Facebook has secretly been draining your phone battery to test features, former Meta employee claims
Facebook has been draining users’ phone batteries without their consent according to an ex-employee who claims they were fired for refusing to comply with the practice.
Facebook-parent Meta has been using “negative testing” for over five years, according to data scientist George Hayward, 33, who started working on the messenger app in October 2019.
In a now withdrawn lawsuit filed on Jan. 20, Hayward said he had seen an internal document titled “How to run thoughtful negative tests” which laid out details of the practice and examples leading back to 2016.
That document indicates that Meta has been using “negative tests” across its platforms, which have around 2.96 billion users according to recent reports. They are used to “measure impact” by testing new features, and by measuring how quickly the app runs, how images load and how news feed scrolls perform.
When asked to participate, Hayward said he refused out of concern for the risks involved in depleting users’ power, especially in cases when they have to communicate to others like the emergency services.
Hayward’s lawyer, Dan Kaiser, maintained that “negative testing” is not legal in New York, according to the New York Post, saying that it violates a law that prohibits damaging someone’s property without their consent.
“It’s clearly illegal,” Kaiser said. “It’s enraging that my phone, that the battery can be manipulated by anyone.”
“Negative testing” concerns shut down
The ex-employee said he doesn’t know how many people have been affected by the tests, but that when he expressed this to his supervisor at the time, his concerns were pushed to the side.
“It turns out if you tell your boss, ‘No, that’s illegal,’ it doesn’t go over very well,” Hayward told the New York Post.
“I said to the manager, ‘This can harm somebody,’ and she said by harming a few we can help the greater masses.”
According to the suit, Hayward noticed retaliation including low performance ratings, reviews that were canceled and then rescheduled, and the assignment of responsibilities that set him up for failure.
He was fired in November, which coincided with Meta’s recent mass layoffs. However, his lawyers argue that this was no coincidence.
The lawsuit, filed in Manhattan, has now been withdrawn due to Meta’s internal arbitration clause; however Hayward stands by his allegations, his lawyer told the Post.
A Meta spokesperson told Fortune: “Mr Hayward’s claims are without merit.”
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Your candidates for the 2023 by-election – Pointe-Claire
The City of Pointe-Claire presents the candidates for the District 1 – Cedar/Le Village by-election that will take place on April 23.
Linda DE WITT
Your elected municipal officers are essential players, responsible for making decisions in the interest of the population they represent. Anyone on the list of electors for District 1 can vote. It is the voter’s responsibility to ensure that they are registered.
During the month of March, a notice of registration indicating the names of the persons registered on the list of electors at each address was sent by mail. If your name does not appear on this list, you must go to the board of revisors to proceed with your registration. The board of revisors will meet on April 3 and 4 at City Hall (451 Saint-Jean Boulevard).
For more information, visit the 2023 By-elections page of our website.
Apple iOS 16.4 Release: Should You Upgrade?
Apple iOS 16.4 has been released six weeks after iOS 16.3.1, and it is both feature-packed and full of security fixes. Here’s everything you need to know.
Tip: bookmark this page because I will keep it up-to-date if/when new problems are found. I will deliver my final verdict in a week.
Who Is It For?
Apple iOS 16.4 is available for all iOS 16-compatible devices, which means the iPhone 8/iPhone X and newer. iOS 16 dropped support for the iPhone 6S and 7 ranges and the iPod Touch. Apple has also released a dedicated security update in the form of iOS 15.7.4 to protect older devices.
If you don’t receive an update notification, you can trigger the latest updates manually by navigating to Settings > General > Software Update. If you are running newer beta software (see ‘The Road Ahead’ section at the end), you must unenroll your device before publicly released updates will appear.
Note: this guide is not focused on older iOS updates, iPadOS or macOS, but I will touch upon pertinent issues in these guides.
The Deal Breakers
The first 24 hours after release have been relatively smooth for iOS 16.4 and iPadOS 16.4 upgraders. There are no obvious deal breakers, though a number of graphical glitches appear to have made it through to the final release. These include isolated reports of the cellular strength icon disappearing, the Reminder widget not populating and wallpaper distortion.
Concerns also remain over iOS 16’s reporting of ‘system data,’ which again ballooned in several instances for users after updating to iOS 16.4. Apple needs to address this in iOS 17.
So What Do You Get?
Apple’s iOS 16.4 release notes list the following new features and fixes:
— 21 new emoji including animals, hand gestures, and objects are now available in emoji keyboard.
— Notifications for web apps added to the Home Screen
— Voice Isolation for cellular calls prioritizes your voice and blocks out ambient noise around you.
— Duplicates album in Photos expands support to detect duplicate photos and videos in an iCloud Shared Photo Library.
— VoiceOver support for maps in the Weather app.
— Accessibility setting to automatically dim video when flashes of light or strobe effects are detected.
— Fixes an issue where Ask to Buy requests from children may fail to appear on the parent’s device.
— Addresses issues where Matter-compatible thermostats could become unresponsive when paired to Apple Home.
— Crash Detection optimizations on iPhone 14 and iPhone 14 Pro models.
