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Fb will shut down its adware VPN app Onavo

Judhajeet Das



Fb will finish its unpaid market analysis packages and proactively take its Onavo VPN app off the Google Play retailer within the wake of backlash following TechCrunch’s investigation about Onavo code being utilized in a Fb Analysis app the sucked up knowledge about teenagers. The Onavo Shield app will ultimately shut down, and can instantly stop pulling in knowledge from customers for market analysis, although it should proceed working as a Digital Personal Community within the brief-time period to permit customers to discover a alternative.

Fb has additionally ceased to recruit new customers for the Fb Analysis app that also runs on Android however was pressured off of iOS by Apple after we reported that it violated Apple’s Enterprise Certificates program for worker-solely apps. Present Fb Analysis app research will proceed to run, although.

With the suspicions about tech giants and looming regulation resulting in extra intense scrutiny of privateness practices, Fb has determined that giving customers a utility like a VPN in trade for quietly analyzing their app utilization and cellular searching knowledge isn’t a sensible technique. As an alternative, it can give attention to paid packages the place customers explicitly perceive what privateness they’re giving up for direct monetary compensation.

Onavo billed itself as a method to “restrict apps from utilizing background knowledge” and “use a safe VPN community on your private information” but in addition famous it might gather the “Time you spend utilizing apps, cellular and Wi-Fi knowledge you employ per app, the web sites you go to, and your nation, gadget and community sort.” A Fb spokesperson confirmed the change and offered this assertion: “Market analysis helps corporations construct higher merchandise for individuals. We’re shifting our focus to reward-based mostly market analysis which suggests we’re going to finish the Onavo program.”

Fb acquired Onavo in 2013 for a reported $200 million to make use of its VPN app to collect knowledge about what individuals have been doing on their telephones. That knowledge revealed WhatsApp was sending over twice as many messages per day as Messenger, BuzzFeed’s Ryan Mac and Charlie Warzel reported, convincing Fb to pay a steep sum of $19 billion to purchase WhatsApp. Fb went on to border Onavo as a means for customers to scale back their knowledge utilization, block harmful web sites, hold their visitors protected from snooping — whereas Fb itself was analyzing that visitors. The insights helped it uncover new developments in cellular utilization, regulate rivals and work out what options or apps to repeat. Cloning turned core to Fb’s product technique over the previous years, with Instagram’s model of Snapchat Tales rising bigger than the unique.

However final yr, privateness considerations led Apple to push Fb to take away the Onavo VPN app from the App Retailer, although it continued operating on Google Play. However Fb quietly repurposed Onavo code to be used in its Fb Analysis app that TechCrunch discovered was paying customers within the U.S. and India ages thirteen to 35 as much as $20 in present playing cards per 30 days to provide it VPN and root community entry to spy on all their cellular knowledge.

Fb ran this system in secret, obscured by middleman beta testing providers like Betabound and Applause. It solely knowledgeable customers it recruited with advertisements on Instagram, Snapchat and elsewhere that they have been becoming a member of a Fb Analysis program after they’d begun signup and signed non-disclosure agreements. A Fb spokesperson claimed in a press release that “there was nothing ‘secret’ about this”, but it had threatened authorized motion if customers publicly mentioned the Analysis program.

However the largest drawback for Fb ended up being that its Analysis app abused Apple’s Enterprise Certificates program meant for worker-solely apps to distribute the app outdoors the corporate. That led Apple to ban the Analysis app from iOS and invalidate Fb’s certificates. This shut down Fb’s inner iOS collaboration instruments, pre-launch check variations of its widespread apps and even its lunch menu and shuttle schedule to interrupt for 30 hours, inflicting chaos on the firm’s workplaces.

To preempt any extra scandals round Onavo and the Fb Analysis app and keep away from Google stepping in to forcibly block the apps, Fb is now taking Onavo off the Play Retailer and stopping recruitment of Analysis testers. That’s a shocking voluntary transfer that maybe exhibits Fb is lastly getting in tune with the general public notion of its shady actions. The corporate has repeatedly misinterpret how customers would react to its product launches and privateness invasions, main to close fixed gaffes and an endless information cycle chronicling its blunders.

With out Onavo, Fb loses a strong technique of market analysis, and its future initiatives right here will come at a better worth. Fb has run tons of focus teams, surveys and different consumer suggestions packages over the previous decade to study the place it might enhance or what improvements it might co-choose. And with extra apps just lately turning on encryption, Onavo doubtless began studying much less about their utilization. However given how cloning plus acquisitions like WhatsApp and Instagram have been very important to Fb’s success, it’s doubtless value paying out extra present playing cards and extra tightly monitoring its analysis practices. In any other case Fb might miss the subsequent huge factor which may disrupt it.

Hopefully Fb will probably be much less clandestine with its future market analysis packages. It ought to be upfront about its involvement, make sure that customers perceive what knowledge they’re giving up, cease researching teenagers or on the very least confirm the consent of their mother and father and keep away from slurping up delicate info or knowledge a few consumer’s unwitting pals. For a corporation that depends upon individuals to belief it with their content material, it has an extended option to go win again our confidence.

