Amazon Ring Receiving Backlash For Entering Partnerships with Police Forces

Ring, an Amazon’s home surveillance company, has received a lot of backlash for how the company has partnered with over two hundred law enforcement agencies. As a result, Police officers who have partnered with Ring’s Law Enforcement Neighborhood Portal, have access to an interactive map that allows police to request camera footage directly from residents without obtaining a warrant.

Ring, has helped police bundle theft sting operations and assisted police on get their hands on footage without a warrant. Individuals who testify against their neighbors are also gifted free cameras in return. People are fighting and mobilizing against Ring partnerships with Police.

A digital-rights activist group Fight for Our Future, is helping by getting people to demand local governments and police departments to stop making partnerships with Ring. In addition to new regulations, and a congressional investigation into the company, over 30 civil rights groups have signed an open letter to demand an end to Ring’s partnering with law enforcement officials.


Rewound: The App That Can Turn Your I-Phone into an I-Pod Classic

Rewound is a basic music player app that can be found in the App Store of Apple. This app incorporates customization skins that can visually convert an I-Phone into an I-Pod classic.

Part of what makes the app so great is that it synchronizes with an Apple Music library, and includes haptic feedback, which allows it to not only look like an iPod, but sound like one too.  Rewound’s developer, Louis Anslow of Rethought agency, took a year to create the app, of which he claims to have made it with the intent of insinuating some I-Pod nostalgia. Rewound only suports Apple music most, but Anslow claims that it should be able to support Spotify in the future.

“It is an experimental project exploring the blurring lines between the digital and physical world, Edgeless displays with haptic feedback can become any device you wish. Rewound lets users morph their iPhone into a retro 2000s era MP3 player — whatever brand or model they preferred.”

I think apps like this one are great as they can be used to educate and inform of older technology products. For instance, younger individuals who have never used an I-Pod classic, could use this to experience the interface of an apple product which came before their I-Phones.

Venmo Users Reporting Payment Requests From Unknown Spammers

Recently, people have been reported to seeing dozens of requests from strangers on Venmo, both for money and to connect on the app.   The requests ranged from $1 to $100 and seemed to target individuals who had their Venmo accounts set to private. Many of these requests seem to be of fake accounts, with nearly all of them having pictures of women set as the profile pictures.

Many privacy researchers have addressed Venmo’s social strategy as one that’s quite harmful, and Buzzfeed’s article seems to suggest this to be the case behind the incident too. The money-exchange app, which allows individuals to send and receive immediate payments from friends and acquaintances, also functions as a social networking site. Users can make transactions and share minimum details regarding that transaction, all while keeping the payment is kept secret. The details of the transactions ends up on the user’s “news feed”, making it visible to their their “friends”. The layout is somewhat similar to twitter and Facebook’s social media feed, and like these Social Media networking sites, users can engage in social interaction on the application, through making comments using jokes and/or emojiis, and/or likes.  A couple of years ago, a user discovered the venmo account of Trump’s short-lived white house press-secretary Sean Spicer, which led to a bunch of Venmo users going to his account to send send requests for money and toll his account.

Nearly all articles which seem to detail this issue suggest that the only way for an individual to protect themselves against these particular requests is to set their profile to private.

In response to the issue, Venmo put out a statement claiming that the app prohibits harassment and will do what they can to resolve the issue Personally, I think incidents like this one tarnish the image of app companies like Venmo and unprofessional. Although I haven’t received requests from Strangers/spam accounts, I have received requests from spam accounts on Instagram and it is rather annoying.

Should High-Quality Film Production Be Used for TV Series?

It’s assumed that people have a preference for shows with high production values as they are attracted to displays of cinematographic sophistication.

A tv show the appears as such would be upcoming “The Mandalorian” tv series. Where visually-detailed and vivid scenes that the content as whole appears to be more similar to that of a movie than a television series.

Creators would have to invest a large amount in order to achieve this level of quality for a Tv series. According to THR, “The Mandalorian,” is priced at $15 million an episode.

That’s just $5 million less than what it costs to make an episode of Game Of Thrones.

Top-tier producers are starting to enter huge deals with both streamers & regular tv studios and are offered near limitless budgets for production. The article also hypothesizes that this will create a higher demand for more high quality produced show.

The washing post article feature also mentions that high-budget shows like “The Mandalorian” has the potential to do what directors like Scorsese and other older directors fear may happen due to changes in technology, and potentially steer consumers away from movie theaters.

Temple University Partners With Head-space App To Provide Better Mental Health To Student-Athletes, But Is This Partnership Really Worth Praising?

On Sept. 23, Temple Athletics Department announced a new partnership with Headspace, a popular self-guided meditation app, that will provide more than 500 student-athletes free accessibility to the app. The app subscription typically costs $12.99 a month but offers a $9.99 annual student discount rate.

HeadSpace has more than 50 million users in 190 countries, and can reduce feelings of anxiety, stress, fatigue, sadness and irritability, as well as increase concentration, endurance, wellbeing and better decision-making.

