How to turn off location tracking in Facebook for Android

Facebook has now added the ability for Android users to turn off the continuous logging of locations in the background. For people who use Facebook for iOS, nothing is changing.

Unlike Apple’s iOS, the Android mobile operating system has pretty sparse privacy controls. Apps either have access to everything, or nothing, meaning many users reluctantly or unknowingly grant them more permissions than they need.

Facebook has now added the ability for users to turn off the continuous logging of users’ locations in the background. In its announcement, the social media juggernaut announced “Location Control and Checkup” options.

“With this update, you’ll have a dedicated way to choose whether or not to share your location when you aren’t using the app,” Facebook says. “For people who previously chose to turn their Location History setting ‘on,’ the new background location setting is “on.” For people who had turned Location History ‘off’ – or never turned it on in the first place – the new background location setting is ‘off.'”

The ‘checkup’ is what Facebook is rolling out for users of Apple’s iOS devices.

“For people who use Facebook for iOS, nothing is changing,” the company notes. “But we will send a similar alert to everyone who chose to turn on Location History in the past so they can check to make sure their settings are right for them.”

To access location privacy controls, open the Facebook app and then tap “Privacy and Settings” in the main menu. There, click on “Location” to choose your preferred setting.

“Location information makes it possible for people to use Facebook to plan events, see more relevant ads, mark themselves safe in a crisis and share their favorite places,” Facebook explains, adding that location information also helps keep your account secure.

But if you don’t use Facebook features that rely on location information, you might as well flip those switches to “off.”

Rise of the (Personal) Drones — A Look at the Hover Camera Passport Drone

In the future, our own personal drones will follow us around to take photos of us like our own personal flying paparazzi. It’s not too hard to see that this is where things are going.

Here’s the thing: like so many other things, the future is happening a lot sooner than most people think. It’s operating on its own timetable and has been since 2007. The Hover Camera Passport Drone (from Chinese startup Zero Zero Robotics) is that future — today.

For $500, you get a drone that folds to size of a small notebook. Its propellers are protected in a carbon fiber fence, which also should keep most fingers out of the danger zone (cue Kenny Loggins, if you like). It packs facial recognition, “body tracking” (which keeps your entire body in frame, handy if you’re doing the sort of active things people like to post on Instagram) into that small package, and can do orbits around you or take 360 degree panoramic shots on 4K video or 13 MP stills. Flight time is 10 minute on a full battery charge and the kit includes two batteries, with a maximum altitude of about 65 feet. It’s controlled by an iPhone app, and though the Hover Camera Passport Drone is being exclusively sold in Apple Stores, an Android app is also available.

I saw a display unit at the Apple Store in Ala Moana (in Honolulu) and remembering a post that some stores were giving demos, I ask the staff if anyone could show it off to me. They were giddy with excitement to play with the drone.

There’s a few kinks that needs to be worked out. The staff attempted, and failed, to install a firmware update. The Hover Camera Passport Drone also needs assistance in take off in the way of being held until its propellers generate enough lift to get it airborne. The facial recognition also seems a little finicky, taking some time to kick in.

But when the drone works, it is something to see. It follows the user around like a well-trained flying dog…that looks like a flying notebook. The video and stills, from what I could see, was sharp and good enough (at least) for social media posts. The cool factor, especially if you have even a passing interest in drones, is undeniable. It’s not a professional homebrew or DJI rig, but it’s not supposed to. It’s more like a camera on a phone rather than a DSLR.

The staff at the Apple Store I talked to said they were selling well, and gave an anecdote about a tourist buying it when they watched them fly it — which makes sense, as this is the perfect sort of impulse buy a well-heeled visitor vacationing in Hawaii would make. It’s essentially a selfie stick, but with a lot more wow factor and a lot more potential.

And while we’re comparing this to a selfie stick, people might long for the days of people walking around with poles when they realize the buzzing noise of a hundred drones at their favorite beach may very well be a thing.

