A newly granted patent, discovered by AppleInsider, reveals Apple is at least exploring the idea of integrating the fingerprint sensor into the display, making Touch ID’s existing “capacitive drive ring” around the home button (and the button itself) unnecessary for future iPhones.
The patent outlines the use of a new type of display technology that uses embedded micro LEDs and an IR diode to essentially scan and detect the position of a finger on the screen. LuxVue, a company Apple acquired in 2014 that specializes in low-power micro LED displays, is reportedly behind the technology.
A bitmap made up of light intensity data generated by “bouncing IR light off of a user’s finger and back to sensing diodes” could then be used to authenticate the fingerprint.
In some ways, Apple’s patent is very similar to Synaptics’ FS9100 optical fingerprint sensing technology, which also is designed to move sensors to underneath the display and allow for fingerprint detection through up to 1mm of glass.
The patent illustration below shows how the IR diode could be used to “see” the position of a finger and potentially authenticate it:
Another patent illustration (below), shows how IR diodes embedded within the screen can be used to detect fingerprints.
As with all patents, the technology may or may not make it into new products. The patent, suggestive as it is, also isn an indicator of whether the technology is ready or not. And even if the concept is technically feasible, Apple only ever incorporates new technologies when it can produce them at volume.
The timing of the patent, however, is nothing if not coincidental as rumors suggest the iPhone 8 will sport an OLED display that stretches from edge-to-edge with minimal bezels. The latest research note from KGI Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo claims the iPhone 8 will have a 5-inch screen that fits into a body with roughly the dimensions of the 4.7-inch iPhone 7. The only way for that to be true is for Apple to remove the home button which hogs up a good chunk of the bottom bezel.
Facebook may still shy away from the term “media company,” but the social network will soon have its own set of TV apps.
Facebook video apps are coming to a whole array of set-top boxes, including Apple TV, Amazon Fire TV, Samsung Smart TVs and other platforms, the company announced on Tuesday. The apps, which will be launching “soon,” will allow Facebook users to watch the same videos they encounter in the News Feed on their televisions.
Though Facebook has supported streaming video to TVs via Google Cast and Apple AirPlay since last year, the app will mark the social network’s first dedicated TV experience.
Facebook says the apps will let you watch both recorded and live video (but not 360), and you’ll also be able to check out clips you’ve saved for later. It will also serve up personalized recommendations.
The news comes weeks after a report in The Wall Street Journal that Facebook was readying an app for set-top boxes that would feature Facebook video, as well as original “TV-style” programming.
Announced onstage during Re/code’s Code Media conference, Facebook’s VP of Partnerships Dan Rose said the app will make it easier for users to watch the video they encounter in their News Feeds, though he made no mention of original content.
“We want people to be able to consume content wherever they are — whether it’s on their phone, whether it’s on their computer — and TV is just another screen for that. But we’re a mobile-first company, so the products we build will always be oriented around the experience you have on a mobile device when you’re watching video.”
February 14, 2017 / Comments Off on FTC’s Lawsuit Should Make You Feel Very Insecure About the IoT
By Peter S. Vogel, Eric S. Levy & Edward H. Block Feb 14, 2017 12:03 PM PT
Even though D-Link expressly promised that many of its wireless devices had the highest level of security available, the Federal Trade Commission last month filed a lawsuit that alleges otherwise.
The FTC filing includes copies of online marketing materials and technical specifications for D-Link’s products (including its digital baby monitor and wireless routers), and flatly declares that “thousands of Defendants’ routers and cameras have been vulnerable to attacks that subject consumers’ sensitive personal information and local networks to a significant risk of unauthorized access.”
The FTC’s Mission
It has been the role and responsibility of the FTC to protect U.S. consumers since it was established in 1914 — long before the existence of the Internet or the Internet of Things. The FTC’s original purpose was to prevent unfair methods of competition in commerce as part of the battle to “bust the trusts.” Then in 1938, Congress further broadened the FTC’s enforcement powers to protect consumers against “unfair and deceptive acts or practices.”
