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Phone location tracking is frighteningly real: how to protect yourself – SlashGear

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A new report reveals something that we probably already know, perhaps in jest. Corporations are out to get us and our privacy is pretty much a commodity already. It does, however, demonstrate the implications of that massive covert surveillance and the social and legal structures that empower or at least permit such activities. While it is admittedly difficult to escape that sad reality without shunning technology altogether, there are still a few things you can do to minimize the data that others can gather about you.

Cyberpunk starts now

The cyberpunk genre mostly revolves around a futuristic dystopia where large corporations either directly run the world or pull the strings, monitoring and controlling everyone’s lives. That doesn’t sound futuristic at all and is pretty much what we’re starting to experience today, though admittedly to a lesser degree.

The New York Times’ latest report slaps that reality on readers’ faces, revealing just how much about them can be gleaned even from supposedly anonymized and protected location data, most of them coming from our smartphones. Granted, location alone might not be enough to identify individuals but they can be interpolated almost too easily with data that is publicly available, some from social media.

Making matters worse is how the entire world seems to conspire to allow this violation of privacy that is protected by most Constitutions around the world. From corporate culture to slow-paced legal development, users are left to fend for themselves instead of relying on those that should be keeping their welfare in mind. Fortunately, it’s not that hard to do and the biggest hurdle is actually making
the conscious effort to make changes.

The Caveat

As mentioned, the world seems to conspire against people’s privacy and it’s almost impossible to be 100% free. Even if you ditch your smartphone, signing up for any account and even just using an Internet-connected computer can already leak some data about your location. Telephone companies, for example, will always be able to know your location to some degree, even if you use a regular feature phone.

There isn’t a panacea but we do have means to at least mitigate the effects of smartphone location tracking. And it starts with knowing what your phone can do and what apps should not do.

Flip that switch

Fortunately, smartphone platforms do have facilities to curb the number of data apps and services gather, particular about location. Both Android and iOS can do more than just turn location use on and off for the entire phone. They also allow users to toggle location permissions on a per-app basis.

This does, of course, require digging into each app and turning location permissions for those that have no business knowing your location. Operating systems have introduced such granular permission systems to minimize apps’ access to unnecessary data and hardware but some still try to get away with what they can.

That said, flipping that switch may have unwanted effects, depending on the app in question. Some apps, like maps and navigation, naturally need access to location to even work while others have optional features that use location, like geotagging photos and posts. There will always be apps that make it sound like location data is critical to its function and will break without it, whether or not it actually makes sense. In that case, it might be best to report such behavior to Google or Apple.

Online services are also culpable of storing location data, with Google and Facebook as the biggest offenders. They do have settings to wipe your location data and stop recording it altogether, but getting there can sometimes require more work than necessary, being buried beneath settings and options. Unfortunately, that inertia is one of the biggest problems users face when protecting themselves.

Awareness and Vigilance

With corporations seeking to profit from your privacy and governments failing to keep up with fast-paced development, users really have little choice but to do the work of shielding themselves and protecting their privacy. No matter how simple it may be, however, the cognitive burden of simply doing so is enough to discourage people from doing so. Many have resorted to justifying the current practice as something in exchange for free and sometimes convenient services. It doesn’t have to be but until modern society undergoes a massive revolution, people will have to fight to keep that power in their own hands.

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iOS 14 widgets leads Pinterest to break its daily App Store download record – 9to5Mac

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iOS 14 is here and it brings a redesigned home screen with custom widgets, which quickly became extremely popular among users. Having the ability to add multiple widgets to the iOS home screen made users look for design inspiration on Twitter, TikTok, and Pinterest — which broke its daily download record on the App Store this week.

A new report from TechCrunch reveals that Pinterest has rapidly climbed up the App Store’s Top Charts as users are looking for inspiration to change their own home screens with iOS 14.

