Tag Archives: Apple

Apple Announced Apple Watch Series 5



Apple announced the Apple Watch Series 5. Apple Watch Series 5 (GPS) is available to order in 41 countries and regions and Apple Watch Series 5 (GPS + Cellular) is available to order in 22 countries and regions. Both models will be available in stores starting on Friday, September 20, 2019.

Apple Watch Series 5 has an Always-On Retina display that never sleeps. It makes it easy for people to see the time and other information without raising or tapping the display. Apple says the watch face has been carefully optimized for the new display and to preserve battery life, the screen intelligently dims when a user’s wrist is down and returns to full brightness with a raise or a tap. The Apple Watch Series 5 offers “all-day 18-hour battery life”.

It also has a built-in compass and updated Maps app to allow users to see which way they are facing. The new Compass app shows incline, latitude, longitude and current elevation. I can see where this could be useful for people who are traveling or sightseeing.

One of the most useful features, in my opinion, is International Emergency Calling. Users with cellular models of Apple Watch Series 5 can complete international calls to emergency services, regardless of where the device was originally purchased or if the cellular plan has been activated. It works with fail detection, if enabled, to automatically place an emergency call if Apple Watch senses the user has taken a hard fall and remains motionless for about a minute.

Another useful feature will come with watchOS 6, (which will be available for Apple Watch Series 3 and later on September 19, and on Apple Watch Series 1 and 2 later this fall), is a Cycle Tracker. It gives customers the ability to log important information related to their menstrual cycles, see predicted timing for their next period and fertile windows using the convenience of Apple Watch. I’m hoping Apple makes this information extremely private, because some people who menstruate could be put in danger if their data was revealed.

There is also a Noise app that helps users understand the ambient sound levels in environments such as concerts and sporting events that could negatively impact hearing. I don’t think most people fully understand how loud those events can be until they are walking out after it is over with ringing ears. Perhaps this app can help save people’s hearing by pointing out the dangerously loud noise.

Apple Watch Series 5 (GPS) starts at $399 (US) and Apple Watch Series 5 (GPS + Cellular) starts at $499. The Series 3 (GPS) with built-in GPS, optical heart rate sensor and water resistance starts at a new low price of $199 and Series 3 (GPS + Cellular) is $299.


Google, Mozilla, and Apple Block Kazakhstan’s Root Certificate



Three big browser makers are now blocking the use of a root certificate that Kazakhstan’s government had used to intercept internet traffic. According to Ars Technica, Khazakhstan reportedly said it halted the use of the certificate. Ars Technica reported that the actions taken by Google, Mozilla, and Apple could protect users who already installed it or prevent future use of the certificate by Kazakstan’s government.

Apple told Ars Technica that it is blocking the ability to use the certificate to intercept internet traffic.

Mozilla posted on The Mozilla Blog “Today, Mozilla and Google took action to protect the online security and privacy of individuals in Kazakhstan. Together, the companies deployed technical solutions within Firefox and Chrome to block the Kazakhstan government’s ability to intercept internet traffic within the country.”

The response comes after credible reports that internet service providers in Kazakhstan have required people in the country to download and install a government-issued certificate on all devices and in every browser in order to access the internet. This certificate is not trusted by either of the companies, and once installed, allowed the government to decrypt and read anything a user types or posts, including intercepting their account information and passwords. This targeted people visiting popular sites like Facebook, Twitter, and Google, among others.

Google posted information on its Google Security Blog. Part of that blog post says: “In response to recent actions by the Kazakhstan government, Chrome, along with other browsers, has taken steps to protect users from the interception or modification of TLS connections made to websites.”

It continues: “Chrome will be blocking the certificate the Kazakhstan government required users to install. The blog post has more specific details about that certificate.

It is good that these companies, all of whom make browsers, are taking a stand against government intrusion into people’s privacy. I hope that these companies will take the same action whenever another government chooses to spy on its own people in an effort to sneakily discover what those people do online.


Apple’s WebKit Announces Tracking Prevention Policy



Apple has published their WebKit Tracking Prevention Policy. It describes the web tracking practices that WebKit believes, as a matter of policy, should be prevented by default by web browsers. WebKit’s policy was inspired by Mozilla’s anti-tracking policy.

These practices are harmful to users because they infringe on a user’s privacy without giving users the ability to identify, understand, consent to, or control them.

WebKit’s current anti-tracking mitigations are applied universally to all websites, or based on algorithmic, on-device classification.

WebKit will do its best to prevent all covert tracking, and all cross-site tracking (even when it’s not covert). These goals apply to a several types of tracking mentioned in the policy, including: cross-site tracking, stateful tracking, covert stateful tracking, navigational tracking, fingerprinting or stateless tracking, and covert tracking (which includes covert stateful tracking, fingerprinting, or other methods that are hidden from user visibility and control).

If a particular tracking technique cannot be completely prevented without undue user harm, WebKit will limit the capability of using the technique. If even limiting the capability of a technique is not possible without undue user harm, WebKit will ask for the user’s informed consent to potential tracking.

Interestingly, WebKit considers logging in to multiple first party websites or apps using the same account to be implied consent to identifying the users as having the same identity in these multiple places. WebKit believes that such logins should require a user action and be noticeable by the users, not be invisible or hidden.

WebKit is taking policy circumvention seriously. They will treat circumvention of shipping anti-tracking measures with the same exploitation of security vulnerabilities.