As result of its expanded jurisdiction and enforcement authority, the FTC gives U.S. consumers an expectation that they can rely on the express promises made by all manufacturers. However, what makes D-Link’s alleged misrepresentations worse is that the consumer IoT is vulnerable to criminal cyberintrusions, since consumers are exposed without their knowledge.
D-Link failed to make reasonable efforts to test the software that controls its routers and IP cameras for preventable security flaws, and it failed to maintain the confidentiality of users’ private security keys for logins, the lawsuit alleges.
For example, D-Link’s mobile devices since 2008 have displayed users’ login credentials in clear readable text. Hence, although D-Link customers relied upon D-Link’s express promises that its routers and IP cameras were secure, their privacy has been compromised for years.
What Did D-Link Promise?
D-Link’s website, user manuals, and promotional brochures all included express promises about security features designed to make customers feel confident that its products were safe, including express promises that D-Link products were “easy to secure.”
D-Link expressly stated that its routers used “advanced network security,” including securing WiFi with “dual-active firewalls,” and that they supported “the latest wireless security features to help prevent unauthorized access, be it from over a wireless network or from the Internet.”
D-Link also promised that the routers had 128-bit security encryption.
D-Link highlighted the security with its IP cameras specifically placing the word “SECURITY” across the bottom of each page in capital letters and vivid colors. With its baby monitors, D-Link promoted security on the side of the boxes to give parents an extra sense of comfort.
Even after D-Link’s failures came to light in 2013, the company’s product support page for another two years touted its commitment to product security.
D-Link claimed that during product development it expressly prohibited any features that would “allow unauthorized access to the device or network, including but not limited to undocumented account credentials, covert communication channels, ‘backdoors’ or undocumented traffic diversion.”
The Cause of Action Institute last month filed a Motion to Dismiss the FTC lawsuit, which is set for a hearing on March 9.
The claims constitute “government overreach … without any evidence of consumer injury,” the COA Institute asserted.
The FTC failed to support its allegations that D-Linked failed to take reasonable steps to secure routers and IP cameras, and it did not identify any specific security data breaches, the motion states.
Of course, the FTC now has an opportunity to file a response to the CoA Institute’s Motion to Dismiss, and it will have to provide the court with some additional evidence to support its allegations.
Only then will the public have a better understanding of the basis of the FTC’s lawsuit.
How Secure Are Routers?
Ironically, the day before the FTC filed its complaint against D-Link, it announced the IoT Home Inspector Challenge to “combat security vulnerabilities in home devices.” The top prize is US$25,000, and the deadline for entries is May 22, 2017.
Of course, D-Link’s Motion to Dismiss may be resolved before the May deadline.
There are IoT hacking contests by the multitude, including the annual DEFCON which this year highlighted security flaws in more than 23 devices from 21 manufacturers, according to a PCworld report.
How Safe Are You?
There will be roughly 8.4 billion devices connected to the Internet of things in 2017, up 31 percent from 2016, and there will be 20.4 billion connected devices by 2020, Gartner has forecast.
So, if the FTC is only partially correct and D-Link only has some insecure IoT devices, the cybersecurity risk nevertheless remains unbelievably high.
E-Commerce Times columnist Peter S. Vogel is a partner at Gardere Wynne Sewell, where he is Chair of the Internet, eCommerce & Technology Team. Peter tries lawsuits and negotiates contracts dealing with IT and the Internet. Before practicing law, he was a mainframe programmer and received a master’s in computer science. His blog covers IT and Internet topics. You can connect with him on Google+.
February 14, 2017 / Comments Off on TheBlindGuide acquires UPenn startup ThirdEye, bringing computer vision to the visually impaired
There’s nothing quite like the atmosphere of a college hackathon. Amidst the free t-shirts and apps to help you find parties on campus always lie a few hidden gems for those with the patience to hunt. ThirdEye, one of those gems forged out of PennApps, UPenn’s hackathon, is being acquired today by TheBlindGuide for an undisclosed sum. Started by three current Penn students, ThirdEye brings object recognition to mobile to help the visually impaired.
