SnapChat will Remove the “Speed Filter”



SnapChat is eliminating the “speed filter” that allowed users to capture how fast they are moving and share it with friends, NPR reported.

According to NPR, Snap “has defended the feature in the face of warnings from safety advocates who’ve argued that it encourages reckless driving. The company has also faced lawsuits from the families of those who have been injured or killed in car crashes where drivers were moving at excessive speeds, allegedly to score bragging rights on the app.”

NPR provided some examples of reckless driving while using the speed filter:

A 2015 collision involving the speed filter left a driver in Georgia with permanent brain damage. That same year, the feature was tied to the death of three young women in a Philadelphia car accident. In 2016, five people in Florida died in a high-speed collision that reportedly involved the speed filter. In 2017, three young men in Wisconsin clocked a speed of 123 miles per hour on the feature before they crashed into a tree and died.

A spokeswoman from Snap confirmed to NPR that the speed filter would soon be gone. She said the feature is “barely used by Snapchatters, and in light of that, we are removing it altogether”.

BuzzFeed News reported that Snap has added a “don’t snap and drive” warning while the feature was in use. It also limited the top driving speed that can be shared to 35 mph.

It will take time for the speed filter to be entirely removed from Snap, so the warning and speed limitation are good ways to deter people from using it for reckless driving. Snap is still going to have to face existing lawsuits about the feature.


Ukraine picks up six hackers behind Clop ransomware



It’s been a rough spell for hackers, one was just extradited from Mexico to face charges in California for a DDoS attack on the city of Santa Cruz. 

Now six members of a group responsible for the Clop ransomware were picked up in a raid in the Ukraine. It is not clear if these were all the members behind it or just one cell. The search of the home resulted in the seizure of hundreds of thousands of dollars and expensive vehicles such as an AMG 63 and a Tesla. 

A Ukrainian report states that “[in] 2021, the defendants attacked and encrypted the personal data of employees and financial reports of Stanford University Medical School, the University of Maryland and the University of California.” 

As S Korea and the US were also in on this roundup and have charges pending for hacks in both countries, it’s unclear where things go from here. 


Facebook Oversight Board Considers Posting of Private Residential Addresses



Facebook announced that its Oversight Board has accepted its first policy advisory opinion referral from Facebook. The Board is asked to consider if posting private residential addresses on Facebook is acceptable.

It is important to know that Facebook itself states that the decision made by the Oversight Board is not binding. To me, that sounds like Facebook is giving itself an opportunity to either go along with – or completely ignore – what the Oversight Board determines.

…Access to residential addresses can be an important tool for journalism, civic activism, and other public discourse. However, exposing this information without consent can also create a risk to an individual’s safety and infringe on privacy…

Facebook is asking the Oversight Board for guidance on the following questions:

  • What information sources should render private information “publicly available?” (For instance, should we factor into our decision whether an image of a residence was already published by another publication?”)
  • What information sources should render private information “publicly available?”
  • Should sources be excluded when they are not easily accessible or trustworthy (such as data aggregator websites, the dark web, or public records that cannot be digitally accessed from a remote location?)
  • If some sources should be excluded, how should Facebook determine the type of sources that won’t be considered in making private information “publicly available?”
  • If an individual’s private information is simultaneously posted to multiple places, including Facebook, should Facebook continue to treat it as private information or treat it as publicly available?
  • Should Facebook remove personal information despite its public availability, for example, in news media, government records, or the dark web? That is, does the availability on Facebook of publicly available but personal information, which may include removing news articles that publish such information or individual posts of publicly available government records?

I think we all know that posting someone else’s personal residential information on the internet, without the person’s permission, is wrong. Facebook shouldn’t need to consult an Oversight Board to understand that.


Hands-On with the OnePlus Nord CE 5G



OnePlus LogoThe OnePlus Nord CE 5G drops into the crowded mid-range market where there’s no shortage of competitors wanting to take your money. OnePlus pitches the CE as “Core Edition” focussing on key features requested by its user community: “Heavy on features, light on price” says OnePlus. Obviously, there’s 5G in the CE, but what else does this new Nord offer? Let’s take a look…

Back view of OnePlus CE 5G smartphone showing sea green colourThe Nord CE 5G arrives in a black cardboard box with Nord branding picked out in reflective navy blue. There’s a clear contrast between the Nord’s black box and the red boxes reserved for the higher-end models. Opening the box reveals the CE 5G phone itself, along with a semi-transparent bumper case, a SIM tray tool, a few small manuals, a Warp charger and a USB charging cable.

Unwrapping the Nord CE 5G, it’s clear that it continues OnePlus’ current design cues which stretch back at least as far as the 7 series. There’s nothing unexpected here – flat glass front, pinhole camera top left, power button on right, USB C on the bottom, smooth curved back with attractive colouring, vertical triple camera array. It’s largely by the numbers. What’s different? There’s no alert slider but the 3.5 mm headphone jack makes a return to the smartphone. I think the restoration of the jack is a good move at this price point: my daughter prefers wired headphones as she’s less inclined to lose them and if she does, they’re cheaper to replace.

