January 28, 2019

Link: FaceTime is Buggy ☍

Benjamin Mayo for 9to5Mac:

A significant bug has been discovered in FaceTime and is currently spreading virally over social media. The bug lets you call anyone with FaceTime, and immediately hear the audio coming from their phone — before the person on the other end has accepted or rejected the incoming call. Apple says the issue will be addressed in a software update “later this week”.

Naturally, this poses a pretty privacy problem as you can essentially listen in on any iOS user, although it still rings like normal, so you can’t be 100% covert about it. Nevertheless, there is no indication on the recipient’s side that you could hear any of their audio.

There’s also a related bug that gives access to the camera:

What we have also found is that if the person presses the Power button from the lock screen, their video is also sent to the caller — unbeknownst to them. In this situation, the receiver can now hear your own audio, but they do not know they are transmitting their audio and video back to you. From their perspective, all they can see is accept and decline…

This is a really bad and embarrassing bug. Apple needs to address this immediately and do all they can to stop this server-side (if possible) until the fix is released. For now, it’s probably a good idea to disable FaceTime.

Update: Apple disabled Group FaceTime as a temporary workaround. All things considered, this was a rather quick turnaround on a first step towards a fix.

Link: Now’s the Perfect Time for Apple to Bring Messages to Android ☍

Michael Grothaus for Fast Company:

First, come late 2019 or early 2020, there will be tens, maybe even hundreds of millions of WhatsApp users looking to jump ship to a new messaging app. These will be users who could stomach Facebook owning WhatsApp–but only so long as it remained as segregated as possible from Facebook’s other platforms. As that segregation will no longer exist, these people will be looking for another reliable, secure messaging service. […]

Apple could use this upcoming mass migration of messaging users as a great branding opportunity. Frame it as a public service: “Your messages in our app stay private. Period. And now it’s available for iOS and Android–because we believe privacy is a fundamental human right no matter what phone you use.”

The goodwill it would generate—and, more importantly, the service and user experience Apple would be able to provide to new users—would have the ancillary benefit of acting as a gateway to other Apple products. In other words, once Android users see how great Apple’s Messages are, they’re more likely be tempted to further move into Apple’s ecosystem and start snapping up iPhones and Macs.

Second, everyone knows Apple’s future lies in services when it comes to revenue growth. I’ve argued this before, but if Apple wanted to bring in boatloads of cash in new services, they could do it at any time by releasing Messages for Android and charging for it. Release the app for free before Facebook’s changes go into effect, and let Android users use the app at no cost for a year. Then do as WhatsApp used to and charge Android users an annual fee to use the app after the first year–say an annual $4.99 in-app subscription. As I’ve previously said, five bucks times a few hundred million Android users on an annual subscription plan brings in a lot of services dough for Apple.

It’s an interesting thought experiment—I have a few Android-using friends and we’re trying to plan around Hangoutspocalypse, as they like to send messages with their computers. However, the anecdotal evidence is that Android users don’t spend money on apps and I suspect that free would still win out, especially for people who are fine with plain SMS, RCS, or Facebook Messenger. Beyond that, Apple may be transitioning to a more services-oriented business, but I think they’re looking for services that will bring in money, not necessarily just goodwill. Unlike Spotify and Pandora, there’s no free tier of Apple Music.

While iMessage is a great service, I don’t know if it has that “Holy smokes, now I must go buy an iPhone!” effect. The blue-versus-green-bubbles angst is more for people already using iMessage. Plus, if more people cared about better winning out, the entire tech landscape would look a lot different.

Link: Facebook Plans to Integrate WhatsApp, Instagram, and Messenger ☍

Mike Isaac for The New York Times:

Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s chief executive, plans to integrate the social network’s messaging services — WhatsApp, Instagram and Facebook Messenger — asserting his control over the company’s sprawling divisions at a time when its business has been battered by scandal.

The services will continue to operate as stand-alone apps, but their underlying technical infrastructure will be unified, said four people involved in the effort. That will bring together three of the world’s largest messaging networks, which between them have more than 2.6 billion users, allowing people to communicate across the platforms for the first time.

The move has the potential to redefine how billions of people use the apps to connect with one another while strengthening Facebook’s grip on users, raising antitrust, privacy and security questions. It also underscores how Mr. Zuckerberg is imposing his authority over units he once vowed to leave alone.

This isn’t surprising—it makes business sense to integrate all of your products and have them play nicely. Unfortunately, this move may drive away those who don’t enjoy Facebook, but use some of its “other” services.

January 16, 2019

Link: This Seems Very Legal and Very Cool ☍

Jonathan O’Connell and David A. Fahrenthold for The Washington Post:

Last April, telecom giant T-Mobile announced a megadeal: a $26 billion merger with rival Sprint, which would more than double T-Mobile’s value and give it a huge new chunk of the cellphone market.

But for T-Mobile, one hurdle remained: Its deal needed approval from the Trump administration.

The next day, in Washington, staffers at the Trump International Hotel were handed a list of incoming “VIP Arrivals.” That day’s list included nine of T-Mobile’s top executives — including its chief operating officer, chief technology officer, chief strategy officer, chief financial officer and its outspoken celebrity chief executive, John Legere.

They were scheduled to stay between one and three days. But it was not their last visit.

Instead, T-Mobile executives have returned to President Trump’s hotel repeatedly since then, according to eyewitnesses and hotel documents obtained by The Washington Post.

I have mixed feelings about this news—it’s disgusting and a conflict of interest, but T-Mobile is playing by these “rules” because they really want the merger with Sprint to go through. Wouldn’t it be a disservice to shareholders not to try? Would other companies do the same if they were in this position? Still, this type of bribery shouldn’t be an option on the table, regardless of if T-Mobile opts for it.

By mid-June, seven weeks after the announcement of the merger, hotel records indicated that one T-Mobile executive was making his 10th visit to the hotel. Legere appears to have made at least four visits to the Trump hotel, walking the lobby in his T-Mobile gear. […]

“Everybody knew. You couldn’t miss it,” said Jake Loft, who was in the lobby for a regularly scheduled networking event. He spotted Legere by his outfit, which was — as usual — a walking billboard for T-Mobile. Legere wore a black-and-magenta hoodie with a T-Mobile logo over a bright-magenta T-shirt with another T-Mobile logo. “He wasn’t dressed appropriately,” Loft said.

“Always be closing.”

January 9, 2019

Link: What Facebook Knows About You ☍

Ina Fried for Axios:

On Facebook’s map of humanity, the node for “you” often includes vast awareness of your movements online and a surprising amount of info about what you do offline, too.

The big picture: Even when you’re cautious about sharing, Facebook’s dossier on you will be hefty. Facebook tackles its mission of “bringing the world closer together” by creating a map of humanity, and each of us represents a tiny node on this “social graph.”

Nothing is shocking on this, but it’s a really nicely organized list of everything that is known.