But let’s face it. Personal drones are now a thing. Telling someone from 2006 that people will have their own computers in their pockets in 2007 would probably draw a guffaw. That person from 2006 would also have no idea the potential that would be unlocked because of fast cellular networking and smartphones. In same way, it’s impossible to say what good people having ready access to their own drones would be. Imagine events captured on smartphones, like the Arab Spring, now being augmented by a swarm of drones.

Those lofty possibilities aside, today’s Hover Camera Passport Drone suffers from the sort of first adopter problems you’d expect. But they’re also the sort of problems sorted out in the 2.0 version of the device. So if you’re not the type to buy the first version of something, you might want to wait to see how the next version fares.

With a solid product launch, the Hover Camera Passport shows that personal drones will be a popular thing sooner rather than later — whether it’s for better or worse, we’ll soon find out.

Microsoft Announces Job Cuts and Losses, Majority of Layoffs in Mobile Products

It’s not a good day if your work with Windows Phone or for Microsoft’s mobile division. The company cut 7,600 jobs tied to the devices and wrote off $7.6 billion of the division’s assets.

Situation leaves Microsoft in an unenviable bind: on one hand, analysts point out that the company can’t and won’t keep on trying to break into a market where they’re a distant third to Apple and Google, at best. On the other, mobile phones are too important a market segment for the company to abandon.

With its acquisition of Nokia, Microsoft is expected to pare down the phone selection it offers. It is expected to revamp the Lumia line of Windows Phones and release a flagship device — which the brand hasn’t had since Microsoft bought the Finnish company. In addition, while Microsoft’s Office products were only available on Windows’ mobile devices, the company has since ported them to iOS and Android.

Via CNet. Photo by Stilgherrian/flickr

Rumor: BlackBerry Prepping Android Phone for AT&T

While BlackBerry would like you to think everything’s fine and there’s nothing to see, the former smartphone powerhouse is attempting to stay relevant by embracing Google’s little green droid. Amazon’s Android Appstore apps currently run on the Canadian company’s devices, but it intends to take it a step further with the imminent release of an actual Android phone.

The device was hinted at in March during the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, but tech leaker Evan Blass (@evleaks), posted high resolution devices of the device. The phone will have curved edges, much like the Samsung Galaxy Edge S5, and keeping to BlackBerry’s DNA, it will feature a slide-out physical keyboard.

The phone is rumored to be an AT&T exclusive, at least in launch. The reports of the BlackBerry’s Android phone comes amid a Reuters article that mentions the company will be going with be switching to the Google mobile operating system.

Via The Verge. Photo by Evan Blass (@evleaks).

T-Mobile Introduces Smartphone Leases with JUMP! On Demand

No matter what kind of fanboy you are (iOS or Android), chances are you’re the type of person who absolutely, positively needs the latest and greatest phone the moment it comes out.

This can be expensive. If you’re still on a subsidy plan, that means you probably won’t be eligible for an upgrade until the end of your two year contract. If you’re on one of the newer installment plans, you may or may not be eligible for an upgrade, and you may or may not need to put something down against the total balance of the device.

If you’re that guy or girl, chances are you’ve thought about the benefits of leasing. You don’t plan on having a phone longer than a year — and let’s fact it, getting the timing right of selling your old device to get the most you can on the second-hand market is a delicate balancing act. Sell it too soon, and you’ll be stuck without a smartphone for a few days to a few weeks. Sell it too late and you won’t get all you could have.

If only someone offered a leasing plan for phones, right?

John Legere, the maverick CEO of T-Mobile, apparently has heard the cries of smartphone nerds like us. JUMP! On Demand, will allow T-Mobile’s customers choose between “superphones” like the iPhone 6, 6 Plus, Samsung Galaxy S6, Galaxy S6 Edge, Galaxy Note 4 and the LG G4. Qualified buyers will be able to walk out of a T-Mobile store (not Apple Stores and Samsung stores-within-a-stores in Best Buys) with a new phone for nothing down — not even sales tax — and a monthly fee, according to a press release from the company.

Customers on the JUMP! On Demand program (which begins on Sunday, June 28) can upgrade/change phones three times a year. There’s also fees if the device is damaged, so the company “suggests” that users on the program also obtain insurance for the phones.