Sizewise, the CE 5G is within a millimetre or two of most recent OnePlus handsets at 159 mm x 74 mm, but it’s only 7.9 mm deep, making it the thinnest OnePlus since the 6T. Weighing in at 170 g, it’s lighter than the Nord by 14 g, though you’re unlikely to notice the difference day-to-day. The back of the CE 5G is polycarbonate rather than glass and it doesn’t quite feel as premium as I’d like but the Blue Void colour is lovely. It’s very similar to the Glacial Green of the OnePlus 8 but as you rotate the phone from the back to the front, the curved edge of the back takes on this lovely purple tone. There are other colours, Charcoal Ink and Silver Ray, but I’ve not seen them in the flesh. The Silver Ray version is only available with the large memory capacity (12 GB + 256 GB)

Front view of OnePlus CE 5G showing home screenTurning on the CE 5G begins to show off the lovely 90 Hz Fluid AMOLED 6.43″ display (2400 x 1080 pixels, 410 ppi). It looks good, it’s fast and it has the controls of its more expensive siblings – screen calibration, refresh rate, vision comfort, reading mode. I do like the dynamic wallpapers that OnePlus offers and the Nord CE 5G comes with a couple of new ones that show off the display when the phone is unlocked.

In terms of sound, I’ve mentioned the return of the headphone jack, which is a good thing for a large chunk of the possible purchasers of the CE 5G. For speakers, there’s only the one at the bottom next to the USB C port. “It’ll do” is about as best as I can muster. It’s quite loud but playing music above two-thirds volume will start to distort the speaker and don’t expect much bass.

Powering the Nord handset is the Qualcomm Snapdragon 750G 5G Mobile Platform to give it the full title. Simplistically, this is a perfectly acceptable workhorse platform that offers some improvements over the 765G in the Nord. In day to day use, it’s a fine processor and keeps up with most activities. Will it run Fortnite? Yes, it does run Fortnite reasonably well, but there are definitely times when it stutters and all you can do is pray that it’s not at an inconvenient time. However, I have won a solo Battle Royale on the Nord CE 5G so it’s not a big deal. For something a bit more gentle, Pokemon Go runs beautifully. For the nerds, the phone scored 639 single-core and 1798 multi-core on Geekbench 5, putting it in amongst the Pixel 4, the Xiaomi Mi 9 and the Samsung Galaxy A51.

Powering the phone is a 4,500 mAh battery which easily gave me a day of use as long as I wasn’t burning through it with non-stop gaming. Even the battery does get a bit low, the supplied Warp 30T Plus charger is supposed to get the battery from 0% to 70% in 30 minutes. In my test run, it didn’t quite hit the 70% mark in the half-hour, but it was literally only a few minutes behind. The charger itself has a USB A socket, so the charging cable is USB A to USB C.

Cameras….The Nord CE 5G officially has three cameras on the back and one selfie camera around the front. The smartphone uses the same camera app as all the other OnePlus phones as far as I’m aware and offers time-lapse, panoramic, slow-motion, video, photo, portrait and nightscape and pro modes. Starting with the selfie cam, it’s a 16 MP Sony IMX471 that OnePlus has used many times. I feel it takes good enough selfie photos with reasonably accurate skin tones. For the rear, there’s a 64 MP main camera, an 8 MP ultra-wide with 119° field of view and a mono 2 MP unit that’s mainly used for depth sensing (as far as I know). The brand of the camera sensor is not revealed in the specs.

To review the rear cameras, I took a few photos to see how they turned out. Overall I was happy enough with the snaps but there are a couple of issues. First, colour saturation could be stronger: here’s my cat on a red blanket. The red of the blanket is way stronger than it appears to be in the picture.

Next, on ultrawide shots, even with ultra-wide lens correction turned on, you get this kind of motion blur effect on the edges of the shots. You can see it in the picture below. Again the colours of the flowers could do with just being that bit brighter too.

These would be my main two concerns, but I did take some other pictures that I’m really quite pleased with. I thought it handled close up shots better than panoramic ones. That bee has some load of pollen…

 

 

I think it would be fair to say that the Nord CE 5G takes photos that are acceptable without being outstanding.

Lastly, the CE’s OxygenOS 11 is based on Android 11 with OnePlus keeping tinkering to the minimum but adding value where it can. That’s the OnePlus way and to extend that value, the company is committing to 2 years of software updates and 3 years of security updates.

Clearly, the Nord CE 5G has loads of other features that you’d expect as standard: Wi-Fi bgnac, Bluetooth 5.1, NFC, GPS, in-display fingerprint reader, dual SIM slot and so on. Rather than review each in turn, I’ll simply confirm that everything is as you’d expect.

Let’s talk about covers…OnePlus sent four bumper covers with the Nord – black, blue, purple and creme. They’re flat colours with flecks of straw through them. Again, using my daughter for her opinion as a prospective purchaser, she liked the purple one but thought that golden glitter mixed in would’ve been much better. I’m with her on this one. These will be priced at GB£17.99 when they’re available.

