Good Monday morning. It’s June 17th. Collaboration software service Slack goes public on Thursday. There are 10 million daily users active on Slack and 30% of them are paying a base rate of more than $6 per month.

1. News to Know Now

  • Breaking Sunday – Lyrics site Genius is accusing Google of copying its lyrics transcriptions without credit and displaying them directly on Google. The company says it uses curved and straight apostrophes to create a Morse Code Message that reads “red-handed”. Read the story at Engadget.

  • Pre-screening videos isn’t viable for YouTube, says president Susan Wojcicki to a Code conference audience. Hundreds of hours of video are uploaded to YouTube every minute.

  • Tech data guru Mary Meeker shared with the same crowd her latest updated Internet trends report.  A number that defines our society: 25% of Americans are online 24/7.  The whole thing is 333 slides. Mary presented it in 30 minutes so here are the slides to look at using your own speed settings.

2. Deepfakes

Let’s define the term deepfakes now since there are now 6.1 million Google News entries using the term.

Deepfakes are computer-generated creations of audio, video, or even text that uses machine learning to create a realistic copy.

Movie special effects are a great example of deepfakes. 

Futurists have warned about the effective way deepfakes can spread disinformation. Think back to something outrageous you’ve read. Maybe you’ve looked for a video that corroborates or disproves what you’ve read. If Russian-sponsored posts on Facebook were disruptive to U.S. elections, think about the effect of a video showing a major party presidential candidate saying something controversial. 

To prove the point, here are the latest deepfakes being passed around the Internet. Both feature comedian Bill Hader, a gifted impressionist. As he talks like Arnold Schwarzenegger and Al Pacino in the clip below, his face subtly shifts to become the actor he is impersonating. Yet the clip could have simply started with the actor’s image.

The video’s creator, who is using entertainment videos like this and from movies like The Terminator and A Knight’s Tale, expresses concern that many commenters don’t even realize that the video has been altered.

3.  Security Issues Accelerate

Baltimore city officials were quietly breathing a sigh of relief this week, more than thirty days after a crippling ransomware attack devastated the city’s IT structure. Recriminations aside, Baltimore is still in trouble. Officials say that residents won’t receive utility bills for the second straight month and that 25% of employees are still without email accounts. Meanwhile, home sales are down and the city faces months of cyber-recovery efforts.

The National Security Agency (NSA) denies that software stolen in a 2017 hack of the agency helped spawn the attack despite reporting in The New York Times that suggests otherwise. The NSA did issue a cybersecurity advisory that advised all Microsoft Windows 7 and XP users to patch their computer systems.

We told you about Microsoft’s warnings regarding this issue on May 20th and June 3rd. Short version: legacy applications run in many organizations might not work with patched software so some IT units don’t always patch the software. That’s the human vulnerability that the NSA tools and other hacking tools exploit. And that’s why something created two years ago completely stopped Baltimore’s tech infrastructure.

Apple’s mobile operating system may also be compromised. Israeli security firm Cellebrite announced this week that it will work with law enforcement to “unlock and extract data from” any iOS device according to Digital Trends. Government and law enforcement officials continue to demand access to devices as part of their investigative authority. Apple has famously rebuffed those requests in the past, making the ability to hack an iPhone lucrative work. Supply chain holes also allowed banking malware to be installed on new versions of Android installed on mobile devices. Forbes has coverage.

4. In the Spotlight

  • Shaking your mobile device (gently,  please) while using the Facebook application can now be used to access the company’s bug reporting form. All device types, including Android, are being rolled out now and everyone is opted in although they can disable the feature. (Engadget)

  • Children’s advertisers are shifting their purchases from YouTube according to Axios coverage of a PwC report. Remember that  YouTube’s rules do not allow children under the age of 13 to have accounts and that the site is not intended for unsupervised use by children. Instead, let your little ones watch YouTube Kids.