Via T-MobileTMoNews. Photo by T-Mobile.

Taylor Swift, Indies and the Cost of Streaming — Thinking about Apple Music’s Recent Reversal

Taylor Swift’s highly publicized tumblr post accomplished something that’s happened a few times in Apple’s history — she made the company change course.

You’ve probably heard about the Tweet storm by Apple’s Eddie Cue over the weekend, saying that the company will do the right thing when it comes to paying artists during Apple Music’s three month free trial — though this was something Apple should have done to begin.

Lost in the signal and the noise of Taylor vs. Apple is the fact that resentment by indie labels had been building about the rate structure of Apple Music. Swift’s post was the right nudge at the right time. (To be fair, others think the whole thing was a PR stunt to draw attention to the service and that its rate structure is slightly higher than other streaming services.)

Headlines like “Apple Music’s royalty-free trial period puts indie labels at risk“, “Apple Music Boycott – Should Indie Artists, Labels Stop Releasing New Music For Next 90 Days?” and “UK Indie Labels Say Apple Music Free Trial Could ‘Literally Put People Out of Business” made their way around the interwebs in the lead up to Swift’s post. The message was clear — the major labels could afford a hit in revenue for three months, but not a smaller company with tighter margins and less coming in each month. Some of the indies even accused Apple of cutting sweetheart deals with the majors at their expense.

I am an Apple fan. I’m a huge Apple fan. I’ve been accused of being a fanboy, and really, there’s no defense. However, what Apple is doing now with Apple Music, post Taylor Swift, is exactly what it should have done to begin with — pay the artists. This isn’t something that should be greeted with applause or praise, because it’s not like they’re dramatically raising the bar when it comes to streaming revenues (again, Apple’s payout is, at best, slightly higher than what other streaming services are paying now).

And that streaming bar could use some serious raising. In a Time piece from December 2013, artists like Radiohead’s Thom Yorke and the Black Keys and Aimee Mann all talked about how little streaming makes them and how it cannibalizes the sales of their albums. Smaller artists are working with smaller margins in a landscape where downloading anything from a less-than-legal sources is only slightly more complicated than downloading legally — to call streaming negligible for these artists would be an overstatement.

Apple’s reversal is just maintaining the status quo, which is increasingly squeezing out smaller labels and the innovative performers that usually make up their stables. So if you feel the urge to think Apple’s doing musicians a favor, keep in mind that they really aren’t.

A music industry that counts on flat fees means that poor, struggling artists will be even more poor and will be struggling even more. By embracing this model, the danger is that the only kind of musical artist there will be is the mega-successful variety (like Swift and the ones seen at the Tidal debacle/love-in), and no one else. The future David Bowies, MC5s and Leonard Cohens will all be too busy driving for Uber and working for Starbucks to actually work on music and develop as a performer.

Hold your applause for a company that will pay artists what their streams are worth. Will it be Apple? Probably not. Will it happen at all? In all seriousness, most likely not.

Photo by Steve.N7/flickr.

Apple Manufacturer Foxconn Looks to Open Shop in India

If you’re big into Apple products, you’ve seen this on pretty much everything you own: “Designed by Apple in California. Assembled in China.” But if Foxconn, one of Apple’s major manufacturing contractors, has its way, your next iPhone, iPad or MacBook could read, “Designed by Apple in California. Assembled in India.”

Foxconn used to manufacture Nokia phones in India until the company’s mobile division was bought up by Microsoft. Since then, India’s high tech factories have been quiet. However, China is increasingly becoming a victim of its own success, with wage inflation driving many companies out of the Middle Kingdom.

The Taiwanese-owned company is not immune to these pressures. Apple remains one of Foxconn’s one of lucrative — if not the most lucrative — relationship the company has. Quanta Computer, a rival manufacturer, also assembles Apple’s products and is one of the direct competitors of Foxconn.

