April 11, 2017
Instant messaging service provider WhatsApp is in a quandary. While privacy of its users is of utmost importance to them, where do they draw the line if it’s a question of national security?
In an editorial published in The Telegraph titled WhatsApp Accused of Giving Terrorists ‘a Secret Place to Hide’ as It Refuses to Hand over London Attacker’s Messages, the writer says:“The Government was considering legislation to force online firms to take down extremist material, but said it was time for the companies to “recognise that they have a responsibility” to get their own house in order.
Apps like WhatsApp offer end-to-end encryption for messages sent using its network. This makes it impossible (?) for anyone to intercept and read them, even technicians at WhatsApp. On numerous occasions, WhatsApp, owned by Facebook, has come under fire for protecting its user privacy. In this particular incident, the London attacker Ajao used WhatsApp to send message to someone. While Soctland Yard wants access to the messages sent by the terrorist, WhatsApp says its hands are tied.
The editorial also says that social media networks are no more tech companies, rather they are turning into publishing companies thus the onus is on them to ensure the radical materials are also removed from their networks. Who ultimately will win the battle remains to be seen, but right now, WhatsApp seems to have the edge.
Vishal Ingole, April 11, 2017
March 20, 2017
Android has announced a new search feature, this one specifically for documents and messages within your apps. With this feature, if you want to revisit that great idea you jotted down last Tuesday, you will (eventually) be able to search for it within Evernote using whatever keywords you can recall from your brilliant plan. The brief write-up at Ubergizmo, “Google Introduces ‘In Apps’ Search Feature to Android,” explains the new feature:
According to Google, ‘We use apps to call friends, send messages or listen to music. But sometimes, it’s hard to find exactly what you’re looking for. Today, we’re introducing a new way for you to search for information in your apps on your Android phone. With this new search mode, called In Apps, you can quickly find content from installed apps.
Basically by searching under the ‘In Apps’ tab in the search bar on your Android phone, instead of trying to search the web, it will search within your apps itself. This will be ideal if you’re trying to bring up a particular message, or if you have saved a document and you’re unsure if you saved it in Evernote, Google Drive, Dropbox, in your email, and so on.
So far, In Apps only works with Gmail, Spotify, and YouTube. However, Google plans to incorporate the feature into more apps, including Facebook Messenger, LinkedIn, Evernote, Glide, Todoist, and Google Keep. I expect we will eventually see the feature integrated into nearly every Android app.
Cynthia Murrell, March 20, 2017
February 24, 2017
Bad news, Google. The article titled Smartphone Apps Now Account for Half the Time Americans Spend Online on TechCrunch reveals that mobile applications are still on the rise. Throw in tablet apps and the total almost hits 60%. Google is already working to maintain relevancy with its In Apps feature for Androids, which searches inside apps themselves. The article explains,
This shift towards apps is exactly why Google has been working to integrate the “web of apps” into its search engine, and to make surfacing the information hidden in apps something its Google Search app is capable of handling. Our app usage has grown not only because of the ubiquity of smartphones, but also other factors – like faster speeds provided by 4G LTE networks, and smartphones with larger screens that make sitting at a desktop less of a necessity.
What apps are taking up the most of our time? Just the ones you would expect, such as Facebook, Messenger, YouTube, and Google Maps. But Pokemon Go is the little app that could, edging out Snapchat and Pinterest in the ranking of the top 15 mobile apps. According to a report from Senor Tower, Pokemon Go has gone beyond 180 million daily downloads. The growth of consumer time spent on apps is expected to keep growing, but comScore reassuringly states that desktops will also remain a key part of consumer’s lives for many years to come.
Chelsea Kerwin, February 24, 2017
February 17, 2017
Online marketers are usually concerned with the latest Google algorithm, but Microsoft’s Bing is also a viable SEO target. Busines2Community shares recent upgrades to that Internet search engine in its write-up, “2016 New Bing Features.” The section on the mobile app seems to be the most relevant to those interested in Search developments. Writer Asaf Hartuv tells us:
For search, product and local results were improved significantly. Now when you search using the Bing app on an iPhone, you will get more local results with more information featured right on the page. You won’t have to click around to get what you want.