5. Protip: Chrome Remote Desktop Updated 

Chrome Remote Desktop is now officially out of beta and available FREE online. Point your browser to the new website to either get an access code for someone to use to access your computer or to enter the access code someone else has generated for you.

Those of you running the unofficial help desk in your social circle will rejoice at this news. But it’s SO EASY to use. Less easy–cleanup of your friend’s attempt to partition a hidden hard drive.

6. Great Data: Bill Gates Picks 10 Technologies

Although people probably (hopefully) stopped calling Bill Gates for tech support some time ago, he still keeps up on technology.  After MIT Technology Review asked Gates to curate this year’s list of the top technology innovations, the smart data people at Visual Capitalist turned his picks into a spiffy infographic.

Great medical and energy breakthroughs to go please.

7. Food for Thought: Employee Phishing Attack

In the wake of the Baltimore tech catastrophe and news about security breaches every day, Brian Krebs raises a great question:  should failing a phishing test be grounds for termination?

White House personnel including Anthony Scaramucci and then-Homeland Security Advisor Tom Bossert famously fell for phishing emails pretending to be from Reince Priebus and Jared Kushner. So did the CEO of Goldman Sachs and bankers from Citigroup and Barclays.

Read Krebs’ intro and then have the debate at your office.

P.S. I hope that you’ll do this. If you do, drop me a line and let me know privately or on the record. I would love to hear what you come up with.

8.  Coffee Break

Kudos to the Pakistani government initiative to livestream a meeting, but maybe leave out the cat filters next time. A government official blamed the feline filter on human error by a hardworking volunteer which completely exonerates the canine population. 

Have a look at the strange cat-men.

Good Monday morning. It’s June 3rd. The week-long Apple WWDC Developer Conference starts today. That’s when we expect confirmation of breaking news all weekend that Apple will discontinue once-dominant music retailer iTunes.

Today’s Spotlight takes about 4 minutes to read

1. News to Know Now

  • Google and sister site YouTube were among the high profile websites and services that came to a screeching halt Sunday afternoon. Google Cloud customers like PayPal, Target, and Apple also reported outages that lasted several hours.
  • Facebook attorney Orin Snyder argued that the company can’t violate a user’s privacy rights because no “reasonable expectation of privacy” exists on social media according to reporting from Law360.
  • Amazon and Google antitrust investigations are reportedly being launched by the FTC and Justice Department respectively according to the New York Times. We’re doing a deep dive for readers on new initiatives at both companies so that you’re up-to-speed if the government probes are launched. This week: Google with an in-depth analysis of Amazon next week.

2. Google’s Mobile World Has New Goodies

Google pivoted to mobile perhaps better than any tech company not named Apple. Blackberry maker RIM generated $20 billion in revenue just eight years ago and still brings in about a billion in revenue each year. But the near-ubiquitous devices have been replaced by devices running Apple’s iOS and Google’s Android. 

Google launched Android as an operating system in 2008, which coincidentally or not, is the year that Blackberry revenue doubled to $6 billion. Even today, it’s Android devices that give Google parent Alphabet a significant growth engine for the future

The search engine division is paying attention. Last month the company confirmed that all new website domains would have their mobile pages indexed beginning July 1. That’s a big change for all new websites. Simply put: the search engine will care what your website looks like on mobile devices instead of desktop computers. The statement is a clarion call that the company cares most about mobile and why Google antitrust violations seem like a familiar refrain to anyone who lived through Microsoft’s similar problems twenty years ago.

Google effectively dragged the entire tech community to mobile by first rewarding, then suggesting, and now mandating that how companies display information on mobile will affect their performance in the search engine.

Two weeks ago, Google changed the look of its mobile search results, a change they referred to as “a mobile refresh”. Website names and icons are emphasized, the actual URL (address) is de-emphasized. Ads have bigger, darker labels, and there are more ways to interact on search without going to websites. That’s probably a thing that most users intuitively want.

