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3D-printed heads let hackers – and cops – unlock your phone

There’s a lot you can make with a 3D printer: from prosthetics, corneas, and firearms — even an Olympic-standard luge. You can even 3D print a life-size replica of a human head — and not just for Hollywood. Forbes reporter Thomas Brewster commissioned a 3D printed model of his own head to test the face unlocking systems on a range of phones — four Android models and an iPhone X. Bad news if you’re an Android user: all four phones unlocked with the 3D printed head. Gone, it seems, are the days of the trusty passcode, which many still find cumbersome, fiddly, and inconvenient — especially when you unlock your phone dozens of times a day. Phone makers are taking to the more convenient unlock methods. Even if Google’s latest Pixel 3 shunned facial recognition, many Android models — including popular Samsung devices — are relying more on your facial biometrics. In its latest models, Apple effectively killed its fingerprint-reading Touch ID in favor of its newer Face ID. But that poses a problem for your data if a mere 3D-printed model can trick your phone into giving up your secrets. That makes life much easier for hackers, who have no rulebook to go from. But what about the police or the feds, who do? It’s no secret that biometrics — your fingerprints and your face — aren’t protected under the Fifth Amendment. That means police can’t compel you to give up your passcode, but they can forcibly depress your fingerprint to unlock your phone, or hold it to your face while you’re looking at it. And the police know it — it happens more often than you might realize. But there’s also little in the way of stopping police from 3D printing or replicating a set of biometrics to break into a phone. “Legally, it’s no different from using fingerprints to unlock a device,” said Orin Kerr, professor at USC Gould School of Law, in an email. “The government needs to get the biometric unlocking information somehow,” by either the finger pattern shape or the head shape, he said. Although a warrant “wouldn’t necessarily be a requirement” to get the biometric data, one would be needed to use the data to unlock a device, he said. Jake Laperruque, senior counsel at the Project On Government Oversight, said it was doable but isn’t the most practical or cost-effective way for cops to get access to phone data. “A situation where you couldn’t get the actual person but could use a 3D print model may exist,” he said. “I think the big threat is that a system where anyone — cops or criminals — can get into your phone by holding your face up to it is a system with serious security limits.” The FBI alone has thousands of devices in its custody — even after admitting the number of encrypted devices is far lower than first reported. With the ubiquitous nature of surveillance, now even more powerful with high-resolution cameras and facial recognition software, it’s easier than ever for police to obtain our biometric data as we go about our everyday lives. Those cheering on the “death of the password” might want to think again. They’re still the only thing that’s keeping your data safe from the law. FBI reportedly overestimated inaccessible encrypted phones by thousands

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Apple Pay finally launches in Germany

Apple’s mobile payment technology has finally launched in Germany, some four years after it debuted in the U.S. On its newly launched Apple Pay website for Germany, Apple lists partner banks and credit card companies at launch, with customers from the likes of Deutsche Bank, O2 Banking, N26, Comdirect, HypoVerensbank, Bunq and Boon able to tap up the payment method directly. Some fifteen banks and services are supported at launch. A further nine banks are slated as adding support in 2019, including DKB, INK and Revolut. iOS users in the country can now add supported debit or credit cards to Apple Pay to make contactless payments with their device, rather than having to carry cash. Apple’s Face ID and Touch ID biometrics are used to a security layer to the payment system. The local Apple Pay site also lists a selection of retailers, with Apple writing: “Apple Pay works in supermarkets, boutiques, restaurants, hotels and many other places. You can also use Apple Pay in many apps — and on participating websites with Safari on your Mac, iPhone or iPad.” Aside from convenience, the other consumer advantage Apple touts for the system is privacy, with Apple Pay using a device-specific number and unique transaction code — and the user’s actual card numbers never stored on their device or on Apple’s servers — which means trackable card numbers aren’t shared with merchants, so purchases can’t be tied back to the individual. While that might sound like an abstract concern, a Bloomberg report this summer revealed details of a multi-million deal in which Google pays for transaction data from Mastercard — in order to try to link online ad views with offline purchases in the US. Facebook has also long been known to buy offline data to supplement the interest signals it collects on users from inside (and outside) its social network — further fleshing out ad-targeting profiles. So escaping the surveillance net of one flavor of big tech can require buying into another. Or else going low tech and paying in cash. Apple does not say what took it so long to add Germany to its now pretty long list of Apple Pay countries but Apple Insider suggests the relatively late adoption was down to pushback from local banks over fees, noting that it’s four months after the official announcement of a German launch. It’s also true that paying by plastic isn’t always an option in Germany, as cash remains the dominant payment method of choice — also, seemingly, for privacy purposes. So Apple Pay is at least aligned with those concerns.

