Android privacy assistant seeks to stop unwanted data collection

Not sure what your phone is collecting about you? A free Android app is promising to simplify the privacy settings on your smartphone, and stop any unwanted data collection.dsc05694

The English language app, called Privacy Assistant, comes from a team at Carnegie Mellon University, who’ve built it after six years of research studying digital privacy.

“It’s very clear that a large percentage of people are not willing to give their data to any random app,” said CMU professor Norman Sadeh. “They want to be more selective with their data, so this assistant will help them do that.”

Their Privacy Assistant is designed to automatically modify your phone’s privacy settings for you, based on your views about certain types of data collection.

For instance, when the app first starts up, it’ll ask you three to five questions to gauge your privacy preferences. How do you feel about your social media accessing your camera? Or what about game apps pulling your location data?

cmu

From those answers, the app will recommend a particular set of privacy settings you should consider. Users can then approve the recommendations or alter them, accordingly.

The assistant may sound enticing, but it comes with a catch. The software only works with Android 5.x and 6.x phones that have been rooted — which most Android users haven’t done.

Rooting a phone means gaining root access to the Android operating system, opening it up to full customization. But the act can also void your phone’s warranty or brick the phone, if done improperly.

Computer scientists at Carnegie Mellon have previously published research, showing that users are often alarmed when they learn their smartphone apps have been collecting their private data like locations.

Users, however, can face a cumbersome task when modifying their phone’s privacy settings or the app permissions.

“A typical Android user has between 50 and 100 apps, and these apps can require three permissions,” Sadeh said. “So you do the math, and the number of permissions can be overwhelming.”

Many apps are also collecting private user data when they don’t really need it, he said. The Privacy Assistant is designed to revoke those permissions, without causing any malfunctions with the offending app.

As the user downloads more software, the Privacy Assistant will continue to work in the background, recommending what new app permissions should be approved or denied.

07 recommendations

With root access, the CMU team’s Privacy Assistant app is able to automatically apply new permission settings to the phone. However, Sadeh estimates that only about 25 percent of all Android smartphones in the world are rooted and many of those are located in Asia.

He doesn’t recommend people root their phone just to use this app. But Sadeh believes his team’s Privacy Assistant will attract a “sizable population” of existing users who are concerned about their online privacy.

The app is also part of the researchers’ larger efforts to streamline privacy settings. The hope is that Google, Apple, and device manufacturers will notice the benefits offered by their Privacy Assistant and incorporate the technology into their products.

Google is among those funding the university’s work on online privacy, Sadeh said.

“People like this stuff,” he added. A smartphone manufacturer “would have an advantage over your competitors if you ended up putting this on the smartphone you sell to customers.”

iPhone 7, iPhone 7 Plus Home Button Said to Work Only With Select Gloves

iPhone 7, iPhone 7 Plus Home Button Said to Work Only With Select Gloves

  • Home Button reportedly requires finger touch to work
  • Reports suggest some capacitive gloves don’t work with the phone
  • Apple introduced non-clickable home button with iPhone 7

It seems like winters are coming early for iPhone 7 and 7 Plus users, as user report claim that the Home Button on the smartphones doesn’t work without direct touch of a finger. Apple introduced a non-clickable new home button with iPhone 7, which uses Force Touch technology just like its latest laptops. Now, some users are claiming that the home button doesn’t work even with most gloves, including touchscreen-friendly ones.

The issue was first highlighted by Twitter user Myke Hurley, who pointed out that the Home Button on iPhone 7 is not able to recognise touch if there is any material, like a T-shirt, between finger and the button. However, the reports following this initial complaint have been divided.

On one hand, a report from MacRumors claims that the Home Button was not responsive to even touchscreen-friendly gloves in their test. “We tested with a pair of gloves that are designed for touch screens and while we could unlock the iPhone 6s Plus with the gloves and use the touchscreen, that wasn’t possible with the iPhone 7 Plus — the Home Button wouldn’t activate,” MacRumors said in its report.

While on the other hand, iMore has showcased the Home Button working with capacitive gloves on. In its report, it says, “Touch ID won’t work with capacitive gloves, because they cover your fingerprint, but you can still to bring up Passcode, then tap it in.”

Hurley, in a subsequent tweet, has said that the home button doesn’t seem to be working due to the Touch ID ring present on it.

With the introduction of ‘Raise to Wake’ feature, which allows you to wake the screen up just by picking up the device, with iOS 10, it is arguable how much annoyance this issue will create when winters actually arrive.

For now, we will have to wait and see if Apple will choose to respond to the issue.

