02 July 2020

The Wall Street Journal: “Masks Could Help Stop Coronavirus. So Why are they still Controversial?”

In Asia, the majority of people voluntarily use face coverings and it is mainly Western expatriates who are reluctant to adopt them, said Prof. Yuen Kwok-Yung, a leading coronavirus expert who advises the Hong Kong government.

Hong Kong, with 7.5 million residents, is one of the most densely populated places on earth, but recorded only six deaths from Covid-19 despite having no lockdown and receiving nearly three million travelers a day from abroad, around half of them from mainland China, where the virus originated.

The key secret of Hong Kong’s success, Prof. Yuen said, is that the mask compliance rate during morning rush hour is 97%. The 3% who don’t comply are mainly Americans and Europeans, he said.

The only thing you can do is universal masking, that’s what stopped it, Prof. Yuen said.

Bojan Pancevski & Jason Douglas

Another article published in a major newspaper that starts from a biased premise and blatantly ignores facts that contradict it. The statements above are clearly false (either taken out of context by the journalists or misinformation spread by the quoted ‘expert’), as there have been multiple reports about other measures taken in Hong Kong to contain the coronavirus pandemic: aggressive testing and tracing, stricter border controls and screening of incoming travelers, followed by mandatory 14-days quarantines under threat of fines and six-month imprisonment.

01 July 2020

ZDNet Zero Day: “Apple declined to implement 16 Web APIs in Safari due to privacy concerns”

Apple claims that the 16 Web APIs above would allow online advertisers and data analytics firms to create scripts that fingerprint users and their devices.

User fingerprints are small scripts that an advertiser loads and runs inside each user’s browser. The scripts execute a set of standard operations, usually against a common Web API or common web browser feature, and measure the response.

Since each user has a different browser and operating system configuration, responses are unique per user device. Advertisers use this unique response (fingerprint), coupled with other fingerprints and data points, to create unique identifiers for each user.

Catalin Cimpanu

Most of the APIs mentioned in the list are widely available to native iOS apps (things like Bluetooth and NFC access, battery status, ambient light sensor, and background geolocation), so Apple’s argument feels disingenuous. It is certainly possible that the WebKit team does not have the resources to work on implementation – after all, it happened at Microsoft before – or to build privacy controls around those new APIs.

30 June 2020

Ars Technica: “TikTok and 53 other iOS apps still snoop your sensitive clipboard data”

In March, researchers uncovered a troubling privacy grab by more than four dozen iOS apps including TikTok, the Chinese-owned social media and video-sharing phenomenon that has taken the Internet by storm. Despite TikTok vowing to curb the practice, it continues to access some of Apple users’ most sensitive data, which can include passwords, cryptocurrency wallet addresses, account-reset links, and personal messages. Another 53 apps identified in March haven’t stopped either.

The privacy invasion is the result of the apps repeatedly reading any text that happens to reside in clipboards, which computers and other devices use to store data that has been cut or copied from things like password managers and email programs. With no clear reason for doing so, researchers Talal Haj Bakry and Tommy Mysk found, the apps deliberately called an iOS programming interface that retrieves text from users’ clipboards.

TikTok’s continued snooping has gotten extra scrutiny for other reasons. When called out in March, the video-sharing provider told UK publication The Telegraph it would end the practice in the coming weeks. Mysk said that the app never stopped the monitoring. What’s more, a Wednesday Twitter thread revealed that the clipboard reading occurred each time a user entered a punctuation mark or tapped the space bar while composing a comment. That means the clipboard reading can happen every second or so, a much more aggressive pace than documented in the March research, which found monitoring happened when the app was opened or reopened.

Dan Goodin

If you care in the least about you privacy, you should absolutely stay off TikTok! Its skyrocketing popularity despite massive security and privacy issues is a good example how the majority of people care too little about their individual privacy – or simply do not understand the implications of this continuous data collection, in this case likely for the benefit of the Chinese government.

The Verge: “Apple’s new iOS 14 home screen brings Windows Phone Live Tiles back to life”

I’ve always wanted Apple to bring these Live Tiles to the iPhone. Apple’s overhauled iOS 14 home screen finally does that, enabling lively widgets for apps that sit on the home screen. It’s the final addition to the iPhone that I’ve been missing from Windows Phone, 10 years after Microsoft first introduced Live Tiles to the world.

