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Twitter, Instagram, And Airbnb Are Testing New Features, And You’re Lucky To Be One Of The First To Know

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Twitter, Airbnb, Instagram new updates

There are a few things that most social media platforms and apps are testing to help users enjoy their experience more. However, most of these new features are only available to few accounts known as beta testers and are mostly done in secret. Luckily, we have people like Jane Manchun Wong, a tech expert who regularly discovers new yet-to-be-launched features through her own Twitter account.

Jane Wong is only one of the good-hearted tech wizards who are kind enough to inform us about some upcoming new features in the apps that we love to use. There are others that exist on Twitter, some in Reddit, and some in other social media sites.

Last week, Jane Wong made several discoveries regarding new features on Twitter, Instagram, Airbnb, and others. In this article, we will look at all of Jane’s findings as we will be one of the few people who will be able to discover and know about them.

THREE FEATURE TESTS IN APPS THAT WILL BE ROLLED OUT SOON, MAYBE

INSTAGRAM NEW STORIES UI

Demo screencaps of the new Stories UI. Image from @wongmjane / Twitter

Jane Manchun Wong has recently discovered that Instagram is testing a new IG story user interface (UI), which is inspired by the “mechanical circular mode switcher in DSLR.”

The new UI sports are rotating dock where icons for the different filters, stickers, gifs, are kept. Unlike the previous UI with a linear design, the new design appears to be more dynamic. Instead of adding a ‘poll sticker’ from the sticker menu, a user can automatically do so using the dock.

The menu items are also trimmed down to three. The new UI only includes “Live,” “Normal,” and “Create” contrary to the one that exists right now. Instead of a sticker button located on the top right of the screen, a user can directly “create” polls and questions without taking a photo through the “Create” dock.

In the other “Normal” tab, the usual capture modes like Superzoom and AR effects are located.

While Instagram intends the redesign to resemble the mode switcher on a DSLR or Mirrorless camera, may have suggested that the new layout looks like that of Obscura, another photography-based application. Obscura responded to Wong’s discovery saying that “you know you’ve done something right when everyone starts following your lead [emoji].”

Furthermore, Wong suggested that Instagram’s new stories UI resemble that of Snapchat as well. She said that ‘Instagram’s new Stories UI looks like bent Snapchat.”

Comparison photo courtesy of @wongmjane / Twitter

She further suggested that it rather looks like a cross bread of both Obscura and Snapchat as if both had a “baby.”

TWITTER’S SUBSCRIBE TO CONVERSATION FEATURE

In a bid to regulate the conversation that happens within its platform, Twitter once again developing a feature that would help users streamline their experience in the micro-blogging site as well as protect their privacy in the process. This time, Twitter is testing out an option to follow a specific conversation in a tweet thread without liking or commenting on the Tweet.

Screenshot from @womgmjane / Twitter

According to Wong, the feature is tested on Android versions of the Twitter app, where it’s a user interface (UI) prototype for now. The button simply reads “Subscribe to conversation” and is position at the top right corner of a tweet view, she says.

In the existing user interface of Twitter, for a user to get notified if a new tweet has been added to the conversation they are following, they have to be tagged in the specific thread, and users are only notified regarding the activities in the subtweet that they were tagged. This tagging-replying function adds clutter to the discussion as it unnecessarily drowns the actual conversation within the tweet.

Twitter retweeted Wong’s post regarding her discovery but did not provide any further details aside from it being in the development stage. The retweet reads: “This is part of our work to make Twitter more conversational.”

AIRBNB’S SHOW CALCULATED PRICE AND FLIGHT PLANS IN ITINERARY

Aside from the feature tests of Instagram and Twitter, Jane Manchun Wong also discovered that Airbnb, the world most successful online accommodation renting application, is testing a “Show Calculated Price” option for showing the total price of the entire stay plus tax.

Screenshot from @wongmjane / Twitter

The new feature can be activated in the search setting menu and is meant to “show the calculated price including taxes and fees when travel dates are supplied.”

