Jun 202012

Apple files for a lot of patents and owns north of 3,000 (not counting those acquired via the “Rockstar” shaming of Google). Most of them are never incarnated into an actual product. I’ll occasionally glance at the reporting of the meticulous Patently Apple site if I find something particularly interesting. Today I read about an Apple patent that was just granted that is very interesting.

It’s basically a patent that would destroy Google’s business model.

“Techniques to pollute electronic profiling” is a fascinating read. It addresses the problem of what Apple calls “Little Brothers Dataveillance”. The practice, used by online marketing firms – and one particularly well-known Mountain View firm – involves gathering data about peoples’ online habits without their explicit knowledge to form a valuable identity. This identity is designed to be an accurate representation of a person’s vital statistics, their interests, and any other personally-identifying information that can be used – or sold, in Google’s case – for purposes such as targeted advertising.

Apple’s proposal is centered around the creation of a “clone”, an online identity with just enough of your personal information to fool the automatic information trolls into thinking it’s you. Mixed in with that information – manually or automatically – is a bunch of bogus data. The idea is that this mix of real and fabricated information creates a morass that is inseparable from you, but would be rendered worthless to the people looking to profile you – and therefore worthless to the people who’d want to buy that information to target you.

This patent is a continuation of the story Apple has been telling users about how it values their privacy, but it seems to go beyond that. Whereas Apple’s spat with publishers over the availability of user information for magazines was specific to their iBookstore, the “Anti Big Brother” patent extends beyond the Walled Garden and right into Google’s backyard. Apple was just granted a patent that could poison Google’s multi-billion dollar well.

 Posted by at 9:38 pm
Jun 202012

Security companies hate Apple because Apple gives them no business, especially when it comes to iOS devices. They stand by helplessly, eyes cast downward, hands in pockets, while Apple continues to manage its own mobile device security. Meanwhile, in the Land of Free and Open, Android sufferers slap ineffective protections on their handsets that do little more than chew up processor overhead. Occasionally, one of these security jackholes will sound off about the coming tsunami of malware that will strike iPhone users any day now and how much Apple will rue the day they spurned them.

Our latest butthurt sniffles come from Andrew Storms, director of security operations for a company called nCircleJerk. Instead of directly railing against Apple’s security, he takes a slightly different tact. He claims that the iOS 6 dialog boxes that appears when an app requests access to things like contact data will annoy users more than they will help them. See if you can guess the RGB of the shade of red on Storms’s face while delivering the following quote:

Instead doing the difficult work of putting together a privacy policy that has some teeth or going after app developers already violating policies, Apple has basically decided to annoy their users by requiring them click through a dialog box for just about every app on their phone. These dialog boxes are going to be like one of those whack-a-mole games – exactly the kind of thing users despise and ignore completely.

Except that Apple has gone after developers. Tim Cook allegedly went after Path’s CEO himself when the news of their unauthorized sending of user contacts broke. Storms is quick to remind people that they were the ones who broke Pathgate, and it’s obvious they miss the attention a little. Apple isn’t exactly known as a company with a “turnstile” approach to booting apps from its store, unlike some other app stores I could mention. If anything, they’re a little too aggressive. As for “annoying” boxes for “just about every app on their phone”? I have 226 of them on mine. Here’s my list of apps that have permission to access contacts:

Slightly less than 226

The laughs don’t stop there. In his post, which I won’t link to for obvious reasons, Storms suggest a change to Apple’s dialog box to more accurately reflect the reality of what you’re allowing the app to do:

Is it OK for me to cry in front of you?

Good stuff, Drew. The more hyperbole you and your bloatware kin vomit from your caketraps, the more assured iPhone users can be that your wares are not required on Apple’s platform. Watch that you don’t hyperventilate from all that heavy sobbing.

 Posted by at 1:09 pm
Jun 202012

The kit reviews on Ars Technica are some of the best on the web. Although Ars’s turnaround on most tech news is what I’d charitably call “deliberate”, the delays in product reviews are usually offset by a degree of thoroughness that you don’t find elsewhere. I’d put them 2nd behind The Verge on my personal list.

Ars spent some time with the Galaxy S III and offered its impressions. It’s fast, has a not-especially brilliant display, and features a voice assistant just like the one Apple put into their iPhone. Except it’s not:

Though I personally don’t use Siri all that often, its best feature is that I can speak very casually to it without minding my diction, like you usually feel you need to do with computers. With S Voice, unless you’ve had elocution lessons from a news anchor, it’s not going to understand much of what you say. As one example, I asked both phones “Where is the nearest Price Chopper?” (Price Chopper is a grocery store chain; a brand name, but also two real words). Siri put my query into text: “where is the nearest price chopper” and provided me with a list of addresses. S Voice translated my words into “call Mike at pay cell phone” and gave me a list of phone numbers I might like to call. When the mapping function does work, S Voice offers to complete the query with Maps.

The S Voice app is also very choppy; animations stutter, and the voice trying to communicate with you has very disjointed speech patterns. It’s worth noting that Android has had voice integration and commands much longer than Apple has, though they were limited in scope. The attempted expansion to new tasks hasn’t really gone over well. We’re sure S Voice will improve if Samsung keeps at it, but right now, it’s not a selling point.

Hilariously bad interpretation that stutters on bleeding-edge kit? Sounds like a pleasure to use. Despite any complaints you may have about Siri, at least Apple thought enough about its limitations to slap a “beta” tag on it. In addition to the “inspired by pebbles” horseshit being slung from the pulpit at the S III’s launch, S Voice was touted as a major feature. I’m sure Samsung will be improving their voice integration as assiduously as Apple does.

I’m looking forward to the first class action lawsuit calling out S Voice. The fact that this will never happen is a testament to how high the expectations for an Apple product’s performance are compared to its competitors. Or that Apple users are some of the bitchiest people on the planet. Probably both.

 Posted by at 8:14 am
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