According to data obtained by the intelligence firm Apptopia, Pinterest registered about 616,000 downloads at the App Store yesterday, September 21. This number is growing significantly following Apple’s release of iOS 14 to the public last week.

On September 20, the app was downloaded over 800,000 times globally across iOS and Android devices, which represents a 32% weekly growth. Pinterest’s app was the No. 47 in the most downloaded apps ranking at the iOS App Store on September 18, and now it has achieved No. 6.

The report mentions that the main reason for this growth in Pinterest installations during the last days is iOS 14, which offers new customization options for users.

The Pinterest home page today showcases iPhone design trends as one of its “Daily Inspirations,” where the collection “Trending wallpapers and aesthetic homescreen ideas” is currently sitting at the top of the page. Here, users are finding iPhone backgrounds and sharing other custom designs and icon sets for people to use in their own creations.

In addition to the new widgets, users have discovered that Apple’s Shortcuts app lets anyone create home screen shortcuts to any app with custom icons. These customizations are described as “aesthetic iOS 14 Home Screen” by some users. A Pinterest spokesman told TechCrunch that iOS-related searches have grown by more than 50% year-on-year, and most of them are made by younger Gen Z users.

The new features of iOS 14 have resulted in the latest version of Apple’s mobile operating system now being installed on nearly 30 percent of Apple devices, while iOS 13 reached only 20 percent in the same period last year.

If you want to change your home screen with an aesthetic look, check out some of the 9to5Mac articles below:

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Hands-on with the top 10 iOS 14 features for iPhone [Video] – 9to5Mac

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iOS 14 has been available for nearly a week, and as you’ve probably figured out by now, it’s jam-packed with tons of new features. While there are literally hundreds of new user-facing changes in iOS 14, a few of them stand out above the rest. In this hands-on video walkthrough I discuss my top 10 iOS 14 features for iPhone.

Compact phone interface

Incoming phone call interruptions have been thorns in the sides of iPhone users since the beginning of the iPhone. Up until now, whenever receiving a phone call, the full screen phone interface would abruptly interrupt whatever you were doing.

A problem solved by innovative jailbreakers years ago, iOS 14 finally brings a banner-style incoming call notification to the mainstream. Enabled by default, users have the option of switching between the banner and full screen style via Settings → Phone, but no one of sound mind would consider switching back.

Video: the top 10 iOS 14 features for iPhone

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Choose default browser

The ability to choose a default browser in iOS marks yet another “finally” moment for iPhone users. Again, this is a problem once solved by jailbreak tweaks many years ago, but users who prefer browsers like Chrome and Duck Duck Go will be happy to find such a feature now officially implemented into iOS.

You’ll first need to install a browser that’s been updated for iOS 14 and then venture into the app’s preferences in the Settings app to establish it as the default browser. Unfortunately, there’s still a bug that causes iOS to revert back to Safari after a reboot, but this will hopefully be addressed in future updates.

Picture in Picture

First available on the iPad a few years back, Picture in Picture now makes its way to the iPhone. Not only does PiP work for videos, but it also works for FaceTime video calls as well. This welcomed addition makes it possible for users to multitask while video-chatting with friends.

Privacy enhancements

iOS 14 is filled with all sorts of great consumer-friendly privacy enhancements, and a few of them stand out above the rest. The first, and most noteworthy change, is the ability to provide apps with an approximate location instead of a precise location. This is great for apps that just need to know your general area in order to do their jobs.

Other new features include the ability to give apps access to specific photos instead of your entire photo library. There’s also a handy notification that alerts you when apps access the pasteboard, and a new privacy report in Safari to monitor website trackers.

Home screen enhancements

A new Home screen enhancement in iOS 14 allows users to outright hide pages on the Home screen, effectively hiding all of the apps on those pages.

App Library

The Home screen enhancements work in concert with iOS 14’s new App Library. The App Library is essentially a container for all of the apps installed on your phone, even if those apps are not displayed on Home screen pages.

