Apple's contractors also listening to private conversations

Android apps are tracking your every move. Amazon is watching and listening. Google's watching you watch porn. Facebook is up all of our shit, all of the time. Perhaps it shouldn't come as any surprise that Apple, a company that's been flogging user privacy as one of the greatest selling points of their mobile devices, is listening in on many of their customers as well.

From The Verge:

Apple is paying contractors to listen to recorded Siri conversations, according to a new report from The Guardian, with a former contractor revealing that workers have heard accidental recordings of users’ personal lives, including doctor’s appointments, addresses, and even possible drug deals.

According to that contractor, Siri interactions are sent to workers, who listen to the recording and are asked to grade it for a variety of factors, like whether the request was intentional or a false positive that accidentally triggered Siri, or if the response was helpful.

According to The Verge, Apple admitted to The Guardian (I'd love to quite this stuff directly, but European copyright laws yadda yadda) that a 'small number' of user interactions with Siri are analyzed to improve the virtual assistant and to buff up the dictation abilities of Apple's various operating systems. They also note that less than 1% of all user interactions are analyzed in this manner and claim that when they do their picking through of our private conversations, the audio they're focusing on has no user information attached to it. Read the rest

Trump: Apple won't get a tariff break for Mac Pro parts made in China

Donald Trump says his administration will not provide any waivers or relief for Apple Mac Pro components built in China, and said Apple should instead build its products in the U.S. Read the rest

Small but meaningful progress towards a federal Right to Repair rule

The Right to Repair movement has introduced dozens of state-level laws that would force companies to support independent repairs by making manuals, parts and diagnostic codes available, and by ending the illegal practice of voiding warranties for customers who use independent repair services, but these bills keep getting killed by overwhelming shows of lobbying force from members of the highly concentrated manufacturing sector, particularly Apple, whose CEO, Tim Cook, warned investors in January that the number one threat to Iphone sales is that customers are choosing to repair, rather than replace, their mobile devices. Read the rest

Apple rumored to release 3 new 'iPhone 11' models in Fall 2019

We can expect three new “iPhone 11” models this fall from Apple, according to the official unofficial rumor mill. Each of these is said to be designed with an A13 chip, a Lightning port, and a new 'Taptic Engine' that will replace iPhone's current 3D Touch. Read the rest

Apple disables Walkie Talkie app for Apple Watch over eavesdropping vulnerability

Apple has temporarily disabled the 'Walkie Talkie' iOS app for Apple Watch after a vulnerability was revealed that could allow a third party to eavesdrop on your iPhone. Read the rest

Tech analyst claims Apple is giving up on butterfly keyboards

Tim Cook waved goodbye as Jony Ive pulled out of the car lot for the last time. Without dropping the smile, Cook tilted his head at Jeff Williams. "Finally," he whispered though his teeth. "We can fix the fucking keyboards"

Here's Benjamin Mayo, quoting Ming-Chi Kuo: Apple to include new scissor switch keyboard in 2019 MacBook Air and 2020 MacBook Pro

Apple is apparently set to ditch the butterfly mechanism used in MacBooks since 2015, which has been the root of reliability issues and its low-travel design has also not been popular with many Mac users.

In a report published today, Ming-Chi Kuo says that Apple will roll out a new keyboard design based on scissor switches, offering durability and longer key travel, starting with the 2019 MacBook Air. The MacBook Pro is also getting the new scissor switch keyboard, but not until 2020.

The new scissor switch keyboard is a whole new design than anything previously seen in a MacBook, purportedly featuring glass fiber to reinforce the keys. Apple fans who have bemoaned the butterfly keyboard should be optimistic about a return to scissor switches.

Tech analysts are often wrong, but this one reportedly has an unusually good record. Read the rest

PSA: Take Your Borked Apple Gear to Best Buy

While I travel, one of the biggest pains in the ass that I fret over is the possibility of having to get my hardware repaired. This past winter, the closest Apple-certified repair depot to where my wife and I set up camp (the work laptop supplied to me is a MacBook Pro,) was three hours away. Just taking my laptop in to drop it off is a six-hour round trip. I could have it shipped off, but that takes an ass load of time as well. According to The Verge, this pain-in-the-ass could very well be demoted to a simple pain-in-the-neck: Moving forward, 1,000 Best Buy stores across the United States will be able to fix all of the Apple-branded shit that I can't.

From The Verge:

Best Buy has offered Apple repairs at many locations for some time now, but the completed expansion brings that number up to nearly 1,000 stores. “Best Buy’s Geek Squad has nearly 7,600 newly Apple-certified technicians ready to make same-day iPhone repairs or to service other Apple products,” Apple said in a press release. There are Best Buy stores in neighborhoods that might not have an Apple presence, so this is a nice option to have at the ready. Most Best Buy locations have Apple showcase sections with the company’s iOS devices, MacBooks, HomePod, and other products.

At its own stores, Apple has recently been pushing to speed up keyboard repairs for its MacBook, MacBook Air, and MacBook Pro laptops, promising a next-day turnaround in many cases.

Read the rest

Apple considering moving hardware production out of China

The escalating tariff slap-fight between the United States of America and the People's Republic of China is messing with so many bottom lines that the only people playing the market and making bank are those with companies that make red ink in their portfolios. Even Apple, a company that pretty much prints its own damn money, isn't immune. In a week where Chinese telecom and computing giant Huawei declared that they'd be making billions less than forecasted, signs that the fruit flavored phone floggers may be looking to shift their operations away from mainland China have cropped up.

From the Nikkei Asian Review:

Apple has asked its major suppliers to evaluate the cost implications of shifting 15% to 30% of their production capacity from China to Southeast Asia as it prepares for a fundamental restructuring of its supply chain, the Nikkei Asian Review has learned.