Tech Passionate and Heavy Geek! Into Blogging world since 2014 and never looked back since then :) I am also a YouTube Video Producer and a Aspiring Entrepreneur. Founder, MyDroidDoes

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Opera’s VPN returns to its Android browser

Judhajeet Das



Opera had a couple of tumultuous years behind it, but it looks like the Norwegian browser maker (now in the hands of a Chinese consortium) is finding its stride again and refocusing its efforts on its flagship mobile and desktop browsers. Before the sale, Opera offered a useful stand-alone and built-in VPN service. Somehow, the built-in VPN stopped working after the acquisition. My understanding is that this had something to do with the company being split into multiple parts, with the VPN service ending up on the wrong side of that divide. Today, it’s officially bringing this service back as part of its Android app.

The promise of the new Opera VPN in Opera for Android 51 is that it will give you more control over your privacy and improve your online security, especially on unsecured public WiFi networks. Opera says it uses 256-bit encryption and doesn’t keep a log or retain any activity data.

Since Opera now has Chinese owners, though, not everybody is going to feel comfortable using this service, though. When I asked the Opera team about this earlier this year at MWC in Barcelona, the company stressed that it is still based in Norway and operates under that country’s privacy laws. The message being that it may be owned by a Chinese consortium but that it’s still very much a Norwegian company.

If you do feel comfortable using the VPN, though, then getting started is pretty easy (I’ve been testing in the beta version of Opera for Android for a while). Simply head to the setting menu, flip the switch, and you are good to go.

“Young people are being very concerned about their online privacy as they increasingly live their lives online, said Wallman. “We want to make VPN adoption easy and user-friendly, especially for those who want to feel more secure on the Web but are not aware on how to do it. This is a free solution for them that works.”

What’s important to note here is that the point of the VPN is to protect your privacy, not to give you a way to route around geo-restrictions (though you can do that, too). That means you can’t choose a specific country as an endpoint, only ‘America,’ ‘Asia,’ and ‘Europe.’

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Razer hooks up with Tencent to focus on mobile gaming

Judhajeet Das



Razer is summoning a big gun as it bids to develop its mobile gaming strategy. The Hong Kong-listed company — which sells laptops, smartphones and gaming peripherals — said today it is working with Tencent on a raft of initiatives related to smartphone-based games.

The collaboration will cover hardware, software and services. Some of the objectives include optimizing Tencent games — which include megahit PUBG and Fortnite — for Razer’s smartphones, mobile controllers and its Cortex Android launcher app. The duo also said they may “explore additional monetization opportunities for mobile gaming,” which could see Tencent integrate Razer’s services, which include a rewards/loyalty program, in some areas.

The news comes on the same day as Razer’s latest earnings, which saw annual revenue grow 38 percent to reach $712.4 million. Razer recorded a net loss of $97 million for the year, down from $164 million in 2017.

The big-name partnership announcement comes at an opportune time for Razer, which has struggled to convince investors of its business. The company was among a wave of much-championed tech companies to go public in Hong Kong — Razer’s listing raised more than $500 million in late 2017 — but its share price has struggled. Razer currently trades at HK$1.44, which is some way down from a HK$3.88 list price and HK$4.58 at the end of its trading day debut. Razer CEO Min Liang Tan has previously lamented a lack of tech savviness within Hong Kong’s public markets despite a flurry of IPOs, which have included names like local services giant Meituan.

Nabbing Tencent, which is one of (if not the) biggest games companies in the world, is a PR coup, but it remains to be seen just what impact the relationship will have at this stage. Subsequent tie-ins, and potentially an investor, would be notable developments and perhaps positive signals that the market is seeking.

Still, Razer CEO Min Liang Tan is bullish about the company’s prospects on mobile.

The company’s Razer smartphones were never designed to be “iPhone-killers” that sold on volume, but there’s still uncertainty around the unit with recent reports suggesting the third-generation phone may have been canceled following some layoffs. (Tan declined to comment on that.)

Mobile is tough — just ask past giants like LG and HTC about that… and Razer’s phone and gaming-focus was quickly copied by others, including a fairly brazen clone effort from Xiaomi, to make sales particularly challenging. But Liang maintains that, in doing so, Razer created a mobile gaming phone market that didn’t exist before, and ultimately that is more important than shifting its own smartphones.

“Nobody was talking about gaming smartphones [before the Razer phone], without us doing that, the genre would still be perceived as casual gaming,” Tan told TechCrunch in an interview. “Even from day one, it was about creating this new category… we don’t see others as competition.”

With that in mind, he said that this year is about focusing on the software side of Razer’s mobile gaming business.

Tan said Razer “will never” publish games as Tencent and others do, instead, he said that the focus is on helping discovery, creating a more immersive experience and tying in other services, which include its Razer Gold loyalty points.

Outside of gaming, Razer is also making a push into payments through a service that operates in Southeast Asia. Fueled by the acquisition of MOL one year ago, Razer has moved from allowing people to buy credit over-the-counter to launch an e-wallet in two countries, Malaysia and Singapore, as it goes after a slice of Southeast Asia’s fintech boom, which has attracted non-traditional players that include AirAsia, Grab and Go-Jek, among others.

