Microsoft Will Not “Force” Consumers to Upgrade to Windows 10… Or Will They?

Microsoft has been somewhat pushy concerning the adoption of Windows 10, from the many “forced upgrade” attempts, relentless hidden updates to the secretive file downloading system which launches an installer without explicit user acceptance, the tech giant has clearly overstepped its remit. Well, apparently no, no it has not, if a statement from the corporation is anything to go by.

“Windows Update is trusted for important updates through an official channel, while Windows 10 has been added in order to facilitate an easier way to find an upgrade to your system, you will receive a significant prompt before you choose to continue” said Microsoft.

Sounds reassuring, unfortunately, many users have found their systems being upgraded to Windows 10 without permission.  Microsoft has also found workarounds regarding third-party tools which aim to disable pop-up ads through the system tray, by automatically re-enabling any upgrade prompts. Furthermore, reports have been circulating concerning changes to the update system that will classify Windows 10 as a “recommended Update” from early 2016; this means users who think they will be installing a regular update will, in fact, be downloading the latest OS.

Then there is the latest scenario concerning the “Upgrade Now or Upgrade Tonight” prompt within Windows update for Win 7 and 8 users, but there does not seem to be an option to refuse the upgrade altogether.

I do think Microsoft have overstepped the mark concerning its relentless pursuit of upgrading every system to its latest OS, consumers have a right to decline any major updates if they wish to through a clear and transparent scheme.  Sticking by an older OS is perfectly legitimate for a variety of reasons, hopefully, I say that word without expectation, Microsoft will see sense and leave consumers be, if not, I can see a backlash to the point where many consumers have no other option but to ditch the brand before migrating to a different OS altogether, whether that be Mac or a variety of Linux distributions.

On a sidenote, I do think it seems slightly odd concerning Microsoft’s current upgrade policy, there seems to be an unprecedented push for all users to install the latest OS, Why? Is it purely marketing or is there something else, such as tracking, privacy, etc.

EU lawmakers Propose Banning Under 16s From The Internet Without Parental Consent

Well this is, err, something, reports are circulating that under 16s could technically be banned from online services that include Instagram, Facebook and Snapchat unless they get permission from a parent. This quirk of fate if you will is all down to proposed new EU data protection rules which look set to be agreed.

So, how did we get to this? Well, new regulations would make it illegal for companies to handle data from anyone 15 years or younger without parental consent. These proposals open up a can of worms for various social media companies who have based their business models on targeting a younger audience with their products with hopes of an increased adoption of services.

The “ban” would leave millions of kids and teenagers having to ask their parents for permission to use internet services including email accounts, social media platforms and the downloading of apps. Somewhat understandably US tech groups are aiming to amend such a proposal through intense lobbying.

The proposal of new data protection regulations is much more stringent and companies must comply or face fines up to 4% of their global turnover, which could result in a massive bill for the biggest of online giants.

On the flip side, a petition has been launched by “The Diana Award Youth Boardwho state that “We don’t believe young people should be required to seek their parents’ consent every time they use a new app or website.”

It is certainly bizarre and impossible to police against, it will be compelling to see the outcome of these proposed regulations.

Image courtesy of mashable

This Is Why Strapping a Wi-Fi Connection to a Sniper Rifle Is a Bad Idea

We have come to a point where we embed a lot of technology to weapons, sometimes even too much technology. This is the case of TrackingPoint, a company that makes such smart weapons. One sniper rifle the company produces is so advanced that it would make anyone a pro-marksman when fired. But, as expected for something this advanced, the gun can be hacked.

A group of hackers found a way to hack the sniper rifle via Wi-Fi. Yes, the gun actually has a Wi-Fi antenna that lets you connect and stream its view to other devices. However, the Wi-Fi is off by default. Turning it on, the hackers proved that adjusting some variables can alter the target, so you might be aiming for something, but eventually hitting an entirely different target in the end.

The hack is also very advanced in a way, being able to tap into the ‘root’ permissions of the gun. This means that a hacker can be granted full access to the gun and even lock the user out of it. However, one truly relieving thing is that the gun cannot be fired remotely, requiring manual trigger fire at all times. Hackers can still remove the safety mechanism, so this is still a bit worrying.

From the looks of it, hacking the gun proves to be a challenge. First of all, the Wi-Fi needs to be on, but since most people use sniper rifles in the wilderness and not in their back yard, the likeliness of it being on is next to zero. Even so, the hacker needs to be next to the gun, so as previously mentioned, hiding in a bush with a laptop is also not practical. It might sound next to impossible to hack it, but the hackers tell that malware can be installed on it, so an attacker can somehow hack it at some point and have it targeting or altering stuff at a certain time and place.