Team members Rajat Bhageria, Ben Sandler, Daniel Hanover and Nandeet Mehta, spent a lot of their time leveraging their student status to build out relationships with organizations supporting the visually impaired. A lot of these partners ended up becoming distribution channels for getting their service to market.
They spent a lot of time hashing out a business plan, ultimately settling on a fremium model in the U.S. of $8 per month after a period and a free model internationally. At the time of the sale, ThirdEye only had about 500 monthly active users. But Bhageria says that, though the acquisition is small, he is proud that development will continue on the project.
After the fall of glass, the group mulled over the idea of building its own hardware. In contrast to the stereotypical hot-shot college dropouts, everyone on the ThirdEye team wanted to graduate. This meant that there was only so much time to go around when it came to learning the medical device regulatory and insurance landscape.
TheBlindGuide is an e-commerce retailer serving the blind and visually impaired communities. The ThirdEye team will not be joining the company. Instead, TheBlindGuide will hire visually impaired and disabled programmers — building tools for the impaired by the impaired.
Like any self-respecting founder fresh off an exit still contemplating next steps, Bhageria is piecing together his own venture fund to keep active. In the spirit of the decentralized Contrary Capital, Prototype Capital, supported by high-net-worth individuals, wants to give mainstays like Dorm Room Fund and Rough Draft Ventures a run for their money on the college startup seed-financing circuit. The idea is that investors across a large number of campuses would get access to more deal flow and be able to offer perks like legal help and office space to entice entrepreneurs.
February 14, 2017 / Comments Off on ‘Minecraft’ players design Elon Musk’s secret SpaceX Tunnel for him
Elon Musk, founder of SpaceX and Tesla, may be working on a secret underground tunnel that runs from his office at SpaceX to the Los Angeles International Airport. He tweeted a picture earlier this month of what looks like the start of the tunnel along with the word “Minecraft,” and a group of Lithuanian Minecraft players saw it as a challenge.
The crew of players spent two days in Minecraft creating an imagining of the tunnel that runs from SpaceX to LAX and posted a timelapse of the project on YouTube. This was the same crew that built a proposal for a Tesla Gigafactory in Lithuania, which caught the attention of Tesla.
Maybe SpaceX will catch wind of this new Minecraft project and use it as inspiration for whatever secret projects it has going on.
February 14, 2017 / Comments Off on My response to the nastiest OKCupid message I’ve ever received
I don’t really like online dating at all. But once in a while I give it a try, just to see what happens.
Recently, I made an OkCupid profile. I wasn’t finding any good conversations or connections, but I stuck with it because hey, you never know.
But as we’ve seen in one viral story after another, it is not easy for women on dating apps (or social media in general) to avoid being berated.
Messages from potential suitors
Like any woman on one of these apps, I got a significant amount of comments about my appearance and a lot of extremely forward, sexual messages.
But I’ve also gotten other kinds of messages that directly address my character. I am a very open person, so I mention on my profile that I work in media, am a feminist (I believe in the systematic, social and economic equality of the sexes) and that I am a nerd (I like pop culture and stuff). I also wrote that you should message me, “If you’re not a f*ckboy.”
If a guy can laugh at that, then we’re one step closer to getting along.
However, I also get called out for my social/political beliefs just as much as I am quizzed on how much of a nerd I actually am. I usually feel like Marissa Tomei’s character showing off her automotive prowess in that scene from My Cousin Vinny.
At this point, I’m used to it. If you’re a woman who works in the public eye in any capacity, you expect to get some crap thrown at you.
But then I was sent this delightful message:
(Warning: This message contains fowl, potentially offensive language):
In full, the message (the first one the guy ever sent me) reads:
Anyone who writes “fuckboy” has no credibility as a human being. You’re not funny and your (sic) not original; you’re cunty and have nothing to offer to the conversation. A nerdgirl is so fucking original. You seem like every other misandrist, who invarably (sic) never experienced any hardship or legit discrimination. You probably crap out solipsistic, totally uninspiring shit for xojane..That or some dumbass thought piece for equally uptight tools. And you probably get your news from memes. Oh, and you do not get a chance to respond. Enjoy being a cunt and decidedly not unique.