These additions are actually just the tip of the iceberg. Even by Apple’s standards, the iOS 16.4 release notes are unusually incomplete, missing out a whole host of new features and tweaks, including:
- Support for badges on home screen web apps.
- Support for home screen web apps via third-party browsers.
- PlayStation 5 DualSense Edge controller support comes to iOS 16.4, iPadOS 16.4, tvOS 16.4 and macOS Venture 13.3.
- Apple Podcasts UI changes, including a new profile icon, playback controls in the Up Next section and Channels access via the Library section.
- CarPlay Up Next adds similar functionality as well as adding podcast discovery in Browse.
- A new Always-on Display filter for Focus Mode
- An order tracking widget has been added for Apple Wallet.
- In Settings, AppleCare ‘Coverage’ shows all your active and expired AppleCare policies
- 13 new and 11 updated Shortcut actions
- The long-awaited return of the traditional page-turning animation in Apple Books.
- Emergency SOS via Satellite adds support for Austria, Belgium, Italy, Luxembourg, Netherlands, and Portugal.
- 5G standalone support for T-Mobile (US).
It’s a substantial list (credit to MacRumors) and significantly longer than the official iOS 16.4 release notes. Why Apple would exclude so many new and useful additions is unknown.
iOS 16.4 Security
Apple’s iOS 16.4 security page reveals no fewer than 33 new security patches. The good news is none of the vulnerabilities are so-called ‘Zero Day’ threats, which means hackers were unable to exploit them before Apple came up with a fix.
That said, the new patches are extensive, covering the Apple Neural Engine, Calendar, Camera, CarPlay, Bluetooth, Find My, iCloud, Photos, Podcasts, Safari, Webkit (the browser engine behind Safari) and more.
There are also two fixes (CVE-2023-27969 and CVE-2023-27933) for the Kernel, the core of the iOS and iPadOS operating systems, which patch vulnerabilities that could have allowed hackers to execute malicious code on iPhones and iPads. In short: iOS 16.4 is an important update.
Apple iOS 16.4 Verdict: Upgrade
Major iOS updates tend to cause bigger problems, but as iOS 16 matures, it is no surprise to see iOS 16.4 introduce a stack of new features and security updates without any significant issues. Bear in mind that we are only 24 hours into the release, so problems may still be found as more iPhone and iPad owners update, but I am happy to recommend keen upgraders hit that button now.
If you are a cautious iPhone or iPad owner and prefer to wait, I will deliver my final verdict in a week. So bookmark this page.
The Road Ahead
While iOS 17 will be unveiled at WWC in early June, I would still expect several more ‘minor point’ updates to iOS 16 (such as iOS 16.4.1) before its successor launches in September.
I would also not rule out seeing iOS 16.5, though we should know about this in the next few weeks, given the 6-8 week testing process Apple carries out for major point updates. If you want to try iOS updates during the testing phase, you can join the Apple Beta Software Program, but be warned: there will be bugs!
Microsoft unveils OpenAI-based chat tools for fighting cyberattacksa
Microsoft Corp., extending a frenzy of artificial intelligence software releases, is introducing new chat tools that can help cybersecurity teams ward off hacks and clean up after an attack.
The latest of Microsoft’s AI assistant tools — the software giant likes to call them Copilots — uses OpenAI’s new GPT-4 language system and data specific to the security field, the company said Tuesday. The idea is to help security workers more quickly see connections between various parts of a hack, such as a suspicious email, malicious software file or the parts of the system that were compromised.
Microsoft and other security software companies have been using machine-learning techniques to root out suspicious behaviour and spot vulnerabilities for several years. But the newest AI technologies allow for faster analysis and add the ability to use plain English questions, making it easier for employees who may not be experts in security or AI.
That’s important because there’s a shortage of workers with these skills, said Vasu Jakkal, Microsoft’s vice president for security, compliance, identity and privacy. Hackers, meanwhile, have only gotten faster.
“Just since the pandemic, we’ve seen an incredible proliferation,” she said. For example, “it takes one hour and 12 minutes on average for an attacker to get full access to your inbox once a user has clicked on a phishing link. It used to be months or weeks for someone to get access.”
The software lets users pose questions such as: “How can I contain devices that are already compromised by an attack?” Or they can ask the Copilot to list anyone who sent or received an email with a dangerous link in the weeks before and after the breach. The tool can also more easily create reports and summaries of an incident and the response.
Microsoft will start by giving a few customers access to the tool and then add more later. Jakkal declined to say when it would be broadly available or who the initial customers are. The Security Copilot uses data from government agencies and Microsoft’s researchers, who track nation states and cybercriminal groups. To take action, the assistant works with Microsoft’s security products and will add integration with programs from other companies in the future.
As with previous AI releases this year, Microsoft is taking pains to make sure users are well aware the new systems make errors. In a demo of the security product, the chatbot cautioned about a flaw in Windows 9 — a product that doesn’t exist.
But it’s also capable of learning from users. The system lets customers choose privacy settings and determine how widely they want to share the information it gleans. If they choose, customers can let Microsoft use the data to help other clients, Jakkal said.
“This is going to be a learning system,” she said. “It’s also a paradigm shift: Now humans become the verifiers, and AI is giving us the data.”
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