For most territories outside of the Americas, the CE 5G is the fourth Nord device alongside the Nord, N10 5G and N100. If you are looking to understand where the Nord CE 5G fits in the OnePlus line-up, it’s below the Nord but above the Nord N10. In terms of base pricing, the Nord is GB£379, the CE 5G is £299 and the N10 is £249, though the N10 has slightly less memory at 6 GB rather than 8G.

The Nord CE 5G comes in two variants for the UK:

  • 8 GB + 128 GB: GB£299 / 329€
  • 12 GB + 256 GB: GB£369 / 399€

So does the Nord CE 5G meet expectations as a “Core Edition” focussing on what’s really needed without all the frippery? On the whole yes: 5G, great screen, powerful enough processor, day-long battery life, fast charging, 2 years of software updates, lovely colour. There’s plenty to like but there are some negatives: the rear cover could be better though once the phone is in a case, it’s not noticeable, and the camera does have some failings. Overall, the Nord CE 5G is a good all-rounder without being exceptional. The snag is that there’s plenty of competition to consider as well. If you like it, the phone is on sale from the OnePlus store.

Thanks to OnePlus for supplying the Nord CE 5G smartphone for review.


U.S. Senate Confirms Lina Khan as FTC Commissioner



The U.S. Senate has confirmed Lina Khan as the commissioner of the Federal Trade Commission. The Verge reported that the vote was 69-28. This gives Democrats a majority on the FTC. Lina Khan has filled a vacancy left by Republican appointee Joseph Simons who resigned in January.

The Verge pointed out that Lina Khan’s confirmation comes while Congress is “preparing to take drastic action to curb the power big tech companies have on digital markets.” Those efforts include five bipartisan bills that are intended to chip away at the power of big tech companies.

The New York Times reported that Lina Khan is “a prominent critic of the nation’s largest tech companies”. According to The New York Times, Lina Khan’s confirmation gives her a central position at the agency that investigates antitrust violations, deceptive trade practices and data privacy lapses in Silicon Valley.

Ms. Khan will help regulate the kind of behavior highlighted for years by critics of Amazon, Facebook, Google, and Apple. She told a Senate committee in April that she was worried about the way tech companies could use their powers to dominate new markets.

Lina Khan tweeted: “I’m so grateful to the Senate for my confirmation. Congress created the FTC to safeguard fair competition and protect consumers, workers, and honest businesses from unfair & deceptive practices. I look forward to upholding this mission with vigor and serving the American public.”

Politico reported that the outcome of the vote to confirm Lina Khan gives Democrats the majority at the FTC for the first time under President Joe Biden. The other two Democrats on the FTC are acting Chair Kelly Slaughter and Commissioner Rohit Chopra.

According to Politico, NetChoice, a tech lobbying group, said it was “disheartened” by Lina Khan’s confirmation to the FTC. Google and Facebook are reportedly members of NetChoice.

Overall, I think that it is a good sign when tech lobbying group is unhappy with the confirmation of a new person on the FTC. It means that NetChoice understands that it will have a very difficult time getting its way with three Democrats on the FTC. I believe that upcoming decisions made by the FTC will likely result in good things for consumers.


UK’s CMA Scrutinizes Mobile Ecosystems of Apple and Google



The UK’s Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) announced that they have launched a market study into Apple’s and Google’s mobile ecosystems over concerns they have market power which is harming users and other businesses.

The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) is taking a closer look at whether the firms’ effective duopoly over the supply of operating systems (iOS and Android), app stores (App Store and Play Store), and web browsers (Safari and Chrome), could be resulting in consumers losing out across a wide range of areas.

The CMA is describing “mobile ecosystems” as a variety of products, content, and services such as music, TV and video streaming, fitness tracking, shopping and banking. They also include devices such as smart speakers, smart watches, home security, and lighting (which mobiles can connect to and control).

The purpose of the market study appears to be to determine whether the ecosystems of Google and Apple are stifling competition. CMA will also examine the effects of Google’s and Apple’s market power over other businesses, such as app developers, who rely on either Apple or Google to market their products to customers via their phones.

9to5Mac reported that the CMA views Apple and Google’s ecosystems as a “duopoly”. 9to5Mac also pointed out that the CMA’s investigation comes after a preliminary ruling from the European Commission that Apple’s mandated 30% cut of In-App Purchases unfairly diminished competition in music streaming.

Personally, I think it is probably a good idea for the CMA to investigate the Apple and Google “duopoly”. They may find that the situation is not really a problem after all. Or, they could discover reasons to induce changes in how both companies do things. Those changes might turn out to be really good for consumers.


Apple Podcast Subscriptions launches today



The podcast market is hotter than ever, and big names from TV and sports are in the game. Now, today, a new chapter begins in the media business. 

Apple, which began this genre way back when it launched the iPOD, is once more at the center of the game. This time it’s with a podcast subscription service. The shows are available individually and grouped in channels and prices will vary beginning as low as $0.49. 

Not all shows are participating because of advertising restrictions. One service, the popular children’s network Pinna, states it’s “an audio-first children’s media company offering the first and ONLY ad-free, audio on-demand streaming service, expertly developed and carefully curated for kids 3-12.” Their channels will run $3.99 each.

You can access all of this by visiting the traditional Apple Podcast app. Maybe you can even dig out that decade old shiny device to listen on.