Appiness.io blog

12 Dec 2017
by Admin
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Welcome To The Surveillance State: China’s AI Cameras See All

Across China, a network of 176 million surveillance cameras, expected to grow to 626 million by 2020, keeps watch on the country’s over 1.3 billion citizens. 

Loaded with facial recognition technology and artificial intelligence that can keep tabs on people and their activities, the cameras represent a blessing for the security state and a nightmare for privacy advocates, dissidents and anyone else the Chinese government deems a threat.

To test the full capabilities of the system, the BBC sent journalist John Sudworth to Guiyang, a southern city with an urban population of about 3.5 million people, to see if he could get lost in the crowd:

Spoiler alert: Surveillance cameras readily identified Sudworth as a “suspect,” and police had him in custody within seven minutes.

In describing their surveillance system’s full capabilities to Sudworth, Guiyang authorities revealed they store massive amounts of data on everyone they can identify, regardless of their target’s criminal status.

That permits them to track anyone’s movements through the city, identifying other people they meet with and tracing their path back in time for a full week.

Officials told Sudworth that only criminals need fear the technology, but judging how it’s reportedly been used to monitor and intimidate ethnic minorities like the Uighurs in Western China, that’s not entirely true.

Petty crime is fair game, too ― as is using more than the approved amount of toilet paper in public restrooms.

In the eastern city of Jinan, officials use cameras to identify and publicly shame jaywalkers. Photos of offenders caught in the act are shown on a screen next to crosswalks, along with personal information about the person, like their home address and ID number.

And as Human Rights Watch points out, Chinese surveillance technology ― which, in many cases, is being developed at least partially with funding from Silicon Valley venture capital firms ― isn’t limited to use in China.

In 2014, a Chinese telecom company sold monitoring technology to the government of Ethiopia, which has been brutally cracking down on protesters. Brazil, Kenya, Ecuador and Britain have all purchased Chinese video monitoring systems as well.

11 Dec 2017
by Admin
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Apple To Buy Shazam Amid Rumors It Will Phase Out iTunes Downloads

Apple confirmed Monday that it plans to purchase the music identification and streaming service Shazam for around $400 million.

The announcement ends months of rumors regarding a Shazam acquisition, as Spotify and Snapchat were also said to be bidding for the startup. Judging from Shazam’s last fundraising round in 2015, Apple is getting a pretty good deal: Investors at the time valued Shazam at $1 billion, even though it hadn’t yet made a profit. (Shazam said it became profitable in 2016.)

Apple didn’t immediately make its intentions for Shazam clear, beyond coyly saying it has “exciting plans in store.”

But the planned purchase coincides with a rumor, also out Monday, that Apple is considering dropping music downloads from iTunes in favor of a streaming-only model. Per industry publication Digital Music News, Apple plans to make the musical shift sometime in early 2019, just after the lucrative holiday season. DMN said it confirmed the news with multiple sources at the company who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Apple didn’t immediately respond to HuffPost’s request for comment, but it did deny DMN’s report in a statement to 9to5Mac and has denied similar reports in the past. Nevertheless, a phase-out of music downloads wouldn’t be entirely unexpected.

Music streaming services have grown rapidly in recent years. As of October 2017, media analysts estimate 132 million people subscribe to streaming music services, a figure that outpaces Netflix subscriptions.

At the same time, music downloads ― a category dominated by iTunes ― have dropped sharply, falling from a peak of $3.9 billion in sales in 2012 to a projected $600 million by 2019.

The Shazam purchase could help Apple improve its music recommendation engine and thereby level the playing field with Spotify, which currently owns the category.

“Spotify has made the discovery of new music front and centre of what makes it a compelling proposition,” Mark Mulligan, a digital content consultant at Midia Research, explained to the BBC.

“Apple just doesn’t have the same amount of data about listening tastes as Spotify, meaning it can’t drive recommendations with as high a degree of accuracy and precision,” Mulligan added. “Shazam essentially gives it a shortcut to having a massive database.”

This story has been updated to reflect Apple’s response to 9to5Mac.

07 Dec 2017
by Admin
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The Best Wireless Headphones For Working Out

Your workout is strenuous enough, no need for the added difficulty of toying with headphone wires.

That’s why we’re bringing you some of the best wireless headphones that will complement your workout, not complicate it. Whether you’re looking for a pair to seriously invest in or need an inexpensive set for those quick HIIT workouts, we’ve got just the wireless set for you.

HuffPost may receive a share from purchases made via links on this page.

