Monthly Archives November 2014

Twitter to Track User App Downloads

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Twitter is taking its internet monitoring to the next level by tracking the apps users install on their Android or iOS devices.

Twitter has changed the terms and conditions for its app and launched a support page explaining how it will now be monitoring what users of their mobile app download. More or less, Twitter will know about every app users install. Twitter will likely sell this data to companies wishing to advertise their goods and services via the popular social media site, in order to enhance targeted advertizing.

On its support page Twitter promises, “We are only collecting the list of applications you have installed. We are not collecting any data within the applications.”

The new feature, called App Graph, will also make suggestions about who to follow on Twitter based on app downloads. If a user wishes to block Twitter from gaining this information, they simply have to adjust their privacy settings. If ad tracking has previously been disabled on a user’s device, Twitter will not be able to use App Graph on them.

Firefox Revamps its Search Interface

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Mozilla has recently made a deal with Yahoo to switch Firefox’s default search engine to Yahoo’s new Bing-powered search experience. Ahead of the switch, Firefox has upgraded its search interface so users have the ability to switch search engines with ease.

Rather than having to seek out settings to switch search engines, search settings will now appear front and center underneath the search suggestions whenever users begin to type a query.  Additionally, Firefox’s new search interface will allow users to type a keyword into the search field, then choose a specific search engine or website on which they wish to view the results, such as Wikipedia or Google.

If users wish to remove any options from the default list, they can customize it with ease. As per its standards, Mozilla is making ease of use its number one priority.

BlackBerry Will Pay Users to Switch from iPhone

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In an attempt to win back customers, BlackBerry is offering users up to $600 to trade-in their iPhones for a new BlackBerry Passport.

Canadian users with a model 4s or later can receive a trade-in value of up to $400, depending on the model of the phone, plus a $200 top-up from BlackBerry. Users in the U.S. are also eligible for this offer, which includes a $150 US top-up. However, this promotion is not available outside North America.

Anyone hoping to take advantage of this offer must purchase a BlackBerry Passport from the company’s online store or from Amazon.com. BlackBerry will send users a prepaid Visa gift card within six weeks of receiving the iPhone and proof of purchase for the Passport in the mail. The offer begins December 1 and runs until February 13, 2015.

BlackBerry CEO John Chen recently announced the Passport is now available in red and white, along with the traditional black.

Google Fiber Gigabit Internet Launching in Austin for $70 Per Month

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Residents of Austin, Texas will soon be able to sign up for Google Fibre’s high-speed Internet. The Gigabit plan will only cost $70 per month. Google Fiber recently announced pricing details for three different Internet plans, and Austin locals can start signing up as early as December.

Google’s most basic plan will cost customers a one-time fee of $300, paid in $25 installments over 12 months. The plan offers 5Mbps download speeds and 1Mbps upload speeds, and after the initial construction fee the broadband is completely free.

The construction fee is waived for customers on either of the two paid Gigabit plans, and will include 1TB of cloud storage as well as free hardware for the first year of service. The Internet only plan is priced at $70 per month, while the Gigabit Internet + TV subscription will cost $130 per month.

The television plan will feature 150+ channels and a DVR that can record up to eight shows simultaneously.

European Parliament Drafts Resolution Calling for Google Break-Up

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In an attempt to curb Google’s dominance, European Parliament is getting ready to draft a non-binding resolution proposing the company’s search engine operations be split from the rest of its business. The motion does not mention Google in such explicit terms, but it is by far the leading search engine provider, with an estimated 90 percent market share in Europe.

European politicians are seeking ways to rein in Google’s power, as concern grows regarding American companies’ control over the Internet industry. While the motion is a non-binding resolution, it would be the most far-reaching action proposed to date, and would increase pressure on the European Commission to take action against Google.

According to Reuters, the motion “calls on the Commission to consider proposals with the aim of unbundling search engines from other commercial services as one potential long-term solution” to leveling the competitive playing field.

Google has already faced harsh criticism in Europe regarding everything from privacy to tax policies, which its executives believe is linked to Europe’s negative perception of the United States in general. The company is so large it is now inspiring distrust from politicians and business executives, in addition to the general public.

Andreas Schwab, the German Christian Democrat lawmaker who co-sponsored the resolution, told Reuters it was “very likely” to be adopted by his own centre-right group – the largest in parliament – and was supported by the main centre-left group as well.