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Review: Apple’s new iPad mini continues to be mini

Judhajeet Das



The iPad mini is super enjoyable to use and is the best-sized tablet for everything but traditional laptop work. It’s very good and I’m glad Apple updated it.

Using Apple Pencil is aces on the smaller mini; don’t worry about the real estate being an issue if you like to scribble notes or make sketches. It’s going to fall behind a larger iPad for a full-time artist, but as a portable scratch pad it’s actually far less unwieldy or cumbersome than an iPad Pro or Air will be.

The only caveat? After using the brilliant new Pencil, the old one feels greasy and slippery by comparison, and lacks that flat edge that helps so much when registering against your finger for shading or sketching out curves.

The actual act of drawing is nice and zippy, and features the same latency and responsiveness as the other Pencil-capable models.

The reasoning behind using the old pencil here is likely a result of a combination of design and cost-saving decisions. No flat edge would require a rethink of the magnetic Pencil charging array from the iPad Pro and it is also apparently prohibitively expensive in a way similar to the smart connector. Hence its lack of inclusion on either Air or mini models.

Touch ID feels old and slow when compared to iPad Pro models, but it’s not that bad in a mini, where you’re almost always going to be touching and holding it rather than setting it down to begin typing. It still feels like you’re being forced to take an awkward, arbitrary additional action to start using the iPad though. It really puts into perspective how fluidly Face ID and the new gestures work together.

The design of the casing remains nearly identical, making for broad compatibility with old cases and keyboards if you use those with it. The camera has changed positions and the buttons have been moved slightly though, so I would say your mileage may vary if you’re bringing old stuff to the table.

The performance of the new mini is absolutely top notch. While it falls behind when compared to the iPad Pro, it is exactly the same (I am told, I do not have one to test yet) as the iPad Air. It’s the same on paper though, so I believe it in general and there is apparently no “detuning” or under-clocking happening. This makes the mini a hugely powerful tiny tablet, clearly obliterating anything else in its size class.

The screen is super solid, with great color, nearly no air gap and only lacking tap-to-wake.

That performance comes at a decently chunky price, $399. If you want the best, you pay for it.

Last year I took the 12.9” iPad Pro on a business trip to Brazil, with no backup machine of any sort. I wanted to see if I could run TechCrunch from it — from planning to events to editorial and various other multi-disciplinary projects. It worked so well that I never went back, and have not opened my MacBook in earnest since. I’ll write up that experience at some point because I think there are some interesting things to talk about there.

I include that context here because, though the iPad Pro is a whole-ass computer and really capable, it is not exactly “fun” to use in non-standard ways. That’s where the iPad mini has always shined and continues to do so.

It really is pocketable in a loose jacket or coat. Because the mini is not heavy, it exercises little of the constant torsion and strain on your wrist that a larger iPad does, making it one-handed.

I could go on, but in the end, all that can be said about the iPad mini being “the small iPad” has already been said ad nauseam over the years, beginning with the first round of reviews back in 2012. This really is one of the most obvious choices Apple has in its current iPad lineup. If you want the cheap one, get the cheap one (excuse me, “most affordable” one). And if you want the small one, get the iPad mini.

The rest of the iPads in Apple’s lineup have much more complicated purchasing flow charts — the mini does indeed sell itself.

Back even before we knew for sure that a mini iPad was coming, I wrote about how Apple could define the then very young small-tablet market. It did. No other small-tablet model has ever made a huge dent on the market, unless you count the swarm of super-crappy Android tablets that people buy in blister packs expecting them to eventually implode as a single hive-mind model.

Here’s how I saw it in 2012:

To put it bluntly, there is no small tablet market…Two years ago we were talking about the tablet market as a contiguous whole. There was talk about whether anyone would buy the iPad and that others had tried to make consumer tablets and failed. Now, the iPad is a massive success that has yet to be duplicated by any other manufacturer or platform.

But the tablet market isn’t a single ocean, it’s a set of interlocking bodies of water that we’re just beginning to see take shape. And the iPad mini isn’t about competing with the wriggling tadpoles already in the ‘small tablet’ pond, it’s about a big fish extending its dominion.

Yeah, that’s about right, still.

One huge difference, of course, is that the iPad mini now has the benefit of an enormous amount of additional apps that have been built for iPad in the interim. Apps that provide real, genuine access to content and services on a tablet — something that was absolutely not guaranteed in 2012. How quickly we forget.

In addition to the consumer segment, the iPad mini is also extremely popular in industrial, commercial and medical applications. From charts and patient records to point-of-sale and job-site reference, the mini is the perfect size for these kinds of customers. These uses were a major factor in Apple deciding to update the mini.

Though still just as pricey (in comparison) as it was when it was introduced, the iPad mini remains a standout device. It’s small, sleek, now incredibly fast and well-provisioned with storage. The smallness is a real advantage in my opinion. It allows the mini to exist as it does without having to take part in the “iPad as a replacement for laptops” debate. It is very clearly not that, while at the same time still feeling more multipurpose and useful than ever. I’m falling in real strong like all over again with the mini, and the addition of Pencil support is the sweetener on top.

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