Similarly, when you search for a product you want to buy, you will get more options from more stores, such as eBay and Best Buy. You won’t have to go to as many websites to do the comparison shopping that is so important to making your purchase decision.
While these updates were made to the app, the image and video search results were also improved. You get far more options in a more user-friendly layout when you search for these visuals.
The Bing app also includes practical updates that go beyond search. For example, you can choose to follow a movie and get notified when it becomes available for streaming. Or you can find local bus routes or schedules based on the information you select on a map.
Hartuv also discusses upgrades to Bing Ads (a bargain compared to Google Ads, apparently), and the fact that Bing is now powering AOL’s search results (after being dropped by Yahoo). He also notes that, while not a new feature, Bing Trends is always presenting newly assembled, specialized content to enhance users’ understanding of current events. Hartuv concludes by prompting SEO pros to remember the value of Bing.
Cynthia Murrell, February 17, 2017
February 9, 2017
The article on ZDNet titled IBM to Use AI to Tame Big Data in Its Second African Research Lab discusses the 12th global research unit IBM has opened. This one is positioned in South Africa for data analytics and cognitive computing as applied to healthcare and urban development. Dr. Solomon Assefa, IBM’s Director of Research for Africa, mentions in the article that the lab was opened in only 18 months. He goes on,
Assefa said the facility will combine industrial research with a startup incubator, working closely with Wits’ own entrepreneur accelerator in the same innovation hub, known as the Tshimologong Precinct. Tshimologong is part of a major urban renewal project by Wits and the City of Johannesburg.
Nowhere else in the world is there an innovation hub that houses a world class research lab,” Assefa said. “One thing we agreed on from the start is that we will make the lab accessible to startups and entrepreneurs in hub.
The lab is funded by a ten-year investment program of roughly $60M and maintains an open door policy with the University of the Witswatersrand (Wits), The Department of Trade and Industry, and the Department of Science and Technology. The immediate focuses of several early applications include Cape region forest fire prevention, disease monitoring, and virtual reality.
Chelsea Kerwin, February 9, 2017
February 8, 2017
The article titled Professors of the World, Rejoice: Gradescope Brings AI to Grading on Nvidia might more correctly be titled: TAs of the World, Rejoice! In my experience, those hapless, hardworking, underpaid individuals are the ones doing most of the grunt work on college campuses. Any grad student who has faced a stack of essays or tests when their “real work” is calling knows the pain and redundancy of grading. Gradescope is an exciting innovation that cuts the time spent grading in half. The article explains,
The AI isn’t used to directly grade the papers; rather, it turns grading into an automated, highly repeatable exercise by learning to identify and group answers, and thus treat them as batches. Using an interface similar to a photo manager, instructors ensure that the automatically suggested answer groups are correct, and then score each answer with a rubric. In this way, input from users lets the AI continually improve its future predictions.
The trickiest part of this technology was handwriting recognition, and the Berkeley team used a “recurrent neural network trained using the Tesla K40 and GEForce GTX 980 Ti GPUs.” Interestingly, the app was initially created at least partly to prevent cheating. Students have been known to alter their answers after the fact and argue a failure of grading, so a digital record of the paper is extremely useful. This might sound like the end of teachers, but in reality it is the beginning of a giant, global teacher party!
Chelsea Kerwin, February 8, 2017
December 22, 2016
Bank apps are a convenient way to access and keep track of your accounts. They are mainly used on mobile devices and are advertised for the user on the go. One UK bank app, however, refuses to play nice with devices that have the Tor browser, reports the Register in the article, “Tor Torpedoed! Tesco Bank App Won’t Run With Privacy Tool Installed.”
Tesco is a popular bank present in supermarkets, but if you want to protect your online privacy by using the Tor browser on your mobile device the Tesco app will not work on said device. Marcus Davage, the mainframe database administrator, alerted Tesco patrons that in order to use the Tesco app, they needed to delete the Tor browser. Why is this happening?
The issue appears to be related to security. Tesco’s help site notes that the Android app checks for malware and other possible security risks (such as the phone being rooted) upon launching and, in this case, the Tor software triggers an alert. The Tor Project makes two apps for Android, the aforementioned Orbot and the Orfox browser, both of which allow users to encrypt their data traffic using the Tor network. According to the Play Store, Orbot has been downloaded more than five million times by Android users.