However, there are a handful of students who feel as though Temple’s partnership with head space is inconsiderate to vast majority students who struggle with mental health issues on Temple’s campus, where many of them are unable to book an appointment, or find it difficult to book an appointment at Tuttleman’s counseling services.

Of course, athletics is a time-consuming activity, and it’s understandable how this can be straining to one’s mental health. However, many students in general don’t have the time to seek out mental services due to school and work obligations, and so having app like Headspace made free to them would be extremely immensely.

Temple responded to the aforementioned tweets to say that students can actually use the app for free in a certain location on campus.

Even so, I understand why other students quite irritated by the special treatment they believe athletes are receiving and this is why I think it’s good that students are taking to Twitter to voice their concerns on the matter. However, there are many platforms that can teach students how to better meditate if they are seriously interested that is similar to the content Headspace provides to it’s users.

Instagram has removed it’s Following Tab, and Now, Users Cannot See The Activity of Accounts They Follow.

Instagram has decided to remove it’s “following” tab, a feature which has become somewhat of a “stalking” tool. The original intent of the feature was to aid users in account discovery. Today, Instagram users find that the Instagram Explore tab has become much more useful at that, helping them discover new accounts, places and hashtags to follow. Instagram claims that the Following tab on the other hand was only used by only a small portion of its audience, and so, they removed the feature. With the tab gone, users are now only left with seeing activity which relates to their account.

The “Following” tab was notably associated with “micro-cheating” simply because it had the ability to confirm when someone in a committed relationship was spending too much time liking someone else’s posts (think some Instagram model), or even doing so much as engaging with the Instagram content of their Ex. The same dilemma could even be seen in contexts revolving friendships as well, simply because it could allow users to see what their friends were doing on the app. For instance, if a friend had sent you a text and you didn’t respond, they could see your activity under the “Following” tab, which could give suggest that you were lying to them, or you didn’t care enough to answer their text.

Gossip tabloids also were known to follow the tab, as it had the potential to reveal who celebs are engaging with the most, which could serve as an indication for determining the possible personal and professional relationships of celebs.

When I used it, I’d see what my friends were into and that’s pretty much it. I also liked the feature because I liked knowing that my friends could see the things I like and who I follow. Although I wasn’t actively using the following tab, I found pleasure in using it while bored.

Yet, in knowing of it’s existence, it made me put off liking certain things knowing that others could see it. And so, I find this to be somewhat good on my end of things.

If anything I feel like this could cause a little trouble for media businesses who use the tab to keep up with celebs as I can see how it may have served some convenience in this aspect of things.

Transit App speaking out Against Lyft, for their Attempt To Take Over Mobility.

Transit is an app used by hundreds of New Yorkers each month as means of navigating between the subway, buses, commuter rail, and a few other services as well. It provides users with real-time travel time predictions, which allows for more convenient trip planning. Transit also allows for bike-share, car-sharing from car2go, and ride hailing options from Lyft, Uber, and Via so this way their users can combine all options to create one easy trip.

Back in April 2018, Transit partnered with Motivate, the owner of Citi Bike, and made a deal, which would offer single tickets ($3 for a 30-minute journey) and allow Transit users to unlock the bicycles through using a five-digit code produced in Transit. That deal allowed Transit to be the first app other than Citi Bike’s, where cyclists could unlock bikes.

Transit’s deal with Motivate eventually transferred to Lyft when Lyft obtained ownership of the company Motivate. Before obtaining Motivate, Lyft was in charge of operating Citi Bike and other bike sharing systems in Chicago, Boston, and San Francisco.

Recently, Transit has declared issue with the app Lyft for what they perceive to be the company’s attempt at taking over mobility, specifically because Lyft has decided to block Transit users from using the app to Citi-bikes.

Now, when customer try to unlock a Citi Bike using the Transit app, an error message appears informing prospective drivers that Lyft has decided to discontinue the function they’re trying to use.

Lyft, the company – which once described themselves the “one app to unlock your city” has come forward to admit that it has severed customers from using the Transit app to unlock Citi bikes. Yet, dispute Transit’s claims over a lack of data transparency.

Personally, I side with Transit on this issue as it does seem as though Lyft is attempting to kind of “takeover”, and force people to use their app. I find what they’re doing to be unfair because it makes things more complicated for Citi-Bike customers who used to use the Transit App to unlock Citi Bikes.

Pinterest’s New Feature Enables Accurate, Science-Based Information to Surface When Users Search for Vaccine-Related Terms

To the prevent users from absorbing inaccurate information , Pinterest has added a new feature to their search engine so that when users searches for vaccine-related terms, such as “measles” or “vaccine safety”, information sourced from various scientific organizations will surface.

World Health Organization (WHO), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), and the WHO-established Vaccine Safety Net (VSN), are names of the organizations Pinterest intends to prioritize with this new feature.