Apple iPhone 7

Apple iPhone 7

Display

4.70-inch

Processor

quad-core

Front Camera

7-megapixel

Resolution

750×1334 pixels

RAM

2GB

OS

iOS 10

Storage

32GB

Rear Camera

12-megapixel

Battery capacity

1960mAh

 

Android Nougat May Soon Get a Navigation Bar Customiser

Android Nougat May Soon Get a Navigation Bar Customiser

  • Navigation bar customiser was enabled in Nougat by a tipster
  • Customiser allows you to add, remove, and move icons from bar
  • The code for the option was removed one month after its introduction

As per information provided by tipsters, Google seems to be working on a navigation bar customiser (or navbar customiser), which will enable you to apply certain tweaks to the current on-screen navigation buttons with Home, Back and Recent options. The feature is expected to be currently hidden inside the code of Android 7.0 Nougat.

The code for navigation bar customiser was introduced to Android as a code commit on January 22, but thenremoved more than a month later on February 24 as the feature was not ready, as per the updates mentioned on code repository site GitHub.

The customisation option is expected to be added to Google’s System UI Tuner, which was introduced with Android 6.0 Marshmallow’s early build. System UI Tuner has essentially provided developers with various tweak options over the time like removing various icons from status bar to help them take screenshots or videos of their apps.

A tipster for Android Police managed to re-enable the navigation bar customiser by modding the SystemUI, and has sent website the screenshots and a description of each navigation bar modifier. According to the information provided by the tipster, “all the standard buttons on the navbar are removable, and new ones can be added at will.”

As per the tipster, the new items available for use include a clipboard button, a button to which any keyboard function can be assigned, a spacer, and a switch button for menu/keyboard. Further there are icons like double-headed arrow, a cross and an icon with two horizontal lines. These icons resize, delete and move the icons on navigation bar.

The clipboard option reportedly doesn’t work as of now and it is not clear if these options have anything to do with the fancy home-button linked with Google Assistant, the company’s upcoming virtual assistant, or the rumoured Nexus Launcher, which was leaked earlier. Therefore, nothing can be said with certainty. However, if the company does launch this feature eventually with an Android Nougat update, it will give an a interesting customisation option that is likely to be cherished by many.

Notably, the tipster has also uploaded a flashable zip file on XDA Developers for those who want to try out the feature on a Nexus 6P running Android 7.0 Nougat. If you intend to try it out, bear in mind you’ll need a custom recovery option, and should ideally backup your data in case something goes wrong.

 

Honor Reveals Phones Set to Get Android 6.0 Marshmallow Update in February

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Wondering when your Honor handset will get the Android 6.0 Marshmallow update? If your handset is one of the five named – then early next year. Honor India has announced that it will be rolling out Android 6.0 Marshmallow software version in the country to a range of its handsets beginning February 2016.

Honor India noted that the Honor 4C, Honor 6 Plus, Honor 7, Honor 6, and Honor 4X users in the country will be receiving the impending software version. Considering how much time smartphone manufacturers have taken in the past to roll out the new Android software to their handsets, Honor India’s current rollout timeline is impressive, however, those who were expecting it sooner might be disappointed.

Parent company Huawei recently announced on its Weibo channel that many of its handsets including the Ascend P8, Ascend P8max, Mate S, Mate 7, Ascend G7, Ascend G7 Plus, and Ascend G8 will begin receiving the update in China starting November.

Separately, a report citing Huawei marketing executive Xi Zhao said that the company plans to beta test Android 6.0 on at least one of its device before releasing the stable version of Android 6.0. Zhao said that the Honor 7 users should expect to see a beta test for Android 6.0 Marshmallow in a few weeks.

It will be interesting to see the company’s take on Emotion UI, its user interface for Android handsets. Many users have previously requested the company to tone down on customisation and apps that it bakes in its lineup of smartphones and tablets.

The company is also set to launch a high-end handset, probably the Huawei Mate 8, this month. The company has started teasing the launch of the Mate 8 for November 26. The handset is rumoured to have company’s own high-end handset Kirin 950.

LG Top OEM for Issuing Security Patches to Its Android Devices

In the light of the recent Stagefright vulnerabilities for Android, a report states that out of all the OEMsLG is best at offering security updates for its devices. The University of Cambridge, UK has released a research paper defining FUM (Free Update Mean) scores, based on which different OEMs including LG have been ranked.

As per the researchers, FUM scores include three segments – the proportion of devices free from vulnerabilities over time, the proportion of devices that run the updated version of Android, and the mean number of vulnerabilities the manufacturer has not fixed on the device.

Based on FUM scores published at Android Vulnerabilities website, LG is on top with the score of 4.0, followed by Motorola (3.1), Samsung (2.7), Sony (2.5), HTC (2.5), Asus (2.4), Alps (0.7), and worst being Symphony and Walton at 0.3. While this was for OEMs, Google’s own Nexus devices remain ahead of the game at 5.2 FUM score.