All this makes you wonder, doesn’t it? We previously mentioned about machine guns that can target and decide when to shoot and those most likely have Wi-Fi connectivity as well. Once we get to that point where autonomous guns and military machines become more popular, what would happen if someone were to ‘accidentally’ place a malware on one of their networks? Scary, isn’t it? What are your thoughts? Let us know!

Thank you WIRED for providing us with this information

Take a Look at a Leaked Version of Cortana for Android

Microsoft announced in May that it will roll out its personal assistant, Cortana, to Android and iOS. As the official launch is getting closer, so are the leaks it seems. Word is that a pre-release version of Cortana has cropped up last weekend on various websites.

It is said that the standalone Cortana app is already running smoothly on devices and is compatible with Android 4.1.2 and later OS versions. There have been some problems with getting it to work on some handsets, but that is bound to happen as it is a leaked version and not the official app. However, you can at least try it out before you decide if you actually want to get it for your Android handset.

People who had a chance to test it out say that it performs “as expected” and if you got a chance to test Windows 10 Preview for PC or Phones, then you most likely are familiar with what Cortana can do on Android or iOS devices too. There are some minor differences, like Cortana not being able to get content from emails or listen for music, but there were bound to be some restrictions in place. Compared to the integrated version on Windows Phones, the standalone Cortana for other OS’ requires permission to get access to pretty much everything, so if you don’t have a way to provide it, the app will not be able to use the external information.

Microsoft plans to launch Cortana for iOS and Android next week. They say it will hit the US, UK, Chinese, French, Italian and Spanish markets at first, followed by Canada and India in the following months and then the rest of the targeted markets by the end of the year. The company chose this approach due to the fact that it also wants to personalize the user interaction with Cortana. For example, the Japanese market will feature Cortana bowing by default to show signs of politeness, while the UK market will house a Cortana that expresses the well-known British humour.

You can download the leaked version of Cortana for Android from APKMirror. I already have a Windows Phone device, so if you have an Android handset and choose to test it out, don’t forget to share your thoughts with a comment below!

Thank you Sci-Tech Today for providing us with this information

Image courtesy of PCkoloji

US Retailers Want In Store Facial Recognition Without Consent

Nine privacy advocates have abandoned a government organized forum around industry best practices for facial recognition. This comes after more than a year of talks, as corporations dug in, refusing to ask consumers for permission before using facial recognition on them. According to the privacy advocates, not one single corporation agreed to the premise that they should ask permission before attempting to identify unknown persons.

Given that Google and Microsoft, both currently with opt-in facial recognition programs were part of the talks, it points to a very worrying trend within corporations. The default of scanning with facial recognition before asking runs counter to several state laws as well as European ones.

Proponents for the industry position point to some benefits coming from facial recognition without asking. One common cited example is that by scanning everyone, shoplifters, wanted persons, missing persons and lost children can all be found using the system. Asking for permission would either fail or be impossible in some cases as well. Facial recognition can also be used to offer personalized service and advertisements. Critics say that allowing corporations to scan without asking violates privacy. The data captured would also likely be stored online in a database to be useful, making those servers a likely treasure trove for criminal hackers. Outside facing cameras may also track persons with no relation to the store as well.

It looks like trying to get industry to self-regulate was doomed from the start. Casinos are currently one of the places where facial recognition is widely used. If facial recognition without asking for permissions becomes widespread, it will be interesting if consumers will take any steps to protect their privacy or change their shopping habits. At least we haven’t gotten to the point of Minority Report eyeball scanning just yet.

Uber Drivers Can Track You if You Agree

Uber, the car sharing phenomenon that has taken the world by storm; has recently updated its terms and conditions to include a new tracking feature for the drivers. This new tracking will allow swifter and more efficient pick-ups as the driver will always know where you are; it will be more accurate than just placing a pin and hoping for the best.

This follows an external review of Uber’s privacy policy prompted by some PR issues involving customer privacy. “If you recall, some Uber employees used the “God View” tracker embedded in the app to spy on the whereabouts of a Buzzfeed reporter and a high-profile venture capitalist last year. All its corporate employees (but not its drivers) reportedly had access to God View and could monitor a user’s activities. Let’s not forget the time an exec made a remark about hiring a team to dig up personal dirt on journalists that criticize the service, as well.”

Along with those changes, this new privacy update list the kind of data it wants to collect from its customers. It makes very clear that it wants to keep records of your transactions, including frequency, cost, distance travelled, etc… and also gathers some information about your device such as make, model, network, etc. Along with that, Uber also wants to collect data of your contacts to provide targeted marketing to them.

This new update will take place on July 15th, so expect some permission pop-ups. If you decide not to activate the new features; Uber stated that the app will work as it currently does.

Thank you to engadget for providing us with this information.