The update is for English-speaking searchers on the web and Pinterest’s mobile apps for iOS and Android. Pinterest intends to expand this feature to other searches and in more languages. In the future, this feature will eventually be expanded to more languages and other searches. Pinterest also mentioned that their platform will work with this organization to construct appealing and creative images that are also based in science. By doing so, they hope that it will lead to more users to sharing the images, and thus, the accurate information will be spread out further.  

A little while back, Pinterest spoke out against the spread of misinformation related to vaccinations and made sure that any results for vaccine-related search terms would not return to their platform.

Examples of Non-Science Based Health Information that Used to Float Around on Pinterest

According to the Wall Street Journal:

Pinterest has stopped returning results for searches related to vaccinations, a drastic step the social-media company said is aimed at curbing the spread of misinformation but one that demonstrates the power of tech companies to censor discussion of hot-button issues.

Most shared images on Pinterest relating to vaccination cautioned against it, contradicting established medical guidelines and research showing that vaccines are safe, Pinterest said. The image-searching platform tried to remove the anti-vaccination content, a Pinterest spokeswoman said, but has been unable to remove it completely.

Here are some examples of posts that would have gone unfiltered in the past

I like that Pinterest has taken steps to prevent the spread of misinformation on their platform. It seems as though anti-vaxxers are lurking on Social Media at a higher rate than before. It may not seem this way, but anti-vaccine propaganda often goes undetected, because anti-vaxxers have employed a whole “holistic approach” and others sly tactics disguise their ulterior motives and beliefs.

Another thing that should be mentioned is that it is affluent and well-educated individuals whom tend to spread anti-vaccine propaganda. These surprisingly wealthy individuals often favor alternative medicine like chiropractors and naturopathy because they want to be “different”, their power and financial status is what drives they’re allowed to make decisions which deviate from what is standard, normal, and accepted in society.

But that’s beside my point, anti-vaxxers have always preyed on the insecurities of parents to spread their propaganda and Social Media has just made it easier for them to target people’s emotions and tap into parents’ fears. The wave of anti-vaccination which occurred on Pinterest thoroughly reflects this and so, it’s important that Social Media companies recognize the particular behavior of anti-vaxxers on their platform.

Facebook Putting Out Deep-Fakes on Platform For New Challenge.

Deepfakes are the result of human image synthesis created through artificial intelligence. The process involves combining and superimposing existing images and videos onto source images or videos using a machine learning technique known as generative adversarial network.

Example of “Deepfake Technology’ Being Used to Digitally Replace Christian Bale with Tom Cruise in the film American Psycho.

As the rise of deep-fakes emerges across the web, so do concerns over the potential use of them as tools in social engineering scams and cases of identity fraud.

Facebook is one social media platform looking to combat the problem through issuing a challenge titled the Deepfake Detection Challenge (DFDC). $10 million is being put towards the development of DFDC, and the launch and release of dataset is set to happen in December.

The format of the DFDC will be similar to that of a game in the sense that it will come with a leader board and prizes. Essentially, the challenge asks for users to search through a dataset of faces and videos – released by Facebook, to detect deepfakes. The dataset will consist of imagery of paid, consenting actors.

Facebook is particularly invested in taking stance against deepfakes for reasons that go back to situation that occurred in May, involving a deepfake of Mark Zuckerberg.

For the most part, I consider the DFDC to be an interesting concept as it is calling for social media users to play a role in detecting fakes over the internet. I want to believe that the incentive behind this challenge is to teach participants distinguish technological-manipulated imagery on the web from imagery that’s content is real, raw, and unedited. Hopefully, this challenge will at very least raise awareness and inform people of the existence deepfakes on the web.

What does #BoycottMulan mean for the film’s box market success?

Currently, there’s been a significant increase in criticism from international human right groups concerning the ways in which police are handling confrontations between protesters and the public in Hong Kong, China.

Celebrities are quite notorious for taking to social media to speak out against police brutality, and social issues in general. A little while back, Crystal Liu Yifei, – the actress who will be starring in Disney’s live action version of Mulan, posted a message of support for the Hong Kong police force over Chinese social media. Her post then ignited a wave controversy, and attracted the attention of those in Hong Kong as well as pro-democracy sympathizers from other parts of the world, prompting a #boycottmulan campaign on twitter.

According to wikipedia, Liu’s godfather is Chen Jinfe , the Chairman of Beijing Tongchan Investment Group, so it comes as no surprise that she would be in support of the mainland’s interests.

One of Disney’s intents with the film Mulan is to attract Chinese audiences, and although some may think the actresses comments will dampen Disney’s success with China, it is important to remember that Hong Kong’s box market makes up only a small percentage of Disney’s box market worth in China.

That being said, many of those in the Weste are quite aware of what’s going on in China, support the protests, and are thus, are equally bothered by the actress’s comments. For instance, a quick look up of #boycottMulan on Tumblr’s search engine alone demonstrates that there are a handful of potential viewers in the US who’ve been put off of seeing Disney’s Live Action Mulan precisely because of the actresses comments.

I think if anything Liu’s comments has resulted in bad publicity for the film, though the full extent I think it’ll have on Mulan in terms of the film’s success in the West, is still something I remain unsure of.