Good Monday morning. It’s June 24th. The first official debates of the 2020 presidential campaign start Wednesday night and conclude Thursday. 

Today’s Spotlight takes about 3 minutes to read.

1. News to Know Now

  • Dell is warning owners of its hardware using Windows 10 to download and install its latest updates to stop a software bug that can allow outside users to take over individual machines.
  • Amazon will add 15 planes to its air fleet and have 70 planes flying by 2021. FedEx owns nearly 400 planes and UPS owns 249. Amazon bought its first planes only three years ago, once again living by its “Get Big Fast” motto.
  • Facebook engagement metrics–likes, shares, and comments–is down about 20% since last year’s Cambridge Analytica scandal according to The Guardian.  Facebook says that the number of active users continues increasing, but we’ve also shared that the time users spend on Facebook is decreasing.

2. Consumer Tech & Health

Alexa or Siri might soon alert emergency responders if you’re having a heart attack—without you asking for the call to be made. University of Washington researchers say that many people suffering cardiac arrest breathe in a “disordered gasping sound” that consumer tech devices like voice assistants can differentiate from normal breathing sounds around it. The team trained its algorithm using audio from phone calls to emergency lines and during sleep study tests.  Testing is still underway.  (Digital Trends)

Other researchers want to use what you type to help diagnose medical conditions—even undiagnosed ones. A team from Penn has published a peer-reviewed article that suggests the text Facebook users choose when posting their status updates can predict health conditions. The group identified 21 conditions and found it could accurately, including a 74% rate for diabetes and a 79% rate for pregnancy. The data research looks well done, the statistics are peer-reviewed, and the topic is fascinating. Think about the really great counselors and physicians that you know. Many do this type of analysis mentally while speaking to a patient. The paper is open-sourced and available to read free here.

Google Flu Trends, a project the company launched 11 years ago and shuttered over privacy concerns, was an early attempt at the same type of predictive analysis. Google focused on collective intelligence, not individual analysis. Tens of millions of searches were aggregated and compared to the expected rate of queries about symptoms of influenza illnesses. With its size and its knowledge of where users were communicating from, Google could alert public health officials to new outbreaks. Although the company no longer updates this project, it makes the data available to accredited researchers here.

3.  A Florida City Pays Ransom

We’ve been telling you about digital criminals holding Baltimore’s IT infrastructure hostage. We learned this week that Riviera Beach, Florida is paying hackers using a similar attack about $600,000 to restore access to its data. The county is also spending about $900,000 on new computers and insurance is only covering the first $300K. The end result is that this West Palm Beach suburb will spend about $44 per resident as a result of the attack that started when a police department employee engaged with an email hiding a virus.

4. In the Spotlight

  • Breaking Sunday:  news that Google’s Nest Cam Indoor continues to allow former owners to see images from the new owner’s home even if a factory reset is done. (The Wirecutter)
  • Humanity has not evolved a horn in its spine since the advent of mobile phones despite what hoodwinked editors allowed to be published this week, well, all over. The hoax’s gist: looking down at mobile phones causes a skeletal issue in the neck and spine. Clinicians agree that it can be bad for people, but humanity didn’t manage to evolve in two decades.

Sample headlines deserving your scorn:

Horns are growing on young people’s skulls. Phone use is to blame. – (Boston Globe)

Technology changing our skeletons, may promote ‘horns’ at base of skull in youth – NY Daily News

Smartphones might be to blame for odd bone spikes growing on skulls, study claims – Fox News

Shout out to DC news station WTOP for running the story and immediately questioning the study’s veracity. Few outlets did. And that’s why we need you to read everything with a critical eye. It’s also why we source what we write. 

The “science” was non-existent. The study was based on 1,200 people who were patients at the same chiropractic clinic. And the “study” didn’t measure cell phone usage for any participants. Smithsonian debunked the whole thing.

Confirmation bias always existed, but the ability to forward an article or share a link within seconds makes our society susceptible. Please keep a bookmark handy for a fact-checking site and question everything.

5. Protip: Google Photos and Drive Changing

If you use Google Photos and Google Drive together , the company wants you to know that videos and photos stored on Drive will no longer automatically post to Google Photos. Likewise deleting photos from one will no longer delete the other copy. 

Some of our nonprofit clients use Google Drive and Photos because of the free Nonprofits program and many people use the combination as consumers. Google explains everything that’s coming up at this link.

6. Great Data: UVA’s Racial Digital Map

You’ve seen scatter plots and you’ve seen color-coded maps. But have you seen color-coded scatters where one color-coded dot equals one person? The Demographics Research Group at UVA has a map that shows one color-coded dot for all people. The breakouts are by race: Caucasian, Black, Asian, Hispanic, and other races. 

My Chantilly, Virginia neighborhood is pretty diverse, but one look at the map showed clear concentrations of people of the same race at the street level. 

Hold the explanations for now and explore story-telling via data.

7.  Coffee Break

Remember comedian D.J. Pryor and his conversation with his toddler Kingston that went viral earlier this month?

DJ and Kingston are back in a Denny’s spot for Father’s Day, which is some of the most opportunistic promotion I’ve seen in a while. Good job, Denny’s.  Watch the new dad and Kingston converse about bacon.

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…