At first, I tried to shake it off, but that was pretty much impossible. I wondered why the heck anyone would think it’s okay to send a message like this. My friends (who were amazing and supportive) wondered the same.
Why this is even a thing?
I think men who send messages like these are insecure in their own unhealthy ideas of traditional masculinity. Some people rely so heavily on their male privilege that if anything or anyone mentions that it may not be the best thing for society, they lash out. Their power is threatened and they don’t like it.
At first, I tried to shake it off, but that was pretty much impossible.
Society undervalues women. We see it when convicted rapists are given short sentences so that their lives aren’t severely impacted by this one act, while the survivor has to live with it for the rest of her life, and when survivors who do speak out are often mistrusted. We see it when the right to make decisions about one’s own body is questioned and attacked. We see it when women are sexualized and demeaned constantly by advertisers and the media.
These societal actions teach men early on that women don’t have the same personhood as them. That leads to the misogynistic tendencies which teach men that they have a right to women’s bodies. It leads to catcalling, slut shaming, victim blaming and other atrocities that women face every single day.
But when men have the additional protection of distance and anonymity, they’re allowed to say things they’d never say to a woman’s face. Just take the comments made to women who work in sports media as an example.
This smokescreen gives them even more “power” than they already have. That anonymity means that they face next to no repercussions for their hurtful, caustic words. The more they get away with saying these terrible things, the more likely they are to repeat their actions.
They get even more power whenno one calls them out on it. Although, no woman’s response to this kind of attack is invalid. It is completely acceptable to fight back. It is completely acceptable to block and ignore a person. Everything in between is OK, as long as you’re not doing any further harm to anyone involved. But when these men are not challenged, the perpetrator gets away with it and will ultimately do it again.
“Do not get a chance to respond,” huh?
As you may have noticed, the person who confronted me decided to tell me that I “do not get a chance to respond.” This made me laugh.
I could have easily sent an angry message back in the heat of the moment, but I decided to block and report him instead, letting the folks at OkCupid deal with it. (Though I don’t know if my actions are the reason, this user’s profile was deactivated only hours after I blocked him.)
Luckily, I’m pretty confident and messages like this don’t make me think less of myself. But that isn’t necessarily true for other young women who are sent this vitriol. And since I have a platform here at Mashable that not many other young women have, I decided I’d use it to bring up a few things to this person:
Luckily, I’m pretty confident and messages like this don’t make me think less of myself.
First of all, the statement that I have no credibility as a human being is simply false. You can’t glean that from a joke on my profile. And if you don’t think it’s funny, that’s just fine with me.
Third, using a crass word for female genitalia as an insult shows class and maturity, and also shows me just how much you value women.
Being a “nerdgirl” (not a word) is not a ploy I use to appear “original.” It’s just a part of who I am and I wear it on my sleeve like the Batman costume I wore for Halloween when I was 3 years old. (It was too big for me, but I didn’t care. I strutted in that thing.)
I’m not a misandrist. I am very close with the men in my life and I adore them. I’d just like to be valued by society just as much as they are. And FYI, my best guy friend read your message and he doesn’t like you very much.
As for the hardship and discrimination I’ve faced, I’ve been through my share of tough times. I was bullied to the point of suicidal thoughts in middle school. I’ve been catcalled almost every day on my way to work this week. There are places I can’t go by myself at night for fear that I’ll be hurt in some way. But my feminism is intersectional, so I acknowledge that I have privilege because I’m straight, cisgender and white. I have not been discriminated against because of my race or sexual orientation, but I believe in the equality of people of color and those in the LGBTQ community. I know they experience their own set of difficulties and hurdles that make my life look easy.
As for where I write and work, I’m proud as hell to work for a company called Mashable. Not only is this where I get my news, it’s where I am surrounded by intelligent and wonderful people who support me enough to let me tell my story and share my voice.
February 14, 2017 / Comments Off on Huawei P10: News and rumors
Why it matters to you
Huawei has turned a corner with its hardware and software, and it’s ramping up its next release amid a big U.S. sales push.