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‘Google You Owe Us’ claimants aren’t giving up on UK Safari workaround suit

Lawyers behind a UK class-action style compensation litigation against Google for privacy violations have filed an application requesting permission to appeal against a recent High Court ruling blocking the proceeding. In October Mr Justice Warby ruled the case could not proceed on legal grounds, finding the claimants had not demonstrated a basis for bringing a compensation claim. The case relates to the so called ‘Safari workaround’ Google used between 2011 and 2012 to override iPhone privacy settings and track users without consent. The civil legal action — whose claimants refer to themselves as ‘Google You Owe Us’ — was filed last year by one named iPhone user, Richard Lloyd, the former director of consumer group, Which?, seeking to represent millions of UK users whose Safari settings the complaint alleges were similarly ignored by Google, via a representative legal action. Lawyers for the claimants argued that sensitive personal data such as iPhone users’ political affiliation, sexual orientation, financial situation and more had been gathered by Google and used for targeted advertising without their consent. Google You Owe Us proposed the sum of £750 per claimant for the company’s improper use of people’s data — which could result in a bill of up to £3BN (based on the suit’s intent to represent ~4.4 million UK iPhone users). However UK law requires claimants demonstrate they suffered damage as a result of violation of the relevant data protection rules. And in his October ruling Justice Warby found that the “bare facts pleaded in this case” were not “individualised” — hence he saw no case for damages. He also ruled against the case proceeding on another legal point, related to defining a class for the case — finding “the essential requirements for a representative action are absent” because he said individuals in the group do not have the “same interest” in the claim. Lodging its application for permission to appeal today, Google You Owe us described the High Court judgement as disappointing, and said it highlights the barriers that remain for consumers seeking to use collective actions as a route to redress in England and Wales. In the US, meanwhile, Google settled with the FTC over a similar cookie tracking issue back in 2012 — agreeing to pay $22.5M in that instance. Countering Justice Warby’s earlier suggestion that affected class members in the UK case did not care about their data being taken without permission, Google You Owe Us said, on the contrary, affected class members have continued to show their support for the case on Facebook — noting that more than 20,000 have signed up for case updates. If leave to appeal is granted, the legal team said it would argue that the High Court judgment was incorrect in stating the class had not suffered damage within the meaning of the UK’s Data Protection Act; and that the class had not all suffered in the same way as a result of the data breach. Commenting in a statement, Lloyd said: Google’s business model is based on using personal data to target adverts to consumers and they must ask permission before using this data. The court accepted that people did not give Google permission to use their data in this case, yet slammed the door shut on holding Google to account. By appealing this decision, we want to give affected consumers the opportunity to get the compensation they are owed and show that collective actions offer a clear route to justice for data protection claims. We’ve reached out to Google for comment. Update: A Google spokesperson told us: “The privacy and security of our users is extremely important to us. The Courts have already dismissed this case, finding it to be without merit.” This report was updated to clarify that the claimants have lodged an application for permission to appeal; rather than lodging an appeal itself

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‘Google You Owe Us’ claimants aren’t giving up on UK Safari workaround suit

