Facebook suspends tens of thousands of apps in ongoing privacy investigation

Facebook suspends tens of thousands of apps in ongoing privacy investigation

Enlarge (credit: Getty Images)

Facebook—the social media company that has been under intense public criticism for not adequately safeguarding the personal information of its 2 billion users—has suspended tens of thousands of apps for a variety of violations, including improperly sharing private data.

In a post published on Friday, Facebook VP of Product Partnerships Ime Archibong said the move was part of an ongoing review that began in March 2018, following revelations that, two years earlier, Cambridge Analytica used the personal information of as many as 87 million Facebook users to build voter profiles for President Donald Trump’s presidential campaign. Facebook has been embroiled in several other privacy controversies since then.

The tens of thousands of apps were associated with about 400 developers. While some of the apps were suspended, in a few cases others were banned completely. Offenses that led to banning included inappropriately sharing data obtained from the Facebook platform, making data available without protecting user’s identities, or clear violations of the social network’s terms of service.

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Source: Ars Technica – Facebook suspends tens of thousands of apps in ongoing privacy investigation

Epic seems to have paid $10.5 million for Control’s PC exclusivity

At this point, we know Epic is committed to paying a lot of money for exclusive games to attract players to its Epic Games Store. Now, we seem to know how much it paid up front for at least one of those exclusives: €9.49 million (about $10.45 million at today’s exchange rates).

The EGS exclusive in question is Remedy and 505 Games’ supernatural shooter Control, and the number in question comes buried in an Italian earnings report from 505 Games parent company Digital Bros. (as noticed by analyst Daniel Ahmad). That figure is listed in two tables in the document, corresponding to total revenue from Control and total revenue from the Epic Games Store, both for the period ending June 30, 2019.

“Revenue come[s] from the computer version of Control,” the report reads, according to a rough translation of a portion of the document. “The game was released on August 27 but the structure of the marketplace who requested the PC exclusivity has made possible to gain the revenue starting from this quarter.”

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Source: Ars Technica – Epic seems to have paid .5 million for Control’s PC exclusivity

Walmart, Oracle, and mall-owner Simon behind “grassroots” anti-Amazon org

The Amazon logo at the entrance of a logistics center in France, July 2019.

Enlarge / The Amazon logo at the entrance of a logistics center in France, July 2019. (credit: Denis Charlet | AFP | Getty )

It’s no secret that retailers who compete with Amazon for consumer dollars want regulators to take a closer look at the way their titanic, globe-spanning rival works. They’ve openly said so, many times. And yet, three major firms reportedly spent a great deal of time and effort obscuring their ties to a nonprofit that exists to rally support against Amazon.

The nonprofit, called the Free and Fair Markets Initiative, describes itself as “a nonprofit watchdog committed to scrutinizing Amazon’s harmful practices and promoting a fair, modern marketplace that works for all Americans.” According to a new report today from The Wall Street Journal, however, the group is funded by rivals, including Walmart, Oracle, and mall-owner Simon, who all have a strong financial interest in dethroning Amazon.

All three are competing fiercely with Amazon in their own market sectors. Walmart, the nation’s biggest big-box store, competes in retail, selling goods and groceries. Oracle competes in Internet services and has been fighting against Amazon, for example, to secure a $10 billion government contract. And Simon, the country’s largest mall owner, is at the front and center of the retail apocalypse and all the dead malls that retail bankruptcies leave in their wake.

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Source: Ars Technica – Walmart, Oracle, and mall-owner Simon behind “grassroots” anti-Amazon org

AMD’s Ryzen 9 3950X, Threadripper on hold until November

That "premiering with 24 cores" fine print is our only concrete clue about November's Threadripper launch.

Enlarge / That “premiering with 24 cores” fine print is our only concrete clue about November’s Threadripper launch. (credit: AMD)

AMD announced in a surprise email today that its Ryzen 9 3950X, originally slated for launch this month, has been delayed until November, when it and new Zen 2 Threadripper CPUs will debut:

We are focusing on meeting the strong demand for our 3rd generation AMD Ryzen processors in the market and now plan to launch both the AMD Ryzen 9 3950X and initial members of the 3rd Gen AMD Ryzen Threadripper processor family in volume this November. We are confident that when enthusiasts get their hands on the world’s first 16-core mainstream desktop processor and our next-generation of high-end desktop processors, the wait will be well worth it.

