of benefits over the W1 chip in the last generation. Specifically, there’s up to an extra hour of talk time, which Apple says is a 50 percent increase; connection times are twice as fast when switching between devices; and the aforementioned “Hey, Siri” support — which Apple already offers on newer iPhones, iPads, Macs, and the HomePod — that allows you to ask Siri things hands-free.
Apple will be selling the updated AirPods in two options: with the wireless charging case for $199 or with the standard case for the same $159 price as the previous generation. The company will also sell the wireless charging case separately for existing AirPod owners for $79. That way, users will be able to charge their headphones with a wireless charger without upgrading to the new model.
Notably missing from the announcement is any mention of Apple’s still-missing AirPower wireless charger, which was first announced alongside the iPhone X over a year and a half ago. It was marketed primarily around being able to charge an iPhone, Apple Watch, and AirPods wirelessly at the same time.
Apple has officially confirmed that it will hold an event on March 25th where it’s is expected to announce its long-rumored TV streaming and Apple News subscription services.
As usual, the invitation doesn’t have much to go by, but the animated countdown GIF and “It’s show time” tag seem to hint that the new TV service will play a big role. Rumors of an event at the end of March began last month, saying that the company will reportedly focus exclusively on services. Although, there is always a chance that we could see the anticipated announcements of revamped AirPods, a new entry-level iPad, and the long-delayed AirPower wireless charging pad.
This is not the first time that Apple has used this tagline for an event: the company first used it for a September 2006 event where it announced that it would start offering movies on iTunes, along with the first reveal of the iTV (which would be renamed Apple TV on release in 2007). It’s certainly a fitting teaser for the upcoming event. Just like in 2006, we could see Apple’s media offerings for its devices expand yet again.
Along with the TV service, which is rumored to launch later this spring, Apple is also expected to take the wraps off its Apple News subscription service. The Apple News service will reportedly look to offer a Netflix-style bundle for magazines and subscription newspapers all in one convenient place. An early report from The Wall Street Journal indicated that Apple was having trouble with negotiations, reportedly demanding a staggering 50 percent of revenue from the service.
Huawei Technologies Co. announced a smartphone that unfolds into a small tablet computer, potentially rendering the need to carry two separate devices obsolete.
The Mate X supports next-generation 5G networks and will cost 2,299 euros ($2,606) when released in the summer. It’s the second folding phone announced by a major manufacturer within a week. Samsung revealed the Galaxy Fold on Wednesday.
“We’ve been working on this folding screen hinge for three years,” Huawei Consumer Group Chief Executive Officer Richard Yu said on stage at MWC Barcelona Sunday. “It’s very expensive, but there’s lots of new technology here.”
The market for smartphones is slowing, and manufacturers are scrambling to find new ways to convince consumers they should upgrade their devices. Next-generation high-speed networks are still a far away from mainstream availability, so device makers are looking at new device form factors to conjure up excitement.
But they come at a cost. Huawei’s 2,299-euro price tag is only slightly steeper than Samsung’s Galaxy Fold, which will cost 2,000 euros when it’s released later this year. With premium mobile phones already costing well over $1,000 a piece, customers have been turning to cheaper alternatives, often made by lesser-known companies.
Huawei has been battling global scrutiny over its telecom equipment, but often overlooked is the company’s rapid growth as a smartphone manufacturer. Last year it surpassed Apple to become the world’s second-largest maker of smartphones, according to data from market research firm IDC.
When folded, the Mate X has a 6.6-inch display, which is just slightly larger than Apple Inc.’s iPhone XS Max. But when opened out, Huawei’s device becomes an 8-inch tablet computer. It runs on Alphabet Inc.-owned Google’s Android operating system.
Thomas Husson, an analyst at Forrester, said the Mate X “shows Huawei is a leader in tech innovation.” But it will be “a few years” before a significant mass of customers get their hands on 5G functionalities and foldable screens, he said.
Source: Bloomberg Technology