The California-based tech giant's request was triggered by the protracted trade tensions between Washington and Beijing, but multiple sources say that even if the spat is resolved there will be no turning back. Apple has decided the risks of relying so heavily on manufacturing in China, as it has done for decades, are too great and even rising, several people told Nikkei.

The Nikkei Asian Review goes on to talk up the fact that a slowing birthrate, concerns over dependency on centralized production in one locale and rising labor costs are a part of driving Apple's wandering industrial eyes to look on over yonder. Read the rest

How to turn your Apple Watch into a source of constant terror and dread

A friend was recently telling me about some IOS app they felt I should share on Boing Boing. The app reminds them, once daily to take a moment and appreciate themselves for who they are, be grateful for their time on Earth, and enjoy the opportunity to be here on this unique planet!

You know, all that shit.

I told this friend, "Friend, I don't need that! I have an Apple Watch."

My Apple Watch plays a key role in managing my mental and physical fitness. The watch serves me in two ways:

My lower back pain is marginally better. Pain is less likely to strike when I weigh less, and have 'core strength'

AND my weight and fitness are one of the very few things I can actually control in my life. Being in control of something reminds me trying does make a difference.

The Apple Watch has a wonderful display that reminds me to move and helps gauge both Calories In and Calories Out. That is most of how I stay thin. The Watch also takes messages in from other apps and displays them where I can see them!

In order to maximize the anxiety created by any random alert from my Apple Watch, I have turned on notifications of withdrawals from my personal checking account.

Every time money leaves my account, my wrist buzzes.

Life is a never-ending circus of joy!

The amount of dread the mere existence of this notification creates is incredible! At first, I didn't really notice and wasn't bothered by it. Read the rest

$999 monitor stand explained

This alarmingly funny video shows an "Apple Engineer" explaining the company's forthcoming $999 monitor stand. This guy is better than the "Downfall" meme!

Also funny: to see people who had complained vocally about Apple's lack of truly "pro" gear denouncing it when it finally came along, because it was too pro. Perhaps Apple should have made a promotional video shamelessly explaining the stand and its veblen-tech price. People would have hated it, all the same, but at least it would have been clear who the customer was.

If by "pro" we didn't mean that kind of "corporate buyer" level, what does it mean? That fuzzy-edged class of designers, developers and "creatives" often identified as Apple fans?

Here's one way of looking at it: if you're all in for Apple and were waiting to spend $2500 on a modular computer to edit photos or book designs or write beautifully-typeset articles or the simple code that generates them—people like me!—Apple's answer to that is no. We can get a non-modular iMac, or we can get a Mac Mini with an eGPU and external monitor for the specialized work that requires those things.

If someone sold an eGPU that actually matches the Mac Mini (they're all either huge ugly PCI-slotted toasters or plasticy MXM-slotted bricks) I bet they'd clean up.

Hell, I'd be all in for a pro version with XLR connectors, phantom power—and maybe a SCSI port or two. Read the rest

Developers sue Apple over App Store practices

The lawsuit seeks 'fairer profit, for developers’ digital products.'

What the crowd made of Apple's $1000 monitor stand

Apple announced the long-awaited modular Mac Pro yesterday. It's expensive, starting at $5000, but the faithful wanted some truly pro equipment and they got it. Even the 6k monitor to go with it is hard to fault at $4000, as there's nothing else out there to compete but for a plasticy 8k Dell that's only a little cheaper.

But $1000 for the stand? Even that was a little much for the audience at WWDC, whose collective gasp gave the presenter something to trip over.

Still, compare it to the roasting Steve Jobs got when he announced that Internet Explorer would be the default Mac browser:

Read the rest

Apple to limit third-party tracking in children's apps

You can't trust tech companies' word that the privacy controls they say they're implementing will protect you and your children.

A Wall Street Journal study of 80 apps in Apple’s App Store shows that most apps, including ones selected and featured by Apple editors, are tracking you in ways you would not expect, and cannot avoid. Read the rest

Study: Popular iOS apps use 'background app refresh' to send your location and IP address

You're browsing a news app on your phone in bed, alone, late at night. Did you know your physical location and IP address are being shared with the app maker? Read the rest

Big Tech: "If the USA enforces antitrust laws against us, it means China will win!"

Mark Zuckerberg offered to let Chinese premier Xi Jinping name his firstborn (seriously), Apple purged the Chinese App Store of privacy tools at the request of the politburo; Google secretly built a censoring search-engine for use in China, but America's Big Tech companies are sounding the alarm that they will no longer be able to promote America's global dominance if any of the US Big Tech breakup plans are executed. Read the rest

In less than one second, a malicious web-page can uniquely fingerprint an Iphone, Pixel 2 or Pixel 3 without any explicit user interaction

In a new paper for IEEE Security, a trio of researchers (two from Cambridge, one from private industry) identify a de-anonymizing attack on Iphones that exploits minute differences in sensor calibration: an Iphone user who visits a webpage running the attack code can have their phone uniquely identified in less than a second, through queries to the sensors made through automated background processes running on the page. Read the rest

DRM and terms-of-service have ended true ownership, turning us into "tenants of our own devices"

Writing in Wired, Zeynep Tufekci (previously) echoes something I've been saying for years: that the use of Digital Rights Management technologies, along with other systems of control like Terms of Service, are effectively ending the right of individuals to own private property (in the sense of exercising "sole and despotic dominion" over something), and instead relegating us to mere tenancy, constrained to use the things we buy in ways that are beneficial to the manufacturer's shareholders, even when that is at the cost of our own best interests. Read the rest

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