06 Dec 2017
by Admin
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Privacy Battle Brewing: Are LinkNYC Kiosks Surveillance Devices?

In 2016 LinkNYC began deploying free public Wi-Fi kiosks throughout the city.

The kiosks made news when people began using the public web browsers to watch pornography, and CityBridge the private consortium administering LinkNYC limited the browsers, and made other changes to limit how LinkNYC would store personal browser history, time spent on a particular website, and lacked clarity about how LinkNYC would handle government demands for user data, among others issues.

But now there’s a new battle brewing. It seems that each of the LinkNYC kiosks has front-facing cameras.

Starting on a number of blocks on the Upper West Side, an unknown number of digital protesters has begun to adhere yellow post-it-notes onto the Kiosks, effectively blocking the camera’s view.

Then, late a night, a van marked LinkNYC drives up Broadway were a worker with a long stick with a scraper clears the Post-its. But within days, the Post-Its return.

The skirmish over the cameras may have been going on for some time, and it’s unclear how widespread the action is, or if there is an organization behind disabling the cameras.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation is reporting that LinkNYC “Improves Privacy Policy, Yet Problems Remain” in a post on their website. They say, in part: “In the wake of its 2017 policy changes, LinkNYC still collects what it describes as “Technical Information,” including information such as IP addresses, anonymized MAC addresses, device type, device identifiers, and more, for up to 60 days. Additionally, the LinkNYC kiosks have cameras that store footage for up to 7 days.”

And the NYCLU has been engaging Mayor DeBlasio on the matter as well – saying in a letter: “the NYCLU remains concerned about the vast amount of private information retained by the LinkNYC system and the lack of robust language in the privacy policy protecting users against unwarranted government surveillance.”

And goes on to say: “The NYCLU seeks clarification on CityBridge’s policy regarding sharing of data collected by the environmental sensors and cameras on the Links. The policy states that “[CityBridge] will not give any data collected by environmental sensors or cameras to anyone other than the City or governmental law enforcement,” with a few exceptions. One of those exceptions is with “advanced, written permission from the City.” We would like to know whether the environmental sensors and cameras will be routinely feeding into any City or NYPD systems, including the Domain Awareness System; if so, that should be made explicit in the privacy policy.”

We’ve reached out to LinkNYC and EFF to get any additional details about the LinkNYC cameras and the ongoing blockage campaign.

Updated (2) : EFF responded with this statement:

“EFF is not familiar with the campaign to cover the cameras on LinkNYC kiosks with post-it notes, but it should come as no surprise” said EFF Director of Grassroots Advocacy Shahid Buttar. “As we have noted before, the LinkNYC system lacks any opportunity for public participation in the policymaking process, as well as remedies for potential violations of its privacy policy or inevitable data breaches. The activation of the kiosks’ cameras reflect both of those problems, making them a predictable target for street artists.”

A spokesperson for LinkNYC responded: “All Links are visited and cleaned twice a week as part of maintaining the network. This is not a widespread issue.”

And NYCLU responded to a request for comment about the cameras being obscured, said: “We appreciate that the city responded to the issues we raised about LinkNYC kiosks and improved privacy protections in their policy. Yet, so long as kiosks capture vast amounts of information about public and private life, we remain concerned for New Yorkers’ privacy.”

05 Dec 2017
by Admin
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Instagram Growing With Highly Curated (Safe) Feed

If you take a quick look at the data, you might think that the winner of the race to own social media is Snapchat.

Piper Jaffray’s biannual “Taking Stock With Teens” survey reports that Snapchat is now the most popular social networking service among the teen set by far.

But the real story — and the one that matters for storytellers and marketers — is what’s happening at Instagram, especially Instagram Stories. Over 200 million people use Instagram Stories each month, which is over 50 million more than those who use Snapchat, as reported in Business Insider. Instagram usage has doubled in the last two years.

Facebook is no longer the place for young people. Twitter has failed to grow followers significantly in 2017.

So what can we learn from the growth of Instagram?

While Twitter, Facebook, and even Snapchat are the Wild West of social media, Instagram has created what is almost an alternate reality.

According to a Variety article, “The company strives to create a safe, happy environment.” Instagram’s CEO Kevin Systrom told Variety: “People say Instagram is super positive and optimistic.”

And a quick look at 2017 statistics provided by the Instagram prove that point in dramatic fashion.

Top hashtags of 2017:

  • #love
  • #fashion
  • #photooftheday
  • #photography
  • #art
  • #beautiful
  • #travel
  • #happy
  • #nature
  • #picoftheday

According to Brandwatch, Instagram now reaches an average audience of 500 million people on a daily basis in the third quarter of 2017, more than double that of Snapchat or Twitter (each has fewer than 200 million daily active users).