The University of Cambridge research paper however, has added that about 87 percent of all the Android smartphones are exposed to at least one of the known vulnerabilities. The average Android smartphone receives 1.26 security updates each year, something which contradicts the per month update OEMs promised couple of months ago when the Stagefright vulnerability came into spotlight – of course, with the more frequent rollout promised, this may change soon.

The study also puts the recent comment made by the HTC USA President Jason Mackenzie in new light. Mackenzie last week tweeted that pushing out monthly security updates to all the HTC smartphones is ‘unrealistic’.

For those unaware, LG, Google and Samsung in August promised monthly updates to fix the Stagefright vulnerability in all their smartphones. Sony, Motorola, and OnePlus and other companies have also rolled out updates.

While the companies are still rolling out the Stagefright vulnerability fix to devices, security experts earlier this month found a new Stagefright 2.0 vulnerability as well. The newer version of the bug can also affect devices running OS versions below Android 5.1 Lollipop. Unlike the previous Stagefright bug, the Stagefright 2.0 can enter any device in the form of mp3 or mp4 file instead of a MMS text.

Sony Concept For Android Marshmallow Edition Now Available

sony concept for android

Sony has announced that it is expanding its Sony Concept for Android program, the company is releasing a new version of the software for Android Marshmallow and opening up the program to more countries.

Sony Concept for Android Marshmallow will be available for 10,000 people to try out, in order to qualify to test the software you need either a Sony Xperia Z3 or Xperia Z3 Compact and need to live in one of the countries that the program has been expanded to.

If you live in the UK, Sweden, Ireland, Germany, Denmark, Finland, Norway, Iceland, Estonia, Latvia or Lithuania, you can sign up to the program.

The software is built on some of the key feedback from our first “Concept for Android” – the users helped us create an experience built on the fundamentals of: prolonged battery life, smooth and fast performance, sleek user interface, Sony apps and experiences and frequent, timely updates. We’ve included all of that here and also hope to road test a few new Sony experiences along the way…

You can find out more details about the Sony Concept for Android Marshmallow at the link below, the first 10,000 people who sign up to the program will be able to test the software.

Android One Users Start Receiving Android 6.0 Marshmallow OTA Updates

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Google, while announcing the rollout of its Android 6.0 Marshmallow to Nexus devices, also added that it would be reaching Android One devices as well. The search giant had promised to keep its Android One handsets a priority for OS updates, and it seems to be making good on its word, with users reporting the rollout of the OTA update.

Android One users should soon start receiving the Android 6.0 Marshmallow OTA update, with several users globally reporting having received it. While Google has not yet given a particular time-frame for the Android One Marshmallow update rollout, users who want to jump the gun and upgrade before the OTA rollout hits their region, XDA Developers forum has the OTA update files for some handsets, including the Micromax Canvas A1 and Karbonn Sparkle V. The update is said to bring the device to build number MRA58M.

Google earlier this week released the factory images of the latest version of its mobile operating system for a handful of Nexus devices – Nexus 6, Nexus 5, Nexus 9 Wi-Fi, Nexus 9 Cellular, Nexus 7 (2013) Wi-Fi, Nexus 7 (2013) Cellular, and Nexus Player. These factory images would require you to flash your device (manually install the software update), and you will need to follow simple instructions. OTA updates have also started rolling out.

Tech companies such as HTC, Sony, and Motorola have also detailed their plans for the Android 6.0 Marshmallow roll out. Separately, a leaked roadmap for a large range of Android OEMs made its way to the Internet earlier this week, tipping update details for manufacturers like Samsung, Asus, Huawei,OnePlus, and Xiaomi.

Google Translate Powers In-App Translations in Android 6.0 Marshmallow

Google has announced that it will enable in-app translations via its Google Translate app for Android 6.0 Marshmallow. The company has announced that the users on the latest OS beginning this week will be able to translate in 90 languages right within any app.

The new feature will allow users to translate a piece of text in a different language via use of Androidtext selection which will now show ‘Translate’ option in addition to regular options such as Copy, Share, and Select All. With this new in-app translation feature, Android 6.0 Marshmallow users running the latest Google Translate app will be able to translate right from within any app.

Announcing the news, Barak Turovsky, Product Lead, Google Translate adds that Android apps that use Android text selection will automatically have this feature enabled. For developers that enabled custom text selection behavior for their apps, Turovsky has detailed some steps to add the feature. He stresses that adding the translation option to apps text selection menu if Android text selection behaviour is not default is easy and takes just a few extra lines of code.