The Huawei P9 was one of our favorite smartphones released in 2016, due to its superb dual-lens shooter produced with the help of camera experts Leica. We’ve subsequently been even more impressed by the Huawei Mate 9, and if the rumors turn out to be accurate, the P10 is coming to challenge it for supremacy in the company’s range.
Huawei’s P-series smartphones are always the stylish ones, compared to the business-like Mate series, blending good looks with high-quality materials for a fashion-forward result. The P10 may be more stylish thanks to three colorful options.
The company teased that the P10 will come in three color options: green, blue, and gold.
This somewhat matches a leak from Chinese social network Weibo that showed the P10 in a minty green, a champagne gold, and a purple. The purple is the only one that doesn’t exactly match the blue from Huawei’s tweet — we’ll have to wait and see what colors are offered when the device is announced. Huawei did add a gorgeous blue and red color option to the P9 after launch, so we know it’s not afraid of experimenting outside of the usual silver, black, or white options.
Leaks have shown the P10 may look similar to the P9, with a metal body, and a glass or other material section housing the camera lenses on the back. Interestingly, a Weibo-sourced leak points to Huawei shifting the fingerprint sensor from the back of the phone to the front, in a home button beneath the screen. This is a new design direction for the P-series.
The front fingerprint sensor also appears on a leak that shows a phone said to be the P10, but with a curved screen and back panel, making it look quite similar to the Porsche Design Mate 9. It doesn’t entirely match other leaked pictures of the P10, aside from an image linked to a post quoting Huawei CEO Richard Yu. However, while none of this has been confirmed yet, but the possibility of a P10, a P10 Plus, and a Porsche Design P10 can’t be ruled out.
Release date and price
Huawei’s P10 will be revealed at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, which takes place at the end of February. The company has teased the smartphone and the announcement date — February 26 — through a video on its YouTube channel.
The video emphasizes the following phrase: “Change the way the world sees you,” with “#OO” repeatedly cutting through. The “Os” both feature a woman’s eyes in black and white, which could allude to the P10’s monochrome capabilities via the dual cameras, similar to the P9.
Previously, a quote attributed to Huawei CEO Richard Yu said the P10 will arrive in March or April 2017. This could be when the device becomes available for purchase.
The price won’t be known until the launch, but a new leak from Spanish retailer Phone House suggested the device would cost around 799 euros, or around $850, according to GSMArena. The listing has since been taken down from the retailer’s site.
A previous document promoting the P10 phones said the cheapest option — 4GB RAM with 32GB of internal storage — will cost around $510. The 4GB model with 64GB of internal storage is rumored to cost around $595, and the premium 6GB with 128GB storage version $680. These prices, if genuine, have been converted over from another currency, and may not reflect the final price in the United States.
The P9 may have an awesome camera, but the other specifications won’t stand up to the competition in 2017, so what is Huawei planning for the successor? Actually, that should be successors, because there are rumors Huawei has three different P10 models in the works: A P10, a P10 Plus, and a P10 Lite.
A leaked promotional document said to originate in China mentions both the P10 and the P10 Plus, and indicates there will be multiple versions of these two core devices, too. We’d already heard rumors of a standard and premium edition of the P10, so this isn’t a big surprise. Apparently, there will be three different P10 versions, two with 4GB of RAM and either 32GB or 64GB of internal storage, and a model with 6GB of RAM and 128GB of internal memory. The P10 Plus, which may have a curved screen, is likely to come in two versions: The first with 4GB RAM and 64GB of memory, and the other with 6GB of RAM and 128GB memory.
But the latest leak comes from Phone House, a Spanish retailer, that accidentally listed the specs for the P10. If accurate, it suggests there will be a P10 model that’s 5.5-inches with options for a Full HD or 2,560 x 1,440-pixel resolution. It’s listed with the Kirin 960 chipset, a 12-megapixel camera, and Android 7.0 Nougat — or more likely EMUI 5.0, which is based on the Android version. The site has since removed any information about the P10, but GSMArena managed to get a screenshot.