“Since total price depends on travel dates and duration, we are unable to calculate the total price without these.”

Furthermore, Airbnb is also testing adding flight plans in the itinerary where the host will be notified when you land and if the flight is delayed, link Gmail to automatically import any upcoming flights, and forward flight confirmation emails to Airbnb so they can include it in the itinerary.

Screenshot from @wongmjane / Twitter

These are just a few of the updates that may be rolled out soon, and they’re just discovered by Wong in the last two days. Expect more! /apr

A consumer tech and cybersecurity journalist who does content marketing while daydreaming about having unlimited coffee for life and getting a pet llama.

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Technology

This Apple Patent Secures 360-Degree Rotatable Camera For Its Watch Series

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Photo by Luke Chesser on Unsplash

The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office granted a patent for Apple that allows it to include a rotatable camera on its Apple Watch products—a revolutionary innovation to the smartwatch market.

Other brands have teased about introducing a built-in camera on their smartwatches before. However, that entails maneuvering the user’s wrist in a challenging position — proving that the technology is far from ready for launch.

Apple secured a patent that would solve the problem. The Apple Watch patent comes along with 63 newly granted patents for Apple Inc.

Apple Watch Rotatable Camera
Source: 9to5mac

The new patent opens the possibility of future Apple Watches with the ability to capture images and video via a rotatable, pull-out camera.

The patent describes the invention as similar to an extension of the Apple Watch band, where the built-in camera can be pulled out to expose and use it. Primarily, this will enable the Apple Watch user to avoid the tricky wrist-maneuvering.

“Such functionality can replace or at least meaningfully augment a user’s existing camera-enabled iPhone.”

Notably, cameras on smartwatches were initially introduced with similarities to the conventional smartphones where it is stationary on the screen. The patent describes it to have a pull-out functionality where a user can point towards the desired direction.

Furthermore, the built-in camera can even be rotated at a 360-degree angle. Meaning, a single camera can function both as a front and back camera, allowing Apple to save more space, as it is compacted on a very small device.

As described, the camera is placed on the tip of an extendable band where “an optical sensor [is] attached to or integrated within the distal end portion of the camera watch band […] and a data connection between the optical sensor and the watch body.”

The band, where the camera will be placed, is told to be flexible enough that users can manipulate it into any form via twisting and bending. A combination of a “malleable metal core” with “magnetorheological fluid,” and “mechanical links” will comprise the band to help maintain its form. This combination may also help prop the camera end to a fixed position such as bending towards the user to make FaceTime calls.

Users can take photos or record videos by pinching the camera watch band, asking Siri to do it, or by clicking on the Apple Watch screen.

2 Apple Watch with camera in band
Apple Watch Rotatable Camera
Source: Patently Apple

The latest report comes along with Apple’s plans of marketing the Apple Watch Series, as a more independent device from the rest of the company’s products such as an iPhone.

“A smartwatch with the capability of capturing images or videos may enable a user to forego carrying a smartphone when doing some activities, especially activities or environments where it would be difficult to take a smartphone (e.g., hiking, running, swimming, surfing, snowboarding, and any number of other situations),” says in its patent report.

Furthermore, Apple recently announced in its Worldwide Developer Conference that the Apple Watch is getting its own App Store with its own set of dedicated applications mainly focused on its Health functionalities.

Notably, the recent release remains to be a patent. There is no guarantee when we’re exactly going to see the built-in camera function in the Apple Watch or if we are ever going to witness it (at all).

It could yield similar results to Apple’s infamous AirPower—a wireless charging pad that can simultaneously power three devices without the need to place it in specific areas to work. The product never went into production as it proved to be challenging after all.

The future still holds the answer whether or not Apple will be able to make the camera feature with up-to-par quality. Questions regarding the camera’s quality, its strength, and durability of the camera band remain as a mystery.

On the other hand, if Apple does decide to push through with the invention and follow Apple’s standard with product quality, it could easily win over the current market, which is already dominating.