Live Tiles were one of Windows Phone’s most unique features. They enabled apps to show information on the home screen, similar to the widgets found on Android and iOS. You could pin almost anything useful to the home screen, and Live Tiles animated beautifully to flip over and provide tiny nuggets of information that made your phone feel far more personal and alive.

Apple has taken the best of both Android widgets and Windows Phone’s Live Tiles and combined them into iOS 14. It’s not the first time we’ve seen Windows Phone features appear in iOS or Android, and it underlines how important Microsoft’s mobile efforts were even if they were a glorious failure.

Tom Warren

Even though I love Live Tiles, I have never been a fan of widgets on Android. After switching from iOS two years ago I simply put my most used apps on my – single – home screen and relied on search for the rest. But these discussions about upcoming widgets in iOS sparked my interest, so I started experimenting with widgets a bit. I currently own a Samsung Galaxy S8 with Android 9 and Samsung’s One UI, version 1.0.

The Wall Street Journal: “Olympus to Exit Camera Business after 84 Years”

The Tokyo company, which has been under pressure from U.S. shareholder ValueAct Capital to improve shareholder returns, said Wednesday that it planned to sell its camera unit to private-equity firm Japan Industrial Partners Inc. It didn’t disclose financial details. The companies aim to complete their deal by the end of the year.

As recently as 2007, the dawn of the smartphone era, digital cameras were a $3-billion-a-year business for Olympus. Within a few years, however, most of the market evaporated because people were using their phones to take pictures. Camera revenue shrank to just over $400 million in the year ended March 31, and the business has lost money for the past three fiscal years.

The company’s main product line is now medical-imaging devices such as endoscopes.

Kosaku Narioka

Unfortunate news, but not unexpected, especially in the context of the massive economic crisis caused by the pandemic.

29 June 2020

The New York Times: “Apple rejects Facebook’s Gaming App, for at least the Fifth Time”

Since February, Apple has rejected at least five versions of Facebook Gaming, according to three people with knowledge of the companies, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the details are confidential. Each time, the people said, Apple cited its rules that prohibit apps with the “main purpose” of distributing casual games.

Facebook Gaming may also have been hurt by appearing to compete with Apple’s own sales of games, two of the people said. Games are by far the most lucrative category of mobile apps worldwide. Apple’s App Store, the only officially approved place for iPhone and iPad users to find new games and other programs, generated about $15 billion in revenue last year.

Seth Schiesel

Alternative headline: “Apple rejects Another Rival Gaming Service to Prevent it from Competing on iOS”. As reported in March, new game streaming subscriptions from Microsoft, Google and Nvidia have also been severely limited by Apple’s rules, while its own Apple Arcade is allegedly compliant. Yet another example of companies defining the rules of access to their platforms so that competitors can never challenge their dominance.

Windows Central: “Microsoft’s Head of Industrial Design for Surface now also heading design team for Windows”

Groene is the lead designer of Microsoft's Surface line and has been involved with several design choices that have been well received. His expanded role including the design of Windows could help end some of the frustrations people have expressed regarding the inconsistent design of Windows 10.

While it’s unclear what role Groene has played in the design of Windows at this point, there does seem to be a shift regarding UI design and Windows at Microsoft. Panay being placed in charge of Windows, along with Groene’s new role, could iron out inconsistencies in the operating system and improve the user interface. Panay teased a new Windows 10 UI earlier this year and Microsoft confirmed last month that some elements of Windows 10X will come to Windows 10. We’ll have to wait and see to find out what Microsoft has in plan for the future of Windows.

Sean Endicott

I do not usually comment on issues of design, but in Windows 10 the situation is becoming ridiculous. There are no less than four different styles for Start Menu tiles alone:

  • flat icon with the system-wide accent color as background (all Win32 apps, as well as most Store apps)
  • flat icon with a custom background color (in most cases a shade of blue, like Twitter, Facebook and Instagram, old Microsoft Edge)
  • Fluent Design icon with solid blue background (most modern Windows apps, with some glaring exceptions, like Store, Calculator)
  • Fluent Design icon with solid dark grey background (Office apps, To Do, Sticky Notes and most recently Skype)