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Google’s second disastrous data leak

Google+ users have been alerted that their personal data was exposed for six days recently, writes BRYAN TURNER.

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Google is notifying more than 52-million users via email that their non-public data was exposed to developers for six days in November 2018, due to a bug in a Google+ system update.

As a result, the search giant has accelerated closing down the Google+ social network, a move first announced in October 2018. It said the service would be closed in April 2018 due to a combination of it being hard to maintain and the platform’s low consumer usage. However, that announcement came in the wake of news that half-a-million users’ data had been exposed between 2015 and March 2018.

The company’s second data leak in 2018 arose from an update launched by the social network’s developer team, containing a bug which went unnoticed for six days until it was picked up by a standard testing procedure. 

“No third party compromised our systems,” said David Thacker, VP of G Suite, in a blog post, “and we have no evidence that the app developers that inadvertently had this access for six days were aware of it or misused it in any way.”

The company says it may not have evidence of the extent of the exposure, because Google+ servers do not keep software connection logs for more than two weeks. This makes it impossible to analyse evidence of a breach when investigations happened two weeks after the bug was discovered.

Thacker said that the team had “decided to expedite the shut-down of all Google+ APIs”. Developers who make use of the platform’s APIs will no longer be able to use them after 10 March 2019.

“While we recognise there are implications for developers, we want to ensure the protection of our users,” said Thacker.

Google’s investigation into the impact of the bug has revealed that:

  • Approximately 52.5 million users have been affected by the leak.
  • Apps that requested permission to view profile information from a user’s Google+ profile, like their name, email address, occupation, and age, were granted permission buy the API to view non-public profile information about that user.
  • Developer apps had access to the profile data that had been shared with the consenting user by another Google+ user, but that was not shared publicly.

Google+ users who are affected will be contacted by Google with a list of applications which have had unauthorised access.

Users have until April 2019 to download their data from here before the service is taken down.

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CES: Most useless gadgets

The worst gadgets of CES also deserve their moment of infamy, writes ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK.

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It’s fairly easy to choose the best new gadgets launched at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas last week. Most lists – and there are many – highlight the LG roll-up TV, the Samsung modular TV, the Royole foldable phone, the impossible burger, and the walking car.

But what about the voice assisted bed, the smart baby dining table, the self-driving suitcase and the robot that does nothing? In their current renditions, they sum up what is not only bad about technology, but how technology for its own sake quickly leads us down the rabbit hole of waste and futility.

The following pick of the worst of CES may well be a thinly veneered attempt at mockery, but it is also intended as a caution against getting caught up in hype and justification of pointless technology.

1. DUX voice-assisted bed

The single most useless product launched at CES this year must surely be a bed with Alexa voice control built in. No, not to control the bed itself, but to manage the smart home features with which Alexa and other smart speakers are associated. Or that any smartphone with Siri or Google Assistant could handle. Swedish luxury bedmaker DUX thinks it’s a good idea to manage smart lights, TV, security and air conditioning through the bed itself. Just don’t say Alexa’s “wake word” in your sleep.

2. Smart Baby Dining Table 

Ironically, the runner-up comes from a brand that also makes smart beds: China’s 37 Degree Smart Home. Self-described as “the world’s first smart furniture brand that is transforming technology into furniture”, it outdid itself with a Smart Baby Dining Table. This isa baby feeding table with a removable dining chair that contains a weight detector and adjustable camera, to make children’s weight and temperature visible to parents via the brand’s app. Score one for hands-off parenting.

Click here to read about smart diapers, self-driving suitcases, laundry folders, and bad robot companions.

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CES: Language tech means no more “lost in translation”

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Talking to strangers in foreign countries just got a lot easier with recent advancements in translation technology. Last week, major companies and small startups alike showed the CES technology expo in Las Vegas how well their translation worked at live translation.

Most existing translation apps, like Bixby and Siri Translate, are still in their infancy with live speech translation, which brings about the need for dedicated solutions like these technologies:

Babel’s AIcorrect pocket translator

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The AIcorrect Translator, developed by Beijing-based Babel Technology, attracted attention as the linguistic king of the show. As an advanced application of AI technology in consumer technology, the pocket translator deals with problems in cross-linguistic communication. 

It supports real-time mutual translation in multiple situations between Chinese/English and 30 other languages, including Japanese, Korean, Thai, French, Russian and Spanish. A significant differentiator is that major languages like English being further divided into accents. The translation quality reaches as high as 96%.

It has a touch screen, where transcription and audio translation are shown at the same time. Lei Guan, CEO of Babel Technology, said: “As a Chinese pathfinder in the field of AI, we designed the device in hoping that hundreds of millions of people can have access to it and carry out cross-linguistic communication all barrier-free.” 

Click here to read about the Pilot, Travis, Pocketalk, Google and Zoi translators.

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