As of 2018, Apple’s Apple Watch Series still takes first place on the market for smartwatches with a total of 51% global market share. It is selling like hot pancakes as Apple’s shipments increased by 1.4 million units compared to the same quarter in the previous year, for a total of 9.2 million units shipped in Q4 2018.

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Politics

‘Youtube’ Removes ‘Project Veritas’ Leak Exposing The Bias Of ‘Google’ Against Trump

Is Google the only one who can prevent a “next Trump situation?” A Google exec thinks so.

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Jen Gennai said that Google is the only one that can stop Trump victory. Photo: Carlos Luna | Flickr | CC BY 2.0

As the election season approaches, Google’s video-streaming service, Youtube, took down a video that exposed the California-based technological superpower of being politically biased against the President and his bid for the next election.

The video, which has since been removed from the platform by Youtube, shows a senior employee at the company appearing to admit that the company plans to interfere in the next presidential election to stop Donald Trump.

The video is part of the Project Veritas, that has exposed numerous scandals corruption, dishonesty, self-dealing, waste, fraud, and other misconduct by private individuals, corporations, politicians and government agencies. It was founded by James O’Keefe and claimed that it aims to “further the common good and general welfare of the citizens of the United States by conducting investigations into waste, fraud, abuse, corruption, dishonesty, self-dealing and other misconduct for the purpose of educating the public, stakeholders, policymakers, and communities in order to create a more ethical and transparent society.”

Only Google can prevent “next Trump situation”

The said video is still available in the Project Veritas website and featured undercover footage of a top Google employee, Jen Gennai, who preaches that the company, Google, should not be broken up because they still need to stop the reelection of the President and only they can prevent “next Trump situation.”

“Elizabeth Warren is saying we should break up Google. And like, I love her but she’s very misguided, like that will not make it better it will make it worse, because all these smaller companies who don’t have the same resources that we do will be charged with preventing the next Trump situation, it’s like a small company cannot do that,” the video revealed appearing to be said by Gennai.

In the same video, Gennai appears also to declare that Trump’s victory in the 2016 elections “screwed us (Google).”

“We all got screwed over in 2016; again it wasn’t just us, it was, the people got screwed over, the news media got screwed over, like, everybody got screwed over, so we’re rapidly like, happened there and how do we prevent it from happening again,” she added.

“We’re also training our algorithms, like, if 2016 happened again, would we have, would the outcome be different?”

They need to change the law to force Google to change

Gennai is also strong in its stance that government pressure and intervention could not force Google to change its ways. She said that if the lawmakers want to change how Google behaves, they have to change the law.

“We got called in front of Congress multiple times, so we’ve not shown up because we know that they’re just going to attack us. We’re not going to change our; we’re not going to change our mind. There’s no use sitting there being attacked over something we know we’re not going to change. They can pressure us, but we’re not changing. But we also have to be aware of what they’re doing and what they’re accusing us of,” she said in the video.

Gennai works on “responsible innovation” in the Global Affairs division of Google — the same division run by Kent Walker, the Google VP who has declared his intention to make the populist-nationalist movement represented by Donald Trump a “blip” or “hiccup” in history, which he said, “bends towards progress.”

This rhetoric coincides and corroborated earlier leaks that exposed other top managers and officials from Google to have made similar statements involving the same sentiments.

Similar sentiments from other Google execs

Earlier this year, a Google engineer, Mike Wacker, published an email showing an official from the tech superpower telling his subordinates that the Trump election victory motivated the company’s stand on fake news.

“Also, I posted a comment on a meme regarding fake news on Search, and someone reported it to [Human Resources]. I didn’t say I was in favor or against, just cautioned that we need to be car[e]ful. My manager brought it up in our 1:1 last week. Made me feel very uncomfortable for having an opposing view. He said we need to stop hate [speech] and fake news because that’s how Trump won the election,” Wacker wrote in his post.

“I obviously didn’t say anything and just wanted it to end. I [redacted] would like to see all managers be required to take political bias training.”