Specs supposedly for the standard P10 were also found in a log of GFXBench. In it, we can see the phone being referred to as LON-L29. For reference, the P9’s model number is LON-L19. It states the P10 will have a 5.5-inch display with a resolution of 2560 x 1440 pixels — a bump up from the full HD display on the P9. On top of that, it lists a 2.3GHz octa-core Kirin 960 processor, as well as a hefty 6GB of RAM — indicating the premium version underwent testing on the site. The P9 has only 3GB of RAM, so the bump up to 6GB represents a pretty major upgrade. When it comes to onboard storage, the device listed boasted a whopping 256GB.
A further leak repeats the chance of a 5.5-inch screen with a 2560 x 1440 pixel resolution, and is also the first mention of a standard P9 model with 4GB of RAM and 64GB of storage. The difference between the P10 and P10 Plus is rumored to be a single aspect: A curved screen on the P10 Plus, rather than a flat screen on the P10.
What about the P10 Lite? Leaked specs supposedly for the phone were spotted on a Geekbench listing with the model number WAS-LX1A, and it shows that the device has a Kirin 655 processor coupled with a hefty 4GB of RAM. The listing also shows that the device will ship with Android 7.0.
February 14, 2017 / Comments Off on Samsung’s Chromebook Pro Earns Respect
Some early reviewers of the Samsung Chromebook Pro characterized it as a “MacBook killer,” but others were more restrained in their enthusiasm. Jointly developed with Google and first demoed at CES 2017, the Chromebook Pro is slated for release next month.
Samsung’s Chromebooks basically are lightweight productivity tools that rely heavily on access to cloud-based resources. They have gained popularity in the enterprise for use with remote workers and in educational settings as entry-level computing tools.
However, they “are no Mac killers,” said Werner Goertz, a research director at Gartner.
The Chromebook Pro will sell for US$550.
Some reviewers, including PC Magazine‘s Victoria Song and Ars Technica‘s Valentina Palladino, considered it pricey.
However, that pricing fits into the normal laptop budget, noted Wired reviewer David Pierce .
“I don’t want to spend $1,000-plus on a PC or Mac when I could get something like the Samsung Chromebook Pro for $549,” Forbes‘ Shelby Carpenter remarked.
“Access to the Google Play store and the Android apps ecosystem, combined with the freemium productivity suites such as Slack, make [Chromebooks] a viable option for remote workers,” Gartner’s Goertz told TechNewsWorld, “and Samsung’s carefully selected price points are justified vis-a-vis the slightly less expensive competition.”
Design and Battery Life
The rounded edges and exposed hinge give the Chromebook Pro “a decidedly utilitarian look,” Wired‘s Pierce noted, which is “just fine.”
Though the Pro is light and small, its squarish shape is “a little awkward when typing,” according to PC Magazine‘s Song.
Its design struck Ars Technica‘s Palladino as “solid.”
“I got my hands on the device at CES, and i was impressed with how thin and light it was while not feeling like a typical flimsy plastic Chromebook,” noted Eric Smith, a senior analyst at Strategy Analytics.
The Chromebook Pro’s battery life is “only beat by the much more expensive Chromebook Pixel 2 and the Dell Chromebook 13,” said Ars reviewer Palladino.
However, it “pales in comparison to what we saw” from various Asus Chromebook models, said PC Magazine‘s Song, who noted that results of two tests varied substantially.
The Quad HD Screen
The Chromebook Pro’s 2400 x 1600 Quad HD LED display “is virtually indistinguishable from my Mac screen,” Forbes‘ Carpenter said.
The display “makes the entire device taller than most 16:9 laptops and two-in-ones,” observed Palladino.
That allows a larger palm rest and more space for the user’s hands, but a huge bottom bezel and a hardware strip for the hinges to attach to the lid leave “a bunch of empty space,” he pointed out.
The display offers a much higher resolution than typically found in 11- or 13-inch Chromebooks, Song said, but the 3:2 aspect ratio means it’s more square-shaped. That leaves little room on either side of the keyboard, making the typing experience somewhat awkward.
The Stylus and Android Apps
Although the included stylus drew generally favorable remarks, “the quality of the inking wasn’t as impressive as Windows or iOS devices at similar price points,” Strategy Analytics’ Smith told TechNewsWorld.