Beyonce’s maternity photo garnered 11 million likes, making it the top “like” count for the year so far.

And Instagram is a global community, with the most-Instagrammed cities of 2017 coming from around the globe:

  • New York
  • Moscow
  • London
  • Sao Paulo, Brazil
  • Paris
  • Los Angeles
  • Saint Petersburg, Russia
  • Jakarta, Indonesia
  • Istanbul, Turkey
  • Barcelona

75 percent of Instagram users are outside the U.S., with just 17 percent of desktop traffic to Instagram coming from the United States, according to Brandwatch. Ninety percent of Instagram users are younger than 35. Thirty-two percent of U.S. internet users are now on Instagram, and Instagram now has 800 million monthly active users.

And celebrities that fit into the Instagram vibe Instagram’s “nice” digital environment are growing fans as well.

Accounts with the most-viewed Instagram Stories of 2017:

  • LeLe Pons (@lelepons)

  • Neymar Jr. (@neymarjr)

  • Olga Buzova (@buzova86)

  • Kim Kardashian (@kimkardashian)

  • Amanda Cerny (@amandacerny)

  • Chiara Ferragni (@chiaraferragni)

  • Maluma (@maluma)

  • Anitta (@anitta)

  • Ariana Grande (@arianagrande)

  • Kourtney Kardashian (@kourtneykardash)

And it’s not just humans who are connecting with the Instagram community. The most-followed pets on Instagram in 2017 include cats, dogs and even a fox:

  • jiffpom (@jiffpom) – Pomerian, US

  • nala_cat (@nala_cat) – Cat, US

  • Doug the Pug (@itsdougthepug) – Pug, US

  • Marutaro (@marutaro) – Shiba Inu, JP

  • Grumpy Cat (@realgrumpycat) – Cat, US

  • Marnie the Dog (@marniethedog) – Shih Tzu, US

  • Tuna (@tunameltsmyheart) – Chihuahua, US

  • Juniper&Fig (@juniperfoxx) – Fox, US

  • Lil BUB (@iamlilbub) – Cat, US

  • Loki (@loki_the_wolfdog) – Husky, US

Instagram is a dreamscape of our lives: airbrushed, art-directed, photo-filtered images. We’re all somewhere amazing, doing amazing things, and looking perfect.

In a world of digital overload and looming global issues, Instagram provides a warm, safe, inviting view of a somewhat aspirational world. Oh, and advertisers like that, too.

05 Dec 2017
by Admin
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Twitter Reveals 2017’s Most Popular Tweets, And Donald Trump’s Ego May Shatter

President Donald Trump’s Twitter game may not be as fierce as he likes to think.

On Tuesday, the social media platform revealed the world’s 10 most retweeted and three most “liked” posts of 2017. Trump, who regularly shows off in front of his 44.1 million followers by launching unprovoked attacks on his opponents, failed to feature on either list.

To add insult to injury, Trump’s predecessor in the White House, former President Barack Obama scored high in both roundups. Three of Obama’s tweets made the “most retweeted” list and two appeared in the “most liked” category.

Obama’s plea for racial equality following white nationalist violence in Charlottesville, Virginia, in August was both the “most liked” tweet of the year, and the second most retweeted.

Obama’s Twitter followers more than double the number for Trump ― as of Monday, the ex-president had 97.6 million.

Some slight consolation for Trump may be that he was crowned the most tweeted about elected world leader this year. But as various stories have noted, he’s often mentioned in a negative light.

Other tweets to rack up millions of “likes” this year included Ariana Grande’s response to the terror attack at her May concert in Manchester, England, and NBA star LeBron James’ zinger at Trump over the president’s rescinding ― via Twitter ― the White House invitation to the league champion Golden State Warriors after some of the team’s players, including star Stephen Curry, said they wouldn’t be attending.

The Twitter champion of the year, however, was Carter Wilkerson — the Nevada teen whose lighthearted request for a year’s supply of chicken nuggets from the Wendy’s fast-food chain went viral. After being shared an astonishing 3.6 million times, it’s now the most retweeted post ever:

The Miss Universe 2017 pageant was the most tweeted-about global television event, K-pop group BTS took that honor among celebrities, and Spanish soccer team Real Madrid’s #halamadrid was the world’s top sports hashtag. 