App developers need to take into account that the Tor browser is not malware. Many users are concerned with their online privacy and protecting their personal information, so Tor needs to be recognized as a safe application.
Whitney Grace, December 22, 2016
December 13, 2016
Tor users have nil or very limited options to surf Underground Web anonymously as Android-powered phones still manage to scrape user data. The Tor Project intends to beat Google at its own game with Tor-enabled smartphone.
An article that appeared on arsTechnica and titled Tor Phone Is Antidote to Google “Hostility” Over Android, Says Developer, says:
The prototype is meant to show a possible direction for Tor on mobile. We are trying to demonstrate that it is possible to build a phone that respects user choice and freedom, vastly reduces vulnerability surface, and sets a direction for the ecosystem with respect to how to meet the needs of high-security users.
The phone is powered by custom-made CopperHead OS and can be run only on Google Nexus or Pixel hardware phones. Of course due to high technicalities involved, it is recommended only for Linux geeks.
For voice calls, according to the article:
To protect user privacy, the prototype runs OrWall, the Android firewall that routes traffic over Tor, and blocks all other traffic. Users can punch a hole through the firewall for voice traffic, for instance, to enable Signal.
Google’s Android is an Open Source platform that OEMs can customize. This creates multiple security threats enabling hackers and snoopers to create backdoors. CopperHead OS, on the other hand, plugs these security holes with verified boot and also stops Google Play Store from overriding native apps. Seems the days of mobile Tor are finally here.
Vishal Ingole, December 13, 2016
December 9, 2016
Digital Reasoning has released the latest iteration of its Synthesys platform, we learn from Datanami’s piece, “Cognitive Platform Sharpens Focus on Untructured Data.” Readers may recall that Digital Reasoning provides tools to the controversial US Army intelligence system known as DCGS. The write-up specifies:
Version 4 of the Digital Reasoning platform released on Tuesday (June 21) is based on proprietary analytics tools that apply deep learning neural network techniques across text, audio and images. Synthesys 4 also incorporates behavioral analytics based on anomaly detection techniques.
The upgrade also reflects the company’s push into user and ‘entity’ behavior analytics, a technique used to leverage machine learning in security applications such as tracking suspicious activity on enterprise networks and detecting ransomware attacks. ‘We are especially excited to expand into the area of entity behavior analytics, combining the analysis of structured and unstructured data into a person-centric, prioritized profile that can be used to predict employees at risk for insider threats,’ Bill DiPietro, Digital Reasoning’s vice president of product management noted in a statement.
The platform has added Spanish and Chinese to its supported languages, which come with syntactic parsing. There is also now support for Elasticsearch, included in the pursuit of leveraging unstructured data in real time. The company emphasizes the software’s ability to learn from context, as well as enhanced tools for working with reports.
Digital Reasoning was founded in 2000, and makes its primary home in Nashville, Tennessee, with offices in Washington, DC, and London. The booming company is also hiring, especially in the Nashville area.
Cynthia Murrell, December 9, 2016
November 24, 2016
Blockchain technology though currently powers the Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies, soon the technology might find takers in mainstream commercial activities.
Blockgeeks in an in-depth article guide titled What Is Blockchain Technology? A Step-By-Step Guide for Beginners says:
The blockchain is an incorruptible digital ledger of economic transactions that can be programmed to record not just financial transactions but virtually everything of value.
Without getting into how the technology works, it would be interesting to know how and where the revolutionary technology can be utilized. Due to its inherent nature of being incorruptible due to human intervention and non-centralization, blockchain has numerous applications in the field of banking, remittances, shared economy, crowdfunding and many more, the list is just endless.
The technology will be especially helpful for people who transact over the Web and as the article points out:
Goldman Sachs believes that blockchain technology holds great potential especially to optimize clearing and settlements, and could represent global savings of up to $6bn per year.
Governments and commercial establishment, however, are apprehensive about it as blockchain might end their control over a multitude of things. Just because blockchain never stores data at one location. This also is the reason why Bitcoin is yet to gain full acceptance. But, can a driving force like blockchain technology that will empower the actual users can be stopped?