There are also times that Google takes action that users may not want.  Google announced this week that free (non-paying) customers of its Google Chrome browser will not be able to use third-party ad blocking extensions in the future.Their own blocking software will handle the tasks, says the company, and they’ll work with developers to “get feedback”. 

Google Home products known now as Google Nest were also slated to stop working with third-party devices and programs. The company retreated from that decision after blowback from consumers, the tech community, and retail partners.

Our view: Alphabet and Google offer a lot of consumer products at no cost and have destroyed the consumer market’s ability to charge for browser software, email, and basic office suite software. We expect that the search engine and advertising divisions will get the most antitrust attention. The company also has burgeoning products in home and commercial devices, cloud services, and operating systems that will undoubtedly interest regulatory officials. 

3. In the Spotlight

  • Flipboard and Canva announced security breaches this week. Flipboard is a popular mobile app that provides news coverage in visual form. Canva provides photo and image tools. (Flipboard announcement and Canva announcement)
  • We told you about Microsoft Windows upgrade issues last issue. If you use any Windows operating system other than Windows 8.x or 10.x, you need to read the official announcement that was posted Thursday. Key sentence: “Microsoft is confident that an exploit exists for this vulnerability.”  Read the whole thing. 
  • Twitter will now allow users to livestream videos with up to three different participating accounts. Someone at Twitter apparently saw Facebook and YouTube excoriated for live videos on their sites and thought joining the non-revenue generating fun was sound strategy. Meanwhile, streaming service and Amazon subsidiary Twitch removed the ability to stream live video for all new accounts for a three day period after abuses on that site.

4. Protip: Stopping Website Notifications in Chrome

“Can We Send You Notices About This Stuff” is what some websites ask of all users. The acceptance rate is small, the churn rate is through the roof and the entire process slows down your browser.

The lovely folks at ZDNet have posted a simple step-by-step primer for stopping all sites from sending notification requests when you’re using Google Chrome as your browser (60% worldwide says the most recent data).

Block those popups.

5. Great Data

Ever have so much data to share but had to send multiple charts or tables to make it all understandable?  In “Household Middle Income in Each State”, Dr. Nathan Yau allows users to select the number of people in a household and then sorts the chart data onscreen based on the results. 

The visualization is effective and allows viewers to settle in and understand the data. Don’t shrug it off. He took a big range for each state and D.C., graphed it, sorted it, and then does it again without the user doing anything more than clicking a button to change the household size. That’s 255 data ranges, neatly shown and understandable.

Storytelling with Numbers done well.

6. Coffee Break

You know those blazing-fast scenes in movies and on TV when the hacker hero types with clack-clack-clacks and the screen fills with what looks like gibberish?  Well, it often is gibberish. Just point your web browser to and smash away on your keyboard to look like you’re doing the same. (Hint: the ads along the bottom of the screen are real.)

If we can just change the trajectory in time…

Good Monday morning. It’s May 20th. Memorial Day is next Monday. The next issue of Spotlight will be in two weeks on Monday, June 3rd. 

Today’s Spotlight takes about 3 minutes to read.

1. News to Know Now

  • Breaking news on Sunday that Google has cut ties with Huawei according to Reuters. That means existing Huawei devices lose access to updates of Google applications and new devices cannot use officially licensed versions of Android. The move was reportedly made after the Trump administration added Huawei to a technology blacklist.
  • Intuit continues reeling from the fallout over claims that it redirected taxpayers earning less than $66,000 a year away from the free service it partners with the IRS to provide. At least one class-action lawsuit has been filed.
  • Google, Facebook, and Twitter have signed on to The Christchurch Call to Action. Nine countries have also adopted the document, although the United States is not one. You can read more about the initiative designed to curtail extreme online posting at The New Zealand Herald.