Game of Thrones” was the most tweeted-about TV show in the U.S., with Netflix’s “Stranger Things” taking the accolade for streaming shows. “Wonder Woman” won the award for most tweeted-about movie.

Here are the most retweeted tweets of the year:

Here are the most “liked” tweets of the year:

The most tweeted activism hashtags in the U.S.:

1. #Resist

3. #ImpeachTrump

4. #TrumpTrain

5. #WomensMarch

6. #NotMyPresident

7. #BlackLivesMatter

8. #NODAPL

9. #TakeAKnee

10. #BoycottNFL

The most tweeted about movies in the U.S.:

1. Wonder Woman

2. La La Land

3. Dunkirk

4. Spider-Man: Homecoming

5. Justice League

7. Beauty and the Beast

8. Thor: Ragnarok

9. Black Panther

10. Fifty Shades Darker

The most tweeted about TV shows in the U.S.

1. Game of Thrones

2. Stranger Things

3. Big Brother.

4. 13 Reasons Why

5. Saturday Night Live

6. The Walking Dead

7. Grey’s Anatomy

8. The Voice

9. Supernatural

10. Pretty Little Liars

The most tweeted about streaming TV shows in the U.S.:

1. Stranger Things

2. 13 Reasons Why

3. Orange is the New Black

4. House of Cards

7. The Get Down

8. The Handmaid’s Tale

9. Bojack Horseman

10. Daredevil

The most tweeted about fan armies in the world:

1. #lovatics

2. #littlemonsters

3. #harmonizers

4. #beliebers

5. #5sosfam

The order of the tweets was correct at the time Twitter released the data.

04 Dec 2017
by Admin
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Amazon Has 12 Amazing Days Of Deals That You Don’t Want To Miss

As if you needed another excuse to shop, Amazon is back with their 12 Days of Deals promotion that is sure to round out your holiday shopping list. There will be hundreds of daily deals from now until Thursday, December 14.

Each day is themed around a specific interest or topic. Today? DIY – for merry makers and home-improvers. Therefore, you can expect some lightning deals on DeWalt, Black & Decker, Porter-Cable, and more.

Because new items will be continuously added throughout the day, set “Watch a Deal” alerts in the Amazon app to ensure you never miss a deal. You’ll get a notification when watched deals go live and can shop from wherever you are!

Here are Amazon’s 12 Days of Deals to look forward to with some teasers as to what’s on-sale:

  • 12/3: Active – For dashers, dancers and wellness-wishers (expired)
  • 12/4: DIY – For merry makers and home-improvers
  • 12/5: Stylist – For style stars and beauty believers
  • 12/6: Kids – For busy little elves of all ages (Save on best-selling toys from PJ Masks, Disney, Transformers and more)
  • 12/7: Gamer – For gamers who shout out with glee
  • 12/8: Outdoor – For happy campers and jolly jetsetters (Save 20% on select Yakima bike and ski racks, save 40% on select Ray Ban sunglasses)
  • 12/9: Chef – For home chefs and sugar-plum bakers (Save up to 30% on select holiday kitchen essentials)
  • 12/10: Media – For music lovers, avid readers, and film buffs (Save on best-selling toys from Star Wars)
  • 12/11: Tech – For techies a-tinkering with cheer
  • 12/12: Homebody – For cozy folk nestled in their smart homes (Save 30% on all Philips Hue Starter Kits)
  • 12/13: Pets – For faithful furballs and joyful pups ($50 off Petcube Bites HD Pet Camera)
  • 12/14: Hobbyist – For tinselly crafters and jingle rockers

HuffPost may receive a share from purchases made via links on this page.

30 Nov 2017
by Admin
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Meet The Man Who Temporarily Deleted Trump’s Twitter Account

For 11 minutes on Nov. 2, there truly was peace on Earth.

Then President Donald Trump’s Twitter account was reactivated.

Twitter blamed the deletion of The Donald’s account on a rogue employee during his last day on the job.

Now the man responsible for temporarily making it impossible for Trump to tweet is revealing his identity and explaining his actions in an exclusive interview with TechCrunch.

His name is Bahtiyar Duysak, and he is a German citizen with Turkish roots who was doing customer support for Twitter’s Trust and Safety division while in the U.S. on a work and study visa. Part of his responsibility was to deal with alerts reporting bad behavior, offensive or illegal tweets, and other forms of harassment.

During his last shift, someone reported Trump’s account and, without thinking, Duysak put the wheels in motion to deactivate it. Several hours later, he realized he had made a “mistake,” especially after seeing several news stories about it.