The 3950X will be a 16-core, 32-thread desktop CPU running with a 4.7GHz boost clock, with a suggested retail price of $749. Details on the Threadrippers debuting next month are thinner, although graphics describe it as “premiering with 24 cores.” Presumably, we’ll eventually see Zen 2 Threadrippers with 32 cores and 64 threads to match the last generation’s 2990WX. Although there haven’t been any official statements, rumors are floating around about one existing Threadripper 3000 32-core CPU—user benchmarks claiming to be from an engineering sample showed up at Geekbench last month.

The delay of Ryzen 9 3950X’s launch—along with extreme shortages of the already-launched Ryzen 9 3900X—leads to obvious supply line speculation. Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (TSMC), the foundry AMD uses for its Zen 2 processors (and Apple uses for the 7nm A13 CPU in the iPhone 11), recently increased its lead time for new orders from two months to six. This increased lead should not directly affect the 3950X or Threadripper launches, since the silicon for those processors would have been ordered months ago.But it is an indication that TSMC may be approaching production or binning limits.

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Source: Ars Technica – AMD’s Ryzen 9 3950X, Threadripper on hold until November

Medicine show: Crown Sterling demos 256-bit RSA key-cracking at private event

Robert Grant, Crown Sterling CEO and founder, emcee'd a demonstration of crypto-cracking at an event yesterday. Cryptographers were not impressed.

Enlarge / Robert Grant, Crown Sterling CEO and founder, emcee’d a demonstration of crypto-cracking at an event yesterday. Cryptographers were not impressed. (credit: Crown Sterling, via YouTube)

On September 19, in a conference room at the Pelican Hill Resort in Newport Beach, California, Crown Sterling CEO Robert Grant, COO Joseph Hopkins, and a pair of programmers staged a demonstration of Grant’s claimed cryptography-cracking algorithm. Before an audience that a Crown Sterling spokesperson described as “approximately 100 academics and business professionals,” Grant and Hopkins had their minions generate two pairs of 256-bit RSA encryption keys and then derive the prime numbers used to generate them from the public key in about 50 seconds.

In a phone interview with Ars Technica today, Grant said the video was filmed during a “business session” at the event. The “academic” presentation, which went into math behind his claims and a new paper yet to be published, was attended by “mostly people from local colleges,” Hopkins said. Grant said that he didn’t know who attended both sessions, and the CEO added that he didn’t have access to the invitation list.

During the presentation, Grant called out to Chris Novak, the global director of Verizon Enterprise Solutions’ Threat Research Advisory Center, naming him as a member of Crown Sterling’s advisory board. The shout-out was during introductory remarks that Grant made about a survey of chief information security officers that the company had conducted. The survey found only 3% had an understanding of the fundamental math behind encryption.

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Source: Ars Technica – Medicine show: Crown Sterling demos 256-bit RSA key-cracking at private event

AT&T tells court: Customers can’t sue over sale of phone location data

The AT&T logo displayed on a smartphone screen.

Enlarge (credit: Getty Images | SOPA Images)

AT&T is trying to force customers into arbitration in order to avoid a class-action complaint over the telecom’s former practice of selling users’ real-time location data.

In a motion to compel arbitration filed last week, AT&T said that plaintiffs agreed to arbitrate disputes with AT&T when they entered into wireless service contracts. The plaintiffs, who are represented by Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) attorneys, will likely argue that the arbitration clause is invalid.

The case is pending in US District Court for the Northern District of California. In March 2018, a judge in the same court ruled that AT&T could not use its arbitration clause to avoid a class-action lawsuit over the company’s throttling of unlimited mobile data plans. That’s because the California Supreme Court had ruled in McGill v. Citibank “that an arbitration agreement that waives the right to seek the statutory remedy of public injunctive relief in any forum is contrary to California public policy and therefore unenforceable,” the District Court judge wrote at the time.

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Source: Ars Technica – AT&T tells court: Customers can’t sue over sale of phone location data

iOS 13 ships with known lockscreen bypass flaw that exposes contacts

iOS 13 ships with known lockscreen bypass flaw that exposes contacts

Enlarge (credit: Jose Rodriguez)

Apple released iOS 13 with a bunch of new features. But it also released the new OS with something else: a bug disclosed seven days ago that exposes contact details without requiring a passcode or biometric identification first.