Netflix Moves Down Under

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In a recent announcement, Netflix confirmed rumors that it plans to launch its television internet service in New Zealand and Australia. By March, consumers will have access to the globally popular video streaming service.

Cliff Edwards, director of communications and technology at Netflix said the company aims to get at least 10 percent of households with broadband to subscribe. However, he did not give a timeframe for that goal to be achieved.

In New Zealand alone, Netflix will be competing with local services such as Sky TV and Quickflix. Within an hour of the announcement, Sky TV shares dropped 9 cents to $6.40. CEO John Fellet said it took all competitors seriously “especially global ones”.

Netflix has yet to mention how much the service will cost. The current U.S. rate of $8.99 would be equivalent to NZ$11.40.

Do Facebook Games Make Your Family Stronger?

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A new study conducted at Montreal’s Concordia University suggests playing Social Media Games (SNGs) such as Farmville or Candy Crush Saga helps to strengthen family bonds. The research says that SNGs are a way for families to meet social obligations, even while being countries apart.

“Maintaining those connections is especially important as families find themselves dispersed across countries and continents,” said senior author Mia Consalvo, Canada Research Chair in Game Studies and Design at Concordia. “SNGs give families a convenient and cheap way to transcend geographical boundaries.”

Consalvo and her co-author Kelly Boudreau polled a group of social network gamers, and collected data from questionnaires and interviews. They found that by playing these games, intergenerational relationships in families are improved by enhancing the quality of time spent together and providing a common topic of conversation.

“It is not just siblings in their early 20s using SNGs to connect. Grandfathers are playing online games with granddaughters, mothers with sons. These multi-generational interactions prove social networks are tools that break down both communication and age barriers,” said Boudreau, who is currently a lecturer in Game Studies at Brunel University in England.

The study was published in the journal Information, Communication and Society.

Snapcash: Snapchat’s Newest Innovation

snapchat Snapchat has teamed up with mobile payment service Square to create a new money transfer service. Snapcash now makes it possible for U.S. residents over the age of 18 to send money over its popular photo sharing app.

Users must first submit their debit card information, which is then verified with a social security number. All of this information only needs to be entered once, and will be securely stored through Square, which was founded by Twitter’s Jack Dorsey in 2009. After this is done, users can enter a chat, type a dollar amount and hit send. A green icon will then appear confirming their transaction.

Snapchat was inspired by Square Cash, Square’s own service which allows users to send money through email.

“We’re huge fans of the folks at Square and have been big admirers of Square Cash since it launched – just type a dollar amount into the subject line of an email and send cash to friends. Genius!” said the company in a blog post. “We loved it so much that we wanted to create something with them that felt Snapchat-y. So we built a Snapcash prototype and shared it with the team at Square. Luckily for us, they were just as excited as we were and wanted to build it together.”

For new users of this feature, there is a spending limit of $250, but the limit can be raised to as much as $2,500.

AT&T Reduces 15 GB Shared Data Plan to $100

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AT&T mobility is keeping up with its competitors by cutting the price of its 15 GB shared data plan by $30 per month. Previously the price of its 10 GB plan, 15 GB of data is now available for $100 per month.

This offer is available for a limited time to customers on AT&T’s Mobile Share Value plans, though the company has not specified when the offer will expire. A data access fee of $15 per month for each smartphone will still apply under this plan.

The AT&T promotion comes shortly after Sprint reduced the access charge on its Family Share Pack plans from $25 to $15 per month, and cut the cost of its 12 GB and 16GB shared data plans by $10. Sprint’s promotion is available through January 15, 2015.

This past September, a separate promotion was announced by AT&T, doubling its $130 per month 15 GB plan to 30 GB. For the same price of the smaller data plans, 20, 30, 40 and 50 GB plans have also been doubled to 40, 60, 80 and 100 GB.

State Department Unclassified Network Hacked

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Hackers have breached State Department computers, making it the fourth attack on government computers in recent weeks. The White House, the United States Postal Service and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration have experienced similar security breaches.

“This has impacted some of our unclassified email traffic and our access to public websites from our main classified system,” said a senior State Department official.

It is unclear if these attacks are linked in any way, but it appears as though no real damage has occurred at this point in time. The hackers may have just been probing to see what type of information was accessible. Security improvements were added after the “activity of concern” was detected.