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Using shopping apps? You’ve been tracked!

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More than half of the top 60 Android shopping apps collect users’ personal information through trackers, a new study finds. 

The result is from a privacy risk assessment on Opera Max, a leading data management and data savings app for Android. The 60 most popular shopping apps were reviewed using privacy mode on this app. Another research shows that personal information such as user’s name, email address, locations, search terms and phone number are shared with third parties through trackers.

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Some of the most “leaky” shopping apps, such as Amazon, BestBuy, JC Penney and Newegg, send relatively high numbers of trackers.

The study also shows that as many as 96% of the shopping apps did not use full encryption to connect the apps to their servers. This poses privacy risks to mobile shoppers when they are using these apps.

Personal data can be shared with third parties through trackers on shopping apps or unencrypted http connections over mobile carrier connections. Sensitive data such as bank account numbers and other financial information, which are stored in online retailer accounts or shopping apps, can be intercepted and read by identity thieves via public or unsecured Wi-Fi networks.

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“Most people would not reveal their credit card details or full name to employees of a physical store where they live when shopping and browsing for products. But, on mobile apps people are not aware that this kind of information can be shared,” says Sergey Lossev, Head of Product, Opera Max. “That is why we have implemented privacy mode in Opera Max. We want to educate our users by revealing which apps are sharing your data through trackers without your permission.”

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New Opera Max enhances Android users’ privacy

Today, Opera Max brings its new privacy mode feature to all users. It offers real-time alerts on the privacy mode timeline so that users can easily see which apps are sending high-risk requests, thus putting their privacy at risk. Once Opera Max’s privacy mode is activated, it also encrypts virtually all app data traffic and blocks almost all types of data trackers to ensure users can shop with peace of mind.

“Once you know how many trackers and unsecured connection requests your apps have sent out, you may want to ensure all your app traffic is protected and encrypted by Opera Max. You can then protect your privacy when shopping. Just take a look at what your apps are doing and decide for yourself,” adds Lossev.

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Learn more about Opera Max’s privacy mode by visiting our developer blog post.

Download the new Opera Max with privacy mode for free at http://opr.as/omx

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Low-cost wireless sport earphones get a kickstart

Wireless earphone brands are common, but not crowdfunded brands. BRYAN TURNER takes the K Sport Wireless for a run.

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As wireless technology becomes better, Bluetooth earphones have become popular in the consumer market. KuaiFit aspires to make them even more accessible to more people through a cheaper, quality product, by selling the K Sport Wireless Earphones directly from its Kickstarter page

KuaiFit has an app by the same name which offers voice-guided personal training services in almost every type of exercise, from cardio to weight-lifting. A vast range of connectivity to third-party sensors is available, like heart rate sensors and GPS devices, which work well with guided coaching. 

The app starts off with selecting a fitness level: beginner, intermediate and advanced. Thereafter, one has the ability to connect with real personal trainers via a subscription to its paid service. The subscription comes free for 6 months with the earphones, and R30 per month thereafter. 

The box includes a manual, a USB to two USB Type B connectors, different sized soft plastic eartips and the two earphone units. Each earphone is wireless and connects to the other independently of wires. This puts the K Sport Wireless in the realm of the Apple Earpods in terms of connection style. 

The earphones are just over 2cm wide and 2cm high. The set is black with a light blue KuaiFit logo on the earphone’s button. 

The button functions as an on/off switch when long-pressed and a play/pause button when quick-pressed. The dual-button set-up is convenient in everyday use, allowing for playback control depending on which hand is free. Two connectivity modes are available, single earphone mode or dual earphone mode. The dual earphone mode intelligently connects the second earphone and syncs stereo audio a few seconds after powering on. 

In terms of connectivity, the earphones are Bluetooth 4.1 with a massive 10-meter range, provided there are no obstacles between the device and the earphones. While it’s not Bluetooth 5, it still falls into the Bluetooth Low Energy connection category, meaning that the smartphone’s battery won’t be drastically affected by a consistent connection to the earphones. The batteries within the earphones aren’t specifically listed but last anywhere between 3 and 6 hours, depending on the mode. 

Audio quality is surprisingly good for earphones at this price point. The headset style is restricted to in-ear due to its small design and probable usage in movement-intensive activities. As a result, one has to be very careful how one puts these earphones, in because bass has the potential of getting reduced from an incorrect in-ear placement. In-ear earphones are usually notorious for ear discomfort and suction pain after extended usage. These earphones are one of the very few in this price range that are comfortable and don’t cause discomfort. The good quality of the soft plastic ear tip is definitely a factor in the high level of comfort of the in-ear earphone experience.

Overall, the K Sport Wireless earphones are great considering the sound quality and the low price: US$30 on Kickstarter.

Find them on Kickstarter here.

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Taxify enters Google Maps

A recent update to Taxify now uses Google Maps which allows users to identify their drivers, find public transport and search for billing options.

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People planning their travel routes using Google Maps will now see a Taxify icon in the app, in addition to the familiar car, public transport, walking and billing options.

Taxify started operating in South Africa in 2016 and as of October 2018 operates in seven South African cities – Johannesburg, Ekurhuleni, Tshwane, Cape Town, Durban, Port Elizabeth and Polokwane.

Once riders have searched for their destination and asked the app for directions, Google Maps shares the proximity of cars on the Taxify platform, as well as an estimated fare for the trip.

If users see that taking the Taxify option is their best bet, they can simply tap on the ‘Open app’ icon, to complete the process of booking the ride. Customers without the app on their device will be prompted to install Taxify first.

This integration makes it possible for users to evaluate which of the private, public or e-hailing modes of transport are most time-efficient and cost-effective.

“This integration with Google Maps makes it so much easier for users to choose the best way to move around their city,” says Gareth Taylor, Taxify’s country manager for South Africa. “They’ll have quick comparisons between estimated arrival times for the different modes of transport, as well as fares they can expect to pay, which will help save both time and money,” he added.

Taxify rides in Google Maps are rolling out globally today and will be available in more than 15 countries, with South Africa being one of the first countries to benefit from this convenient service.

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