Independent researcher Jose Rodriguez published a video demonstration of the flaw exactly one week ago. It can be exploited by receiving a FaceTime call and then using the voiceover feature from Siri to access the contact list. From there, an unauthorized person could get names, phone numbers, email addresses, and any other information stored in the phone’s contacts list.

With No Enter the Passcode you can See Contacts info. iOS 13 Feature. Read description please.

Rodriquez’s video was the topic of more than 100 news articles over the past week. Since iOS 13 was in beta when it first appeared, I assumed Apple developers would fix the bypass in time for yesterday’s release. Alas, they didn’t, and it’s not clear why. Apple representatives have yet to respond to a request for comment.

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Source: Ars Technica – iOS 13 ships with known lockscreen bypass flaw that exposes contacts

Sacklers threaten to scrap opioid deal if they aren’t shielded from lawsuits

PURDUE PHARMA, STAMFORD, CT, UNITED STATES - 2019/09/12: Members of P.A.I.N. (Prescription Addiction Intervention Now) and Truth Pharm staged a protest on September 12, 2019 outside Purdue Pharma headquarters in Stamford, over their recent controversial opioid settlement.

Enlarge / PURDUE PHARMA, STAMFORD, CT, UNITED STATES – 2019/09/12: Members of P.A.I.N. (Prescription Addiction Intervention Now) and Truth Pharm staged a protest on September 12, 2019 outside Purdue Pharma headquarters in Stamford, over their recent controversial opioid settlement. (credit: Getty | Erik McGregor)

Lawyers for OxyContin-maker Purdue Pharma filed a new complaint late Wednesday threatening that the company’s mega-rich owners, the Sackler family, could pull out of a proposed multi-billion-dollar opioid settlement deal if a bankruptcy judge doesn’t shield the family from outstanding state lawsuits.

Purdue’s lawyers argue that if the lawsuits continue, the Sacklers will have to waste “hundreds of millions of dollars” on legal costs that could otherwise go to claimants in the settlement. The family’s lawyers added that in that event, the family “may be unwilling—or unable—to make the billions of dollars of contributions” to the proposed settlement.

State attorneys general, however, argue that the tactic is yet another move designed to shield the Sacklers and their ill-gotten wealth.

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Source: Ars Technica – Sacklers threaten to scrap opioid deal if they aren’t shielded from lawsuits

Apple releases iPhone 11, iPhone 11 Pro, and Apple Watch series 5

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Source: Ars Technica – Apple releases iPhone 11, iPhone 11 Pro, and Apple Watch series 5

Ad Astra: A journey upriver to meet your demons, internal and otherwise

Brad Pitt stars as an astronaut in search of his long-lost father (Tommy Lee Jones) in Ad Astra.

On its own, the title of this week’s blockbuster release—Ad Astra, Latin for “to the stars”—doesn’t tell you much about what the film is about. The trailers haven’t done much to clarify, promising everything from family drama to violent car chases on the Moon.

None of the details provide much clarity, either. The movie was co-written and directed by James Gray, whose films have tended to be on the critically acclaimed, publicly obscure end of the spectrum and are set in realistic versions of the present. Yet this one is clearly set in a sci-fi future and is loomed over by enormous Hollywood figures including Jones, Pitt, and Donald Sutherland.

The movie holds together much better than that description might suggest. While there’s plenty here to nitpick, the film offers an interesting vision of the future and a plot that enables its focused human drama to become central to that future. What follows is a review that will attempt to spoil nothing that wasn’t already revealed in the trailers.

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Source: Ars Technica – Ad Astra: A journey upriver to meet your demons, internal and otherwise

How do you manage software and saves on a second Switch? It’s complicated

With the launch of the Switch Lite this week, a lot of families are going to be adding a second, more portable Switch to their household. This is definitely doable, but there are some important caveats to keep in mind, especially if you purchase downloadable games from the eShop.

To help clarify the whole process, here’s a quick run-down of how juggling software and accounts between multiple Switch units works in practice.

Setup and save data transfer

When you first turn on your second Switch, you’re offered the opportunity to import your account and user data created on another Switch. The system will ask if you currently have the Switch from which you want to import data and if you’ll be keeping that original system going forward.