Reviewers liked the Chromebook Pro’s access to the huge number of Android apps in the Google Play store.
However, some Android apps don’t play well with Chrome, they noted.
“Some apps don’t recognize the keyboard and trackpad; others seem unable to handle a touchscreen,” Wired‘s Pierce pointed out.
“Most crash constantly,” and switching between apps can be clumsy, said Song.
Still, “I was able to do most of my daily work on the Chromebook Pro without major problems,” Palladino remarked, adding that it “performed faster than my MacBook Air.”
The convertible Chromebook segment is expanding rapidly, according to Linn Huang, a research director at IDC.
“Most have been underpowered, small-screen, low-cost offerings, [and] Samsung’s Chromebook Pro marks an evolution towards the premium end,” he told TechNewsWorld.
In general, Chromebooks “have largely been a K-12 phenomenon,” suggested Huang, and they need more work to succeed in the larger consumer market as a category.
Richard Adhikari has written about high-tech for leading industry publications since the 1990s and wonders where it’s all leading to. Will implanted RFID chips in humans be the Mark of the Beast? Will nanotech solve our coming food crisis? Does Sturgeon’s Law still hold true? You can connect with Richard on Google+.
February 14, 2017 / Comments Off on Twitter quickly kills a poorly thought out anti-abuse measure
Twitter earlier this month announced a series of changes aimed at silencing abuse on its network, but a recent change to its service – which was quickly reversed following user feedback – indicates the company still doesn’t have a good handle on how to handle online harassment. Via a tweet posted yesterday by the Twitter Safety account, the company announced it would no longer notify users when they were added to a Twitter list.
The tweet said “we want you to get notifications that matter” – an implication that being added to a user’s Twitter list was inconsequential information.
While it’s true that lists are an underutilized feature on the service, generally adopted by power users, they can be useful to organize various accounts you want to track without cluttering your timeline with their tweets.
In some cases, a list addition is meant as a compliment. It’s a nice ego boost to see your name added to a list of someone’s favorites or their list of experts in a given industry.
But being added to lists can also be a form of harassment in and of itself.
That is, if you tweet something the abuser didn’t like, you might find yourself added to a list with an offensive title, like “f***ing morons,” for instance. (Yes, that’s a real example.) Because lists can also be shared, they can be used by a group who wants to barrage those on the list with regular abuse.
A better path would not be removing the notifications, but change the blocking mechanism so that users could remove themselves from the lists of those accounts they’ve blocked, they suggested.
Twitter, to its credit, almost immediately rolled back the change upon hearing the online feedback from this account and numerous other Twitter users, including senior engineer at Slack, Erica Joy, a well-known advocate for diversity and inclusion in the tech industry.
Twitter VP of Engineering Ed Ho tweeted that the change was “a misstep,” and was being reversed.
@iglvzx@jack Hi Iggy, this was a misstep, we are reversing the change. Thank you and others for the feedback.
But the fact that Twitter greenlighted the change in the first place is concerning, especially considering that the company has yet to figure out how to clamp down on the abuse on its network.
Earlier this month, Twitter said it was launching a number of features to make its service safer. But many of the changes were focused on hiding abusive content, not removing it entirely. That is, Twitter said it would do things like collapse abusive or low-quality tweets as well as introduce a safer search feature where sensitive content is hidden.
Twitter also said it would make it more difficult for accounts that are permanently banned to return.
As of yet, this latter agenda item has not resulted in the removal of the numerous hate speech-filled accounts on Twitter. But the company is considering a number of things to keep abusers from returning, like checking IP addresses, accounts with similar handles or emails, those that start @ replying the same people and using the same hashtags, for instance, according to Mashable sources.
In reality, many of the changes Twitter enacts may be too late.
The company should have established the tone for its online community years ago through a series of enforced, consistent policies that prohibited the type of content that damages a social network (and even prevents its acquisition). Trying to address the problem now is the equivalent to shoving the toothpaste back into the tube. Technically, it can be done – but it’s going to be difficult and a huge mess, too.