When removing an app from the Home screen, you now have the option to fully delete the app, or keep the app available in the App Library. And if you go to Settings → Home screen, you’ll find a preference for bypassing the Home screen on new app installs.

The App Library also works to automatically organize all of your apps into categories, and you can search your entire app library or view all of the apps installed on your phone via an alphabetical list.

Music app enhancements

The iOS 14 Music app’s standout feature is the presence of updated backgrounds on the now playing interface. When switching songs, the background quickly transitions to a color that complements the album artwork, as you can see in the screenshot above.

Additional Music app enhancements include remembering where you left off when restarting the app, and a new autoplay feature that will automatically add songs to the up next queue based off currently-playing music.

App Clips

App Clips are small snippets of your favorite apps that are 10MB or less. App Clips are perfect for when you need to quickly obtain functionality from an app that you don’t currently have installed. For example, if you’re at a coffee shop, you can use NFC or a Siri suggestion to instantly install the App Clip in order to collect rewards without holding up the line to wait on a full app download.

Emoji search

I’m a huge fan of emoji, and I’m always looking for just the right one to express my thoughts via text messages. So it’s no surprise that I prize the new ability to quickly search for specific (and related) emoji characters directly from the iOS keyboard.

Widgets

iOS has featured widgets for years, but iOS 14 marks the first time that they’re displayed on the Home screen. Widgets come in multiple sizes and are available for both first-party and third-party apps. More than one widget can be placed on the same Home screen page, and multiple widgets of the same size can be stacked to save space.

Although widgets aren’t as interactive as they were previously, the fact that they are now present on the Home screen makes them significantly more useful thanks to their glanceable nature.

9to5mac’s take

These features are really just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to iOS 14. This release, in my opinion, is by far the deepest iOS release of the iPhone’s existence. iOS 14 solves numerous pain points that have hampered iOS users for years, and fundamentally changes the way that the Home screen looks and feels for the first time ever.

What’s your favorite iOS 14 feature? Sound off down below in the comments with your thoughts.

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It looks like a bunch of soon-to-be-disappointed people accidentally bought Xbox One X’s today – The Verge

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Today, Microsoft launched pre-orders for its upcoming next generation console, the Xbox One X. Sorry, I meant the Xbox Series X. Can you blame me? There’s only one word of difference between the two names, and it’s the one in the middle. There are also three X’s.

I might not be the only one who gets them confused, though. (Microsoft itself has, but I digress.) Despite today being pre-order day for the Series X (reminder: the new one), the One X (the old one) had a banner day on Amazon as well, at one point up 747 percent on Amazon’s “Movers & Shakers” sales charts.

Note that Amazon’s charts only cover the past hour — it wasn’t #4 all day — and that 747 percent figure is how much the Xbox One X climbed up the charts, not an increase in unit sales.

It’s not hard to imagine how people could end up buying the wrong console. If you search “xbox series x” on Amazon, the top two search results are for the Series X and the One X, and the images of the two of them can be hard to distinguish from one another. Both feature a large black box with an Xbox controller leaning against it on the right side, all on a black background. In the rush to grab a valuable pre-order, I could see how someone could mistake the two offerings.

For the people who did accidentally buy an Xbox One X (a refresher: that’s the old one), hopefully they realize the error of their ways, are able to return their console to Amazon for a full refund, and eventually have the chance to buy the next-gen console they were actually looking for. It’s 2020, stuff happens, and it’s not your fault that Microsoft picked a confusing naming scheme for its next-generation consoles.

And besides, the Xbox One X’s big day might have an alternate explanation that would be sweet justice for those who felt that Xbox Series X and PlayStation 5 preorders were snapped up impossibly quickly: perhaps all of these Xbox One X consoles were bought by misinformed bots.

If that’s the case, enjoy your discontinued console, bots.

Update September 22nd, 8:19PM ET: Clarified that the 747 percent figure represents the Xbox One X’s rise up Amazon’s sales charts, not growth in unit sales.

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