2.  Big Security Issues Looming

Microsoft released a patch for Windows XP last week. But wait, I can hear you thinking. Microsoft stopped supporting XP back in 2014. It’s 18 years old! And yes, you’re correct, which should suggest how bad an unpatched system can get hammered by this ransomware virus. If you don’t have IT specialists, get some. If you simply can’t, make sure that any systems that are running old legacy software aren’t also running Windows XP or Windows 7. If they are, you need to patch them. Windows 8.x and 10.x are not affected. Crazy stat of the day: 1.5% of PCs still run Windows XP according to StatCounter. Others suggest more. That’s millions of computers, folks. 

Google’s Titan physical security key also was found to have an exploitable flaw. The problem stems from its connection to a system via Bluetooth instead of being inserted into a USB port. Google says that someone within 30 feet of the security key can communicate with the key itself or the device that it’s protecting. That limits attacks to close physical proximity but still. Google is replacing the keys for free. If you bought one, head to this replacement page.

Google’s more surprising news was that any receipts emailed to your Gmail-based account have been used to create a page on your Google account that lists all of the details for everything you’ve bought online.

I spent some time last week reviewing seven years of my purchases and twelve years of travel information–everything from pizza toppings and the time the pie was ordered to my family’s groceries, our clothing (complete with colors and sizes) to over-the-counter medicines and books about health conditions or other things that I normally wouldn’t want gathered in one place. This was all courtesy of Google purchase tracking–a program that creates a page based on data extracted from any receipt that arrives via Gmail. Conservatively, there are around 400 orders with several thousand items.

Click this link to view your purchase history tied to your Google account.

The data even populates if you forward multiple emails into one big email account. The only time that I found it didn’t populate is if an order was placed on my work email, which is commercial-grade Gmail and probably blocked from overtly gathering that data.

The only way to delete the information is to delete the receipts in your email. Then you can go to your account preferences (click here) and under “Private Results” select the option that reads “Do not use private results”. Even if you delete the data from your account, you must understand that you likely won’t remove Google’s access to that data which is undoubtedly stored on their systems.

Before you do all that, have a look at Google using your private search data with these search query commands. Simply log into Google’s main search page at, make sure you’re signed in to your account, and type one of these commands.

  • my packages
  • my reservations
  • my events
  • my flights
  • my photos
  • oh yes, and my bills

3. Also In the Spotlight

  • Amazon started selling tiny homes–little $7K sheds with a bedroom (no bath) and outside area for your backyard. Then they sold out.  (Real Deal Real Estate News)
  • Quora, the annoying question-and-answer bazaar, is closing a $60 million round that values the company at $2 billion, and I just can’t anymore. (Vox)
  • MailChimp finally unveiled their integrated marketing platform that includes a lot of what has been offered piecemeal: landing pages, Facebook advertising, postcards, etc. Existing customer pricing stays intact (thanks!). Their revenue projection is $700 million from 11 million active customers. (TechCrunch)

4. Protip: Google Sheets New Features

Google Sheets, their Suites spreadsheet entrant, has two nifty new functions:  remove duplicates and trim white space.  Both put Sheets’ usability back into rough parity with Excel. 

Find them in the menu bar under “Data” and just below the always-helpful “Split Text into Columns”.

5. Great Data

Netflix data viz engineer Susie Lu has updated the humble grocery store receipt.  Fast Company covered how she used a mix of bar graphs and bubbles to create better visualizations of what you spent $213 on after running in to the store for bread and two cans of dog food. 

You know this is hardcore when you read, “… the printer could not draw horizontal lines, which meant she had to use various visual tricks at the pixel level to create her bar charts, along with the tiny icons of bread, dairy, and meat that she designed, too.” 

Check the tale of the tape here.

6. Coffee Break

That’s a picture of Sean Tighe, Bernie Waldron, and John Devanney from Bellyhaunis in County Mayo. They were in Times Square recently and asked a lass to take a picture for them. “We’ll find it someday,” they told her.

And so they did after she posted this image on Twitter. Read CNN’s fun story on how it took Irish Twitter all of an hour to identify the men and link them with the person who did a good deed in taking their picture.