Android 6.0 Marshmallow users however have to make sure that when a user is composing a text to translate, the app should keep the selection when the Translate app is triggered.

The company in a blog post also claimed that the Google Translate app is now being used by over 500 million people every month and translating more than 100 billion words every day.

Sharp’s RoBoHoN Is an Android Smartphone That Is Also a Cute Robot

Smartphones are becoming less interesting. The features that companies continue to add to their handsets – however exciting – are also becoming predictable. Japanese company Sharp is aware of it, which is why it has made a phone called RoBoHoN that, hold your drumsticks, is also a robot.

The RoBoHoN comes with a camera, a projector, a mic and an LCD screen which is incorporated on its back. It also comes with a facial and voice recognition system. Unlike toy robots that can only move back and forth, RoBoHoN offers many more capabilities.

That’s one part of it, the visible part. The RoBoHoN can also make phone calls. In fact, it would let you know when there’s a phone call. “Hey, there’s a call for you,” it notified in a demonstration. When you want to take the phone call, RoBoHoN quickly stretches it out to make it convenient to hold it.

It understands voice commands. You can ask it to place a phone call to someone and it would do that. It runs Android (what appears to be the Lollipop version, as seen in the embedded video below) and supports 3G and 4G LTE connectivity options.

The other part of the RoBoHoN is decidedly more exciting. It can walk, dance, and sit around like a pet and make its eyelids emit light. It can also take pictures for you, which you can browse on its LCD display.

The company says that it would launch RoBoHoN next year, and share more information about the gadget in the coming months.

Android 6.0 Marshmallow Update Roadmap for Several Manufacturers Leaked

Several handset manufacturers have started announcing their Android 6.0 Marshmallow update rollout plan for devices. HTC, Motorola, and LG have already detailed Android 6.0 Marshmallow update rollout.

Now, a new list of devices has been leaked on the Internet claiming to reveal Android 6.0 Marshmallow update plans from several companies. The leaked list first reported by My Drivers shows several high-end smartphones likely to receive the new Android OS. The leaked list claims that the devices may receive the Android 6.0 Marshmallow update in two batches and included devices from companies such as Samsung, Sony, Asus, Huawei, OnePlus, and Xiaomi among others.

Samsung is said to roll out the Android 6.0 Marshmallow update for its Galaxy Note 5, Galaxy S6 Edge+,Galaxy S6, Galaxy S6 Edge, Galaxy Note 4, Galaxy Alpha, Galaxy S5, Galaxy A7, and Galaxy A8 in the first phase. This will be followed by a second phase of roll out that includes devices such as the Galaxy A5,Galaxy A3, and the Galaxy E-series. Sony is expected to start rolling out the Android 6.0 Marshmallow update to its Xperia M5, Xperia C5 Ultra, Xperia Z3+ (or Xperia Z4), Xperia Z3, Xperia Z3v, Xperia Z3 Compact, Xperia Z2, and Xperia Z Ultra Google Play Edition. The Japanese manufacturer is likely to roll out the latest Android OS update to its Xperia Z1 in second phase.

Asus will start the Android 6.0 Marshmallow update with its ZenFone 2 series including the ZenFone 2 Laser, ZenFone 2 Deluxe, and ZenFone Selfie. The Taiwanese manufacture will bring the Android 6.0 Marshmallow update to ZenFone 4, ZenFone 5, and ZenFone 6 in second phase.

OnePlus will roll out the update to both its One and OnePlus 2 smartphones via new builds of OxygenOS or HydrogenOS. Huawei is expected to start rolling out Android 6.0 Marshmallow update toAscend P8, Mate 7, and Honor 6 Plus.

Xiaomi also has a big list of devices expected to receive the Android 6.0 Marshmallow update including the Mi 4, Mi 4i, Mi Note, Mi Note Pro, Redmi Note 2, Redmi 2, and Redmi 2 Prime. The second phase of roll out will bring the new OS update to Redmi Note and Redmi 1S.

LG may have ‘seemingly’ confirmed that G3 and G4 smartphones will be receiving Android 6.0 Marshmallow update; though the leaked list claim that there are more smartphones likely to receive the update. It includes LG G Flex2 in first phase, and G2, G2 Pro, and G Flex smartphones in the second phase. iberry Auxus Prime P8000 is also claimed to receive the Android 6.0 Marshmallow update.

Google on Monday released the factory images of the latest version of its mobile operating system for a handful of Nexus devices – Nexus 6, Nexus 5, Nexus 9, Nexus 9 LTE, Nexus 7 (2013), Nexus 7 (2013) 3G, and Nexus Player – and announced the OTA rollout had begun.