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Source: Ars Technica – How do you manage software and saves on a second Switch? It’s complicated

Untitled Goose Game review: HONNNNNNK

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Source: Ars Technica – Untitled Goose Game review: HONNNNNNK

Ancient slag offers insight into the uneven pace of technological advances

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Source: Ars Technica – Ancient slag offers insight into the uneven pace of technological advances

iOS 13 on the iPhone 6S and SE: New software runs fine on a phone that’s still fast

The iPhone 6S and SE are the new baseline for iOS 13, and everything is still running smooth.

Enlarge / The iPhone 6S and SE are the new baseline for iOS 13, and everything is still running smooth. (credit: Andrew Cunningham)

People upgrading to iOS 13 this year may have more of an incentive than usual to keep using their old phones rather than upgrading to new ones. After all, 2016’s iPhone SE was the last Apple phone to include a 4-inch screen suitable for smaller hands and pockets, and both the SE and the 6S were Apple’s last phones to include conventional 3.5mm headphone jacks.

But running Apple’s newest software on its oldest supported hardware hasn’t always been a pleasant experience, something we’ve been tracking going all the way back to iOS 6 and the iPhone 3GS in 2012 (see also: iOS 7 and 7.1 on the iPhone 4; iOS 8 and 9 on the iPhone 4S; iOS 10 on the iPhone 5 and 5C; and iOS 11 and 12 on the iPhone 5S). After using iOS 13 on both the 6S and SE recently, I can say that both devices still feel just fine to use—if you’re happy with how iOS 12 runs right now, you’ll be fine with iOS 13, too. They’re both good for hand-me-down devices. But there are still compelling reasons to upgrade if you’re thinking about it, and good reasons not to buy a used or refurbished version of either phone just to get the small screen or the headphone jack.

Apple’s A9 is still pretty good

For this performance test, I did a fresh install of iOS on each device, signed it into a test iCloud account, and let the phones sit for a while to complete any indexing or other behind-the-scenes tasks. I then opened each app three times and averaged the results. In the past, this has been a fairly reliable indicator of how each phone will actually feel in day-to-day use. If opening an app and waiting for it to load on a fresh iOS install feels slow, that usually means that the rest of the phone (including waiting for the keyboard to pop up, waiting for pages to load, and other tasks) will feel slow too, especially as you download more stuff and connect more accounts.

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Source: Ars Technica – iOS 13 on the iPhone 6S and SE: New software runs fine on a phone that’s still fast

iOS 13: The Ars Technica review

iOS 13 on an iPhone 11 Pro.

Enlarge / iOS 13 on an iPhone 11 Pro. (credit: Samuel Axon)

Last year, Apple set users’ expectations with iOS 12, saying it would be focused on improving performance and fixing bugs and stability issues instead of adding a bunch of new features. And while there were still plenty of bugs over the course of the iOS 12 cycle, performance was improved—particularly on older devices.

Apple hasn’t tempered expectations for iOS 13 this year, so users might be expecting a big leap forward. iOS 13 does bring a new look to the software that runs on iPhones, overhauls a few oft-criticized first-party applications, and puts additional emphasis on user privacy. Most of all, it adds new, powerful interactions for power users—some of which we thought we’d never see in Apple’s mobile software.

iOS 13 is successful at most of what it sets out to do, even though it leaves some things that users have wanted to see overhauled—like the home screen—relatively untouched.

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Source: Ars Technica – iOS 13: The Ars Technica review

Rocket Report: Russia to build 11 more Protons, Boeing wants EUS funding

A Falcon 9 rocket launches from Vandenberg Air Force Base.

Enlarge / A Falcon 9 rocket launches from Vandenberg Air Force Base. (credit: Aurich Lawson/SpaceX)

Welcome to Edition 2.15 of the Rocket Report! We’re back after traveling last week, and the newsletter is packed with information about all manner of rockets. Perhaps the most surprising tidbit this week is the possibility that Stratolaunch may be returning to the skies.

As always, we welcome reader submissions, and if you don’t want to miss an issue, please subscribe using the box below (the form will not appear on AMP-enabled versions of the site). Each report will include information on small-, medium-, and heavy-lift rockets as well as a quick look ahead at the next three launches on the calendar.

Rocket Lab says Atlantic spaceport progressing. The smallsat rocket company said it has installed the launch platform at its second launch site, Launch Complex 2, which marks one of the final steps in the construction of the new pad at the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport in Virginia. Rocket Lab is preparing for the first Electron launch from US soil in “early 2020.”