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Technology

‘Operation Soft Cell’ Linked To State-Sponsored Chinese Hacking Group

Operation Soft Cell has been operating since 2012.

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The operation is called Operation Soft Cell. Photo: The Preiser Project | Flickr | CC BY 2.0

A Chinese-linked operation has been found to be stealing sensitive call data, including identifiable information by breaching into telecommunication network in order to gain espionage intelligence on high-value targets, a report reveals.

The operation, called Operation Soft Cell, was discovered by the cybersecurity research firm Cybereason and was said to have been operating since 2012 – which makes a total of seven years of hacking into telecom systems and networks from different countries around the world. Furthermore, researchers have also found evidence that the operations have been attacking cell networks a few years before 2012.

A state-sponsored operation

Researchers have linked the operation to a China-based hacking group APT10 as the tools, and TTPs used in the attacks are commonly associated with the Chinese threat actor. They also believed that the said attacks are state-sponsored and highly coordinated.

“We’ve concluded with a high level of certainty that the threat actor is affiliated with China and is likely state-sponsored. The tools and techniques used throughout these attacks are consistent with several Chinese threat actors, specifically with APT10, a threat actor believed to operate on behalf of the Chinese Ministry of State Security (MSS),” the researchers said in the report.

The attacks, as per the tech experts, were aimed to obtain CDR records of a large telecommunications provider. The threat actor was attempting to steal all data stored in the active directory, compromising every single username and password in the organization, along with other personally identifiable information, billing data, call detail records, credentials, email servers, geo-location of users, and more.

Modifying attacks wave after wave to prevent being linked

And the attackers have been evolving, changing their techniques now and then to prevent the attacks from being linked to each other.

“During the persistent attack, the attackers worked in waves- abandoning one thread of attack when it was detected and stopped, only to return months later with new tools and techniques.”

The attack began with a web shell running on a vulnerable, publicly-facing server, from which the attackers gathered information about the network and propagated across the network. The hackers attempted to compromise critical assets, such as database servers, billing servers, and the active directory. As the malicious activity was detected and remediated against, the threat actor stopped the attack.

The threat actor changed activity every quarter. Photo: Cybereason

The second wave of the attack hit several months later with similar infiltration attempts, along with a modified version of the web shell and surveillance activities. This cycle is said to continue, with the attackers and white hats play a game of cat and mouse. Every time white hats corner the attackers, they stop and return with a modified attack a few more times in the next four months.

Espionage is the primary motivation

According to the researchers, they can pinpoint several motives behind this massive cyberspace intrusion. They said that as hacking operations become one of the newest frontiers of global power struggle, institutions that store a vast amount of data started to become the target. And telecommunication corporations became one of the most vulnerable sectors.

“Due to their wide availability and the fundamental service they bring, telecommunications providers have become critical infrastructure for the majority of world powers,” they wrote in the report.

“Threat actors, especially those at the level of nation state, are seeking opportunities to attack these organizations, conducting elaborate, advanced operations to gain leverage, seize strategic assets, and collect information. When successful, these attacks often have huge implications.”

Furthermore, the researchers said that when an attack as big as this and with state support, the motive is usually not financial but instead, they aim to collect data like intellectual property and sensitive information about their clients.

One of the most valuable pieces of data that telecommunications providers hold is Call Detail Records (CDRs). CDRs are a large subset of metadata that contains all details about calls, including Source, Destination, and Duration of a Call, Device Details, Physical Location, Device Vendor, and Version.

This information is invaluable for threat actors as they give them intimate knowledge of any individuals they wish to target on that network. Having this information becomes particularly valuable when nation-state threat actors are targeting foreign intelligence agents, politicians, opposition candidates in an election, or even law enforcement.

“Beyond targeting individual users, this attack is also alarming because of the threat posed by the control of a telecommunications provider. Telecommunications has become critical infrastructure for the majority of world powers. A threat actor with total access to a telecommunications provider, as is the case here, can attack however they want passively and also actively work to sabotage the network,” they added.

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