Lawyers behind a UK class-action style compensation litigation against Google for privacy violations have filed an application requesting permission to appeal against a recent High Court ruling blocking the proceeding. In October Mr Justice Warby ruled the case could not proceed on legal grounds, finding the claimants had not demonstrated a basis for bringing a compensation claim. The case relates to the so called ‘Safari workaround’ Google used between 2011 and 2012 to override iPhone privacy settings and track users without consent. The civil legal action — whose claimants refer to themselves as ‘Google You Owe Us’ — was filed last year by one named iPhone user, Richard Lloyd, the former director of consumer group, Which?, seeking to represent millions of UK users whose Safari settings the complaint alleges were similarly ignored by Google, via a representative legal action. Lawyers for the claimants argued that sensitive personal data such as iPhone users’ political affiliation, sexual orientation, financial situation and more had been gathered by Google and used for targeted advertising without their consent. Google You Owe Us proposed the sum of £750 per claimant for the company’s improper use of people’s data — which could result in a bill of up to £3BN (based on the suit’s intent to represent ~4.4 million UK iPhone users). However UK law requires claimants demonstrate they suffered damage as a result of violation of the relevant data protection rules. And in his October ruling Justice Warby found that the “bare facts pleaded in this case” were not “individualised” — hence he saw no case for damages. He also ruled against the case proceeding on another legal point, related to defining a class for the case — finding “the essential requirements for a representative action are absent” because he said individuals in the group do not have the “same interest” in the claim. Lodging its application for permission to appeal today, Google You Owe us described the High Court judgement as disappointing, and said it highlights the barriers that remain for consumers seeking to use collective actions as a route to redress in England and Wales. In the US, meanwhile, Google settled with the FTC over a similar cookie tracking issue back in 2012 — agreeing to pay $22.5M in that instance. Countering Justice Warby’s earlier suggestion that affected class members in the UK case did not care about their data being taken without permission, Google You Owe Us said, on the contrary, affected class members have continued to show their support for the case on Facebook — noting that more than 20,000 have signed up for case updates. If leave to appeal is granted, the legal team said it would argue that the High Court judgment was incorrect in stating the class had not suffered damage within the meaning of the UK’s Data Protection Act; and that the class had not all suffered in the same way as a result of the data breach. Commenting in a statement, Lloyd said: Google’s business model is based on using personal data to target adverts to consumers and they must ask permission before using this data. The court accepted that people did not give Google permission to use their data in this case, yet slammed the door shut on holding Google to account. By appealing this decision, we want to give affected consumers the opportunity to get the compensation they are owed and show that collective actions offer a clear route to justice for data protection claims. We’ve reached out to Google for comment. Update: A Google spokesperson told us: “The privacy and security of our users is extremely important to us. The Courts have already dismissed this case, finding it to be without merit.” This report was updated to clarify that the claimants have lodged an application for permission to appeal; rather than lodging an appeal itself

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Interest rates and fears of a mounting trade war send tech stocks lower

Shares of technology companies were battered in today’s trading as fears of an increasing trade war between the U.S. and China and rising interest rates convinced worried investors to sell. The Nasdaq Composite Index, which is where many of the country’s largest technology companies trade their shares, was down 219.4 points, or 3 percent, to 7,028.48. Meanwhile, the Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 395.8 points, or 1.6 percent, to 25,017.44. Facebook, Alphabet (the parent company of Google), Apple, Netflix and Amazon all fell into bear trading territory, which means that the value of these stocks have slid more than 20 percent. CNBC has a handy chart illustrating just how bad things have been for the largest tech companies in the U.S. Some of the woes from tech stocks aren’t necessarily trade-war related. Facebook shares have been hammered on the back of a blockbuster New York Times report detailing the missteps and misdirection involved in the company’s response to Russian interference in the U.S. elections. Investors are likely concerned that the company’s margins will shrink as it spends more on content moderation. And Apple saw its shares decline on reports that sales of its new iPhones may not be as rosy as the company predicted — although the holiday season should boost those numbers. According to a Wall Street Journal report, Apple has cut the targets for all of its new phones amid uncertainties around sales. The Journal reported that in recent weeks, Apple had cut its production orders for all of the iPhone models it unveiled in September, which has carried through the supply chain. Specifically, targets for the new iPhone XR were cut by one-third from the 70 million units the company had asked suppliers to produce, according to WSJ sources. Those sales numbers had a ripple effect throughout Apple’s supply chain, hitting the stock prices for a number of suppliers and competitors. But the U.S. government’s escalating trade war with China is definitely a concern for most of the technology industry as tariffs are likely to affect supply chains and drive prices higher. According to a research note from Chris Zaccarelli, the chief investment officer at Independent Advisor Alliance, quoted in MarketWatch, interest rates and slowing global growth are adding to trade war pressures to drive tech stock prices down. “Tech continues to be caught in the crosshairs of the triple threat of rising interest rates, global growth fears and trade tensions with China,” Zaccarelli wrote. “Trade war concerns with China weigh on the global supply chain for large technology companies while global growth fears worry many that future earnings will be lower,” he said.

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Interest rates and fears of a mounting trade war send tech stocks lower