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Source: Ars Technica – Rocket Report: Russia to build 11 more Protons, Boeing wants EUS funding

Teen vaping surge: 25% of 12th graders report recent use, 11% daily use

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Source: Ars Technica – Teen vaping surge: 25% of 12th graders report recent use, 11% daily use

Payment card thieves hack Click2Gov bill paying portals in 8 cities

Payment card thieves hack Click2Gov bill paying portals in 8 cities

Enlarge (credit: Mighty Travels / Flickr)

In 2017 and 2018, hackers compromised systems running the Click2Gov self-service bill-payment portal in dozens of cities across the United States, a feat that compromised 300,000 payment cards and generated nearly $2 million of revenue. Now, Click2Gov systems have been hit by a second wave of attacks that’s dumping tens of thousands of records onto the Dark Web, researchers said on Thursday.

The new round of attacks began in August and have so far hit systems in eight cities, six of which were compromised in the previous episode, researchers with security firm Gemini Advisory said in a post. Many of the hacked portals were running fully up-to-date systems, which raises questions about precisely how the attackers were able to breach them. Click2Gov is used by utilities, municipalities, and community-development organizations to pay bills and parking tickets as well as make other kinds of transactions.

“The second wave of Click2Gov breaches indicates that despite patched systems, the portal remains vulnerable,” Gemini Advisory researchers Stas Alforov and Christopher Thomas wrote. “It is thus incumbent upon organizations to regularly monitor their systems for potential compromises in addition to keeping up to date on patches.

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Source: Ars Technica – Payment card thieves hack Click2Gov bill paying portals in 8 cities

Weighing in: Physicists cut upper limit on neutrino’s mass in half

The spectrometer for the KATRIN experiment, as it works its way through the German town of Eggenstein-Leopoldshafen in 2006 en route to the nearby Karlsruhe Institute of Technology.

Enlarge / The spectrometer for the KATRIN experiment, as it works its way through the German town of Eggenstein-Leopoldshafen in 2006 en route to the nearby Karlsruhe Institute of Technology. (credit: Karlsruhe Institute of Technology)

Isaac Asimov dubbed neutrinos “ghost particles.” John Updike immortalized them in verse. They’ve been the subject of several Nobel Prize citations, because these weird tiny particles just keep surprising physicists. And now we have a much better idea of the upper limit of what their rest mass could be, thanks to the first results from the Karlsruhe Tritium Neutrino experiment (KATRIN) in Germany. Leaders from the experiment announced their results last week at a scientific conference in Japan and posted a preprint to the physics arXiv.

“Knowing the mass of the neutrino will allow scientists to answer fundamental questions in cosmology, astrophysics, and particle physics, such as how the universe evolved or what physics exists beyond the Standard Model,” said Hamish Robertson, a KATRIN scientist and professor emeritus of physics at the University of Washington. “These findings by the KATRIN collaboration reduce the previous mass range for the neutrino by a factor of two, place more stringent criteria on what the neutrino’s mass actually is, and provide a path forward to measure its value definitively.”

The ghostly particles are devilishly hard to detect because they so rarely interact with other particles, and when they do, they only interact via the weak nuclear force. Most neutrino hunters bury their experiments deep underground, the better to cancel out noisy interference from other sources, notably the cosmic rays continually bombarding Earth’s atmosphere. The experiments usually require enormous tanks of liquid—dry-cleaning fluid, water, heavy water, mineral oil, chlorine, or gallium, for example, depending on the experimental setup. This increases the chances of a neutrino striking one of the atoms in the medium of choice, triggering the decay process. The atom changes into a different element, emitting an electron in the process, which can be detected.

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Source: Ars Technica – Weighing in: Physicists cut upper limit on neutrino’s mass in half

Amazon orders 100,000 electric trucks to fight climate change

Amazon has ordered 100,000 electric trucks from startup Rivian, the e-commerce giant announced Thursday. The order is part of Amazon’s larger pledge—also announced today—to reach zero net carbon emissions by 2040. Amazon aims to use 80% renewable energy by 2024 and 100% by 2030.

Rivian is an electric-vehicle startup that is initially focusing on trucks and SUVs. Amazon led a $700 million funding round for the company earlier this year.

“The first electric delivery vans will go on the road in 2021,” said Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos at an event in Washington DC. “The 100,000 will be completely deployed by 2024, let’s say.”

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Source: Ars Technica – Amazon orders 100,000 electric trucks to fight climate change