As Apple’s profile rose in the late ’90s, ’00s and ’10s, so did Foxconn’s. Reports of low wages, long work hours and employee suicides at its Chinese factories were widely reported in the media and was the basis of a now-debunked one man show. Though the negative publicity also tainted Apple, Foxconn does work other American high tech companies.

Moving operations to India will also help Apple gain a foothold in its booming economy. An iPhone 6 is about US$60 more than a comparable Samsung Galaxy S6. (Foxconn explored a similar option to manufacture in Brazil because of its steep import tax and its growing middle class.)

Foxconn plans on building out about 10 facilities in India, which includes factories and data centers.

Via Reuters.  Photo by mattsches/flickr

 

New iOS Developer Guidelines Point to Ad Blockers on Apple’s iPhones and iPads

Apple’s unveiled the possibility that ad blockers would be coming to mobile Safari, iOS’ browser, keeping with their WWDC keynote theme of advocating for consumer privacy.

While ad-blockers are now fixtures on the browsers of power users, they’re not as widely used on mobile device — and until this year’s WWDC, they were unheard of on iPhones and iPad that weren’t jail broken. The new “content blocker” extensions laid out to developers at the conference can define what sort of images and scripts will not load.

9to5Mac speculates that the ad blockers could be a play to turn the screws on Google, now that Apple’s plans to break away from the Mountain View’s company services are coming together. Apple now develops and maintains its own map application and the upcoming “Proactive” additions to iOS’ search functions and Siri compete directly with Google Now. (Ad Blockers have been available on Android devices, however.)

Ensuring the blockers play nicely with Apple’s policies regarding apps, however, might also have played a role with regards to how long they’ve taken to get onto Apple’s mobile devices.

Via 9to5Mac. Photo by Yutaka Tsutano/flickr.

Cops and Local Governments Demand Privacy when it comes to Cell-Sniffing Stingrays, While Ignoring Your Rights

If you’re a stickler for online privacy, you know the trick isn’t to find a VPN or other privacy provider that won’t turn over their records to law enforcement — it’s finding a company that doesn’t keep records at all.

Turns out the police may be taking a page from them it comes to stingrays. A bit of background: stingrays, in case you don’t know, are devices originally developed for the intelligence and military communities to trick mobile devices into believing they are mobile phone towers. Stingrays can intercept voice and data transmissions and they are in use with police around the country as well as federal agencies.

When Ars Technica asked for records pertaining to the Sacramento County Sheriff’s Department  the agency replied that “no responsive documents exist.” In other words, like any good VPN, the sheriff department do not keep records.

Or do they? A Sacramento TV station filed a similar request, and in a grant application to Homeland Security from the department to upgrade its stingrays, it was revealed that the devices helped in over 500 investigations.

Despite the disclosure of the grant application, the SCSD refused to speak to Ars further about the matter, and conveyed the message though an attorney they’d retained.

Apparently, this kind of stonewalling is a rule and not an exception. Other law enforcement agencies do not have clear policies as to when stingrays can be employed and in many cases, warrants are not required. Local governments that are asked about them are bound by NDAs not to talk about about them. In the rare case a local government voted down the use of stingrays, one of the law makers revealed that there was an NDA to see the NDA.

However, the attorney general demanded tech companies to stop encrypting their smartphones. talking points that were thrown out included claims of kidnapping victims that won’t be found in time and, of course, kiddie porn merchants operating unhindered because of the privacy policies in place by Apple, Blackberry, Google and Microsoft.

These are old arguments that have been used to justify, and try to justify, spying on citizens and getting around the fourth ammendment. There was Clipper Chip and the FBI’s COINTELPRO. They aren’t the stuff of conspiracy theorists, but real programs the government’s done and tried to do when given too little oversight.

Once again, the federal government and police show a lack of respect for warrants and due process when it comes to stingrays. Instead, they use new surveillance technology when it suits them and let the courts hash out when and where they should be used and only after they’ve been caught using it. This isn’t just about stingrays — think domestic spying and GPS trackers.

Why shouldn’t anyone demand strong encryption and privacy protections from the companies that make their devices, at the very least?

Photo by Blake Patterson/flickr.