Shares of technology companies were battered in today’s trading as fears of an increasing trade war between the U.S. and China and rising interest rates convinced worried investors to sell. The Nasdaq Composite Index, which is where many of the country’s largest technology companies trade their shares, was down 219.4 points, or 3 percent, to 7,028.48. Meanwhile, the Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 395.8 points, or 1.6 percent, to 25,017.44. Facebook, Alphabet (the parent company of Google), Apple, Netflix and Amazon all fell into bear trading territory, which means that the value of these stocks have slid more than 20 percent. CNBC has a handy chart illustrating just how bad things have been for the largest tech companies in the U.S. Some of the woes from tech stocks aren’t necessarily trade-war related. Facebook shares have been hammered on the back of a blockbuster New York Times report detailing the missteps and misdirection involved in the company’s response to Russian interference in the U.S. elections. Investors are likely concerned that the company’s margins will shrink as it spends more on content moderation. And Apple saw its shares decline on reports that sales of its new iPhones may not be as rosy as the company predicted — although the holiday season should boost those numbers. According to a Wall Street Journal report, Apple has cut the targets for all of its new phones amid uncertainties around sales. The Journal reported that in recent weeks, Apple had cut its production orders for all of the iPhone models it unveiled in September, which has carried through the supply chain. Specifically, targets for the new iPhone XR were cut by one-third from the 70 million units the company had asked suppliers to produce, according to WSJ sources. Those sales numbers had a ripple effect throughout Apple’s supply chain, hitting the stock prices for a number of suppliers and competitors. But the U.S. government’s escalating trade war with China is definitely a concern for most of the technology industry as tariffs are likely to affect supply chains and drive prices higher. According to a research note from Chris Zaccarelli, the chief investment officer at Independent Advisor Alliance, quoted in MarketWatch, interest rates and slowing global growth are adding to trade war pressures to drive tech stock prices down. “Tech continues to be caught in the crosshairs of the triple threat of rising interest rates, global growth fears and trade tensions with China,” Zaccarelli wrote. “Trade war concerns with China weigh on the global supply chain for large technology companies while global growth fears worry many that future earnings will be lower,” he said.

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Alibaba made a smart screen to help blind people shop and it costs next to nothing

Just a few years ago, Li Mengqi could not have imagined shopping on her own. Someone needed to always keep her company to say aloud what was in front of her, who’s been blind since birth. When smartphones with text-to-speech machines for the visually impaired arrived, she immediately bought an iPhone. “Though it was expensive,” Li, a 23-year-old who grew up in a rural village in eastern China’s Zhejiang province, told me. Cheaper smartphone options in China often don’t have good accessibility features. Screen readers opened a plethora of new opportunity for those with visual impairments. “I felt liberated, no longer having to rely on others,” said Li, who can now shop online, WeChat her friends, and go out alone by following her iPhone compass. Reading out everything on the screen is helpful, but it can also be overwhelming. Digital readers don’t decipher human thoughts, so when Li gets on apps with busy interfaces, such as an ecommerce platform, she’s bombarded with descriptions before she gets to the thing she wants. Over the past two years, Alibaba’s $15 billion R&D initiative Damo Academy has been working to improve smartphone experience for the blind. Its latest answer, a joint effort with China’s prestigious Tsinghua University, is a cheap silicone sheet that goes on top of smartphone screens. Li is among the first one hundred visually impaired or blind users to trial the technology. Nothing stands out about the plastic film – which cost RMB 0.25 or 3.6 American cents each to produce – until one has a closer look. There are three mini buttons on each side. They are sensory-enabled, which means pressing on them triggers certain commands, usually those that are frequently used like “go back” and “confirm”. “It’s much easier to shop with the sheet on,” said Li. Having button shortcuts removes the risk of misclicking and the need for complex interactions with screens. Powering Smart Touch is human-machine interaction, the same technology that makes voice control devices possible. Alibaba’s $1 “Smart Touch” plastic sheet helps smoothen smartphone experience for the visually impaired. / Photo credit: Alibaba “We thought, human-machine interaction can’t just be for sighted people,” Chen Zhao, research director at Damo Academy told TechCrunch. “Besides voice, touch is also very important to the blind, so we decided to develop a touch feature.” Smart Touch isn’t just for fingers. It also works when users hold their phones up to the ears. This lets them listen to text quickly in public without having to blast it out through speakers or headphones. Early trials of ear touch show a 50 percent reduction in time needed to complete tasks like taking calls and online shopping, Alibaba claims. Emotions also matter. People with visual disabilities tend to be more cautious as they fumble through screens, so Smart Touch takes that into account. For instance, users need to double-click on the silicone button before a command goes through. At the moment, Smart Touch works only on special editions of Alibaba’s two flagship apps, e-commerce marketplace Taobao and payment affiliate Alipay . The buttons automatically take on different functions when users switch between apps. But Zhao said she wanted to make the technology widely available. Some tinkering with existing apps will make Smart Touch compatible. The smart film requires more testing before it officially rolls out early 2019, so Damo and Tsinghua have been recruiting volunteers like Li for feedback. “Unlike with regular apps, it’s hard to beta test Smart Touch because the blind population is relatively small,” observed the researcher, but embedding the technology in popular apps could speed up the iteration process. There’s also the issue with distributing the physical sheets. According to state census, China had around 13 million visually impaired people in 2012. That’s about one in a hundred people. However, they are rarely seen in public, as a post on China’s equivalent of Quora points out. One oft-cited obstacle is that most roads in China aren’t disability-friendly, even in major cities. (In my city Shenzhen, blind lanes are common but they often get cut off abruptly to make way for a crossing or a bus stop.) Damo doesn’t plan to monetize the initiative, according to Zhao. She envisions a future where her team could give out the haptic films — which can be mass produced at low costs — for free through Alibaba’s expanding network of brick-and-mortar stores. Time will tell whether the accessibility scheme is more than public relations fluff. Initiatives around corporate social responsibility have mushroomed in China in recent years. They have come under fire, however, for being transient because many merely pander to the government’s demand (link in Chinese) for corporate ethics overlook long-term impact. “The technology is ready. It just takes time to test it on different smartphones and bring to users at scale,” said Zhao.