Duysak said he never thought Trump’s account would actually get deactivated, mainly because of a Twitter policy that protects tweets that are considered newsworthy even if they might violate its terms of service.

Duysak, who is back in Germany, tried to lie low for a while but decided to reveal himself in order to clear the air.

“I want to continue an ordinary life. I don’t want to flee from the media,” he told TechCrunch. “I didn’t do any crime or anything evil, but I feel like Pablo Escobar, and slowly it’s getting really annoying.”

Duysak said he’s not interested in a career in tech and is more likely to consider a job in finance.

He’s quick to add: “But I love Twitter, and I love America.” 

29 Nov 2017
by Admin
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Is Ancestry.com Worth It? Cyber Monday Shoppers Think So

Though there are still a few sales going on, for the most part Cyber Monday has come to a close, and the data is in. More than 174 million Americans shopped in stores and online during the holiday weekend, according to the National Retail Federation, surpassing estimates that 164 million shoppers would hit the sales this year.

Though those numbers are rather surprising, it’s no surprise that many of Amazon’s top-selling items on Cyber Monday were the retailer’s own products, like the Echo Dot, the all-new Echo, and the Fire 7 tablet.

Among the day’s top-selling products, however, was the Ancestry.com DNA kit, in which sales of the kit increased by 700 percent in just one day. Yep, you read that right ― 700 percent

For $100 (or $70 during the holiday period), kit users get instructions, a saliva collection tube, and a pre-paid return mailer to send off their DNA sample. The DNA is processed in a lab, and consumers are notified of results via email once they’re ready.

But, is the Ancestry.com DNA kit actually worth it? 

Shoppers seem particularly eager to try out consumer DNA kits ― when they’re on sale. One of the most-purchased items during Amazon Prime Day this year was the 23andMe DNA kit, one of Ancestry’s top competitors.

The 23andMe kits use saliva DNA samples to create a personalized genetic report that outlines health, traits and ancestry information. Its premium version can also outline genetic health risks as well as carrier status for inherited conditions.

The AncestryDNA kit, on the other hand, does not test for genetic mutations or diseases. Instead, given Ancestry.com’s roots as a family resource company, its services combine “advanced DNA science with the world’s largest online family history resource” to predict your genetic makeup, extend your family history and connect you with other family members.

“DNA testing is no longer a niche interest,” says Howard Hochhauser, Interim Chief Executive Officer of Ancestry. “It’s a mass consumer market, with millions of people wanting to experience the emotionally powerful, life-affirming discoveries that can come from simply spitting in a tube.”

Tube-spitting aside, it’s clear consumer DNA testing is here to stay, and shoppers are interested. Take look at both Ancestry and 23andMe to learn more about their results and process, and read up on what to know before taking a consumer DNA kit

29 Nov 2017
by Admin
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Facebook Says It’s Getting Pretty Good At Filtering Out Terrorists

Facebook is getting pretty good at giving terrorist propaganda a thumbs down, the company said Tuesday.

The internet behemoth said its efforts in artificial intelligence (AI) and other automated filtering processes have become so sophisticated that 99 percent of the terror content related to the Islamic State militant group and al Qaeda that’s removed from the site is detected even before being flagged by a human. And once Facebook identifies photos, videos or text related to terror, it successfully removes 83 percent of the copies it finds elsewhere on the site within an hour.

Facebook declined to share specific data on how much terrorist content it actually deletes on a daily basis, so it’s not clear how much content is removed from the site. 

One of the dangers there is that we’re dealing with a nimble set of organizations that frequently change the way that they behave.
Brian Fishman, head of counterterrorism policy at Facebook

Monika Bickert, Facebook’s head of global policy management, and Brian Fishman, head of counterterrorism policy, explained the developments in a release, noting that the company has partnered with numerous other online platforms to share anti-terror data.

That’s notable, considering that the internet in general ― and social media sites in particular ― has become a prime recruiting ground for terrorists. 

Facebook and other companies use “hashes,” or unique identification data, to find and remove terror content across multiple different websites. So a propaganda video first uploaded to Facebook, for instance, could easily be deleted from YouTube and Twitter after Facebook identifies and shares the video’s hash.

Despite the success, Fishman told the Wall Street Journal that Facebook still faces an uphill battle.

“One of the dangers there is that we’re dealing with a nimble set of organizations that frequently change the way that they behave,” Fishman explained. “We need to keep training our machines so that they stay current.”

In addition to sorting out ISIS propaganda, Facebook is also using AI to detect and reach out to people sharing suicidal thoughts

© 2017