There may be some unintended impact of the policy, in which certain practices are inadvertently disrupted. Some of these include:

  • Funding websites using targeted or personalized advertising
  • Measuring the effectiveness of advertising
  • “Like” buttons, federated comments, or other social widgets
  • Analytics in the scope of a single website
  • Audience measurement

WebKit is the source engine that underpins internet browsers, including Apple’s Safari browser. If I’m understanding this correctly, that means that Safari (and potentially other browsers) will have WebKit’s Tracking Prevention Policy “baked in”. I wonder if the policy will be effective enough that it will replace the use of ad blockers.


Apple is Locking iPhone Batteries at the Factory



Being able to see the health of the battery on your iPhone is really important. It helps you know when that battery needs to be replaced. Unfortunately, Apple is reportedly doing some shenanigans that will prevent iPhone users from making that assessment – if they swapped their battery with one that is not from Apple.

This news comes from iFixit, who reported: “By activating a dormant software lock on their newest iPhones, Apple is effectively announcing a drastic new policy: only Apple can go in iPhones, and only they can install them.”

If you replace the battery in the newest iPhones, a message indicating you need to service your battery appears in Settings >Battery, next to Battery Health. The “Service” message is normally an indication that the battery is degraded and needs to be replaced. The message still shows up when you put in a brand new battery, however. Here’s the bigger problem: our lab tests confirmed that even when you swap in a genuine Apple battery, the phone will still display the “Service” message.

In short, if you want to replace the battery on a newer iPhone, Apple wants you to take it to an Apple Genius or an Apple Authorized Service Provider. The company doesn’t want you to change the battery yourself, and really doesn’t want you to swap it with a battery that isn’t from Apple.

The iFixit article describes this practice as a “user-hostile choice”, and rightfully so. In my opinion, the false “Service” message is designed to influence iPhone users to spend money on Apple’s batteries, instead of purchasing one from another company that is less expensive. The policy also runs over a consumer’s Right to Repair a product that they have purchased and own.


Amazon Allows You to Disable Human Review of Recordings



Amazon is now allowing people who use Alexa to opt-out of human review of their voice recordings, Bloomberg has reported. This comes after a researcher revealed that some of Google’s Assistant recordings had been listened to by human contractors, and people started to become concerned about what other voice activated assistants do with recorded speech.

A new policy took effect Friday that allows customers, through an option in the settings menu of the Alexa smartphone app, to remove their recordings from a pool that could be analyzed by Amazon employees and contract workers, a spokesman for the Seattle company said. It follows similar moves by Apple, Inc., and Google.

According to Bloomberg, Amazon’s decision to let Alexa users opt-out of human review of their recordings follows criticism that the program violated customers’ privacy. Amazon says the Alexa app will now include a disclaimer in the settings menu that acknowledges that people might review recordings through Alexa. Bloomberg explains how to disable that and opt-out of human review.

The Guardian reported that Apple has suspended its practice of having human contractors listen to users’ Siri recordings to “grade” them. That decision came after a Guardian report that revealed that Apple’s contractors “regularly” hear confidential and private information while carrying out the grading process. The bulk of the confidential information was recorded through accidental triggers of the Siri assistant.

Google posted on The Keyword that it has provided tools for users to manage and control the data in their Google account. You can turn off storing audio data to your Google account completely, or choose to auto-delete data after every 3 months or 18 months.


U.S. Department of Justice Announced Antitrust Review of Big Tech



The United States Department of Justice announced that the Department’s Antitrust Division is reviewing whether and how market-leading platforms have achieved market power and are engaging in practices that have reduced competition, stifled innovation, or otherwise harmed consumers.

The Department’s review will consider the widespread concerns that consumers, businesses, and entrepreneurs have expressed about search, social media, and some retail services online. The Department’s Antitrust Division is conferring with and seeking information from the public, including industry participants who have direct insight into competition in online platforms, as well as others.

The Wall Street Journal reported that the inquiry by the Justice Department add “a new Washington threat for companies such as Facebook Inc., Google, Amazon.com Inc., and Apple Inc.”

CNBC reported: “The move is the strongest by Attorney General William Barr towards Big Tech, which faces increased scrutiny from both political parties because of the expanded market power the companies have and the tremendous amount of consumer data they control”.

CNBC also reported that shares of Facebook, Alphabet, and Amazon all fell more than 1% immediately after the announcement and that Apple’s stock also dropped.

This follows the European Commission’s antitrust investigation to assess whether Amazon’s use of sensitive data from independent retailers who sell on Amazon’s marketplace is in breach of EU competition rules.

There have been several investigations, by other countries, regarding questionable practices made by the big technology companies.

It seems to me that the more investigations that happen, the less likely it is that all of these big tech companies will come away from this without facing penalties, fines, or requirements that they make changes.


Apple Removed the Zoom Vulnerability



Good news for Mac users who had Zoom installed on their computers! TechCrunch reported that Apple has released a silent update for Mac users that removes a vulnerable component in Zoom. The update does not require any user interaction and is deployed automatically.

Apple often pushes silent signature updates to Macs to thwart known malware – similar to an anti-malware service – but it’s rare for Apple to take action publicly against a known or popular app. The company said it pushed the update to protect users from the risks posed by the exposed web server.

TechCrunch quoted Zoom spokesperson Priscilla McCathy who said (in part): “We are happy to have worked with Apple on testing this update.”

Apple’s update comes after Zoom released a fix for the vulnerability that enabled nefarious people to put a link into a website that would automatically cause a Zoom user to connect to Zoom with their video running.

The patch does two things. It removes the local web server entirely, once the Zoom client has been updated. In other words, it completely removes the local web sever from a Mac. The patch also allows users to manually uninstall Zoom.

Mac users may see a pop-up in Zoom that tells them to update their Zoom client. There is a link on the Zoom blog where you can download the update. Or, you can check for updates by opening your Zoom app window.