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The iPhone is reportedly getting 5G in 2020

The first 5G phones are set to start arriving next year. Motorola plans to bring next-gen connectivity via a Mod for the Z3, and companies like LG and OnePlus have promised to deliver the tech baked into handsets at some point in 2019. iPhone users, on the other hand, may have to wait a bit longer. The technology is, of course, an inevitability for Apple (along with everyone else, really), so it’s just a question of when. A new report from Fast Company (via the Verge) puts the timing around a year and half out. The “source with knowledge of Apple’s plans” put the 5G iPhone’s arrival at some point in 2020, with Intel supplying the tech this time out. Apparently Apple and Intel are going through a bit of a rough patch of late, courtesy of heat/battery issues with the 8060 5G modem. Of course, things aren’t rough enough for the company to hit up Qualcomm again. Given the on-going battle between the two companies, that’s probably a bridge too far. Instead, Apple’s holding out for Intel’s 8161 chip. 5G presents a solid opportunity for Intel to regain some of the substantial ground it ceded to Qualcomm in the mobile market the last time out.

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Apple pulls WatchOS 5.1 update after it bricked some Apple Watches

PSA: If you’re an Apple Watch owner who is having trouble finding the shiny new WatchOS 5.1 update that Apple just shipped, it isn’t quite ready yet. Apple initially shipped the update on Tuesday alongside iOS 12.1, but it quickly pulled it hours later following reports that it bricked some Series 4 watches. A number of customers affected took to Reddit and Twitter to warn of the issues, which were first reported by 9to5Mac and caused some watches to be stuck on the loading screen. The update is no longer available, but Apple told those who did download it and now have bricked a watch that it is working on a fix that’ll ship as soon as possible. “Due to a small number of Apple Watch customers experiencing an issue while installing watchOS 5.1 today, we’ve pulled back the software update as a precaution,” it said in a statement. “Any customers impacted should contact AppleCare, but no action is required if the update installed successfully. We are working on a fix for an upcoming software update.” The Watch drama comes less than 24 hours after Apple unveiled a new and larger version of the iPad Pro and a revamped MacBook Air model at an event in New York. Other goodies revealed included a new Mac Mini, a magnetic Apple Pencil and an expansion to its ‘Today at Apple’ program. Next up is the company’s earnings on Thursday, although affected Watch owners will hope that the patched WatchOS update arrives sooner. Update: The original version of this article has been updated because this is WatchOS 5.1 not 4.1. Thanks to everyone who wrote in, I’m clearly living in the past — apologies for any confusion.

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Apple pulls WatchOS 4.1 update after it bricked some Apple Watches

PSA: If you’re an Apple Watch owner who is having trouble finding the shiny new WatchOS 4.1 update that Apple just shipped, it isn’t quite ready yet. Apple initially shipped the update on Tuesday alongside iOS 12.1, but it quickly pulled it hours later following reports that it bricked some Series 4 watches. A number of customers affected took to Reddit and Twitter to warn of the issues, which were first reported by 9to5Mac and caused some watches to be stuck on the loading screen. The update is no longer available, but Apple told those who did download it and now have bricked a watch that it is working on a fix that’ll ship as soon as possible. “Due to a small number of Apple Watch customers experiencing an issue while installing watchOS 5.1 today, we’ve pulled back the software update as a precaution,” it said in a statement. “Any customers impacted should contact AppleCare, but no action is required if the update installed successfully. We are working on a fix for an upcoming software update.” The Watch drama comes less than 24 hours after Apple unveiled a new and larger version of the iPad Pro and a revamped MacBook Air model at an event in New York. Other goodies revealed included a new Mac Mini, a magnetic Apple Pencil and an expansion to its ‘Today at Apple’ program. Next up is the company’s earnings on Thursday, although affected Watch owners will hope that the patched WatchOS update arrives sooner.

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