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  • Study finds Android shares 20x more data with Google than iOS does with Apple

    A study conducted by a professor of computer science at Trinity College Dublin found that a typical Android handset collects some 20 times more data about its user than a comparable iPhone.

    iPhone 12 Pro Max

    According to researcher Doug Leith, who also serves as Trinity College's chair of computer systems, both iOS and Android continuously collect and send so-called telemetry data back to Apple and Google, respectively, reports ArsTechnica. This information ranges from inserting a SIM card into a smartphone to interacting with hardware and apps.

    Data collection routines might run when a user is not logged, has opted out of data collection in privacy settings and when the handset sits idle. Leith found iOS shares information relating to IMEI, hardware serial number, SIM serial number, phone number, device IDs including UDID and ad ID, location, telemetry, cookies, local IP address and nearby Wi-Fi Mac addresses. Android sends similar data, adding device Wi-Fi MAC address but not tapping a handset's location, local IP address and nearby Wi-Fi Mac addresses.

    What stands out is the amount of information collected, Leith says. According to his research, Android sends about 1MB of data to Google on startup, while iOS sends Apple roughly 42KB. When a handset is idle, Android sends another 1MB every 12 hours, which compares to about 52KB from iOS. In the U.S., Google is estimated to harvest 1.3TB of data from its users every 12 hours, while Apple is sent 5.8GB over the same period.

    Leith measured data collected on first startup following a factory reset, when a SIM was inserted or removed when a handset was idle, when the settings screen was viewed, when location was enabled or disabled and when the user logged in to the preinstalled app store, the report said.

    A Google Pixel 2 running Android 10 was used to measure Android data collection. An unknown iPhone model running iOS 13.6.1 was jailbroken to monitor network connections for the same purpose.

    Google claims Leith's methodology is flawed, adding that data collection is a core function of any connected device. Speaking on background, a spokesperson challenged the experiment's validity, noting it failed to capture data like UDP/QUIC traffic.

    We identified flaws in the researcher's methodology for measuring data volume and disagree with the paper's claims that an Android device shares 20 times more data than an iPhone. According to our research, these findings are off by an order of magnitude, and we shared our methodology concerns with the researcher before publication.

    This research largely outlines how smartphones work. Modern cars regularly send basic data about vehicle components, their safety status and service schedules to car manufacturers, and mobile phones work in very similar ways. This report details those communications, which help ensure that iOS or Android software is up to date, services are working as intended, and that the phone is secure and running efficiently.

    Leith warns that data collection practices are inherently dangerous, no matter the amount of information being passed back home.

    "Currently there are few, if any, realistic options for preventing this data sharing," Leith wrote.
  • Man blames Apple for bitcoin theft by fake app in App Store

    Apple has been blamed for enabling a scam app to steal bitcoin worth $600,000 from a man, by listing the fake app that pretended to be by another company in the App Store.

    Cryptocurrency owner Phillipe Christodoulou discovered an app he had installed on his iPhone was fake in February, when he went to check his savings. The app, which was supposedly a companion app for cryptocurrency storage device producer Treznor, turned out to not be associated with the firm at all.

    The mistake cost the user dearly, with Christodoulou claiming he had lost 17.1 bitcoin, which was valued at $600,000 at the time, reports the Washington Post. The app was fake, and had effectively handed over the cryptocurrency to scammers.

    The app was listed in the App Store under the Treznor brand, though the company doesn't produce apps for its hardware wallets. Instead, thieves created the app and hosted it on the App Store in January in a bid to steal funds.

    Checking the Treznor wallet showed there were no funds stored on it at all.

    According to Christodoulou, the app was listed as having close to five stars on its reviews, which helped him trust the app enough to download it. Since the event, he is no longer happy with the company, which he noted as reviewing apps before they appear in the App Store in the first place.

    "They betrayed the trust that I had in them," said Christodoulou. "Apple doesn't deserve to get away with this."

    According to Apple, the app made it into the App Store by changing its purpose after getting into the store. The app was presented as a "cryptography" app for review, and that it "is not involved in any cryptocurrency," allowing it to appear in the App Store from January 22.

    At a later time, the app changed purpose into a cryptocurrency wallet, a move that Apple doesn't allow. After being informed by Treznor about the fake app, Apple pulled it and banned the developer, but it was swiftly followed up by another Treznor app hitting the App Store.

    While Apple did initially ban cryptowallets from the App Store, it allowed them in 2014, while also placing many restrictions on how the apps functioned. There are now many ways to buy cryptocurrencies from an iPhone and other Apple hardware,

    "User trust is at the foundation of why we created the App Store, and we have only deepened that commitment in the years since," said Apple spokesman Fred Sainz. "In the limited instances when criminals defraud our users, we take swift action against these actors as well as to prevent similar violations in the future."

    Apple said it removed some 6,500 apps from the App Store in 2020 for having "hidden or undocumented features," many of which were scam apps.

    Christodoulou isn't the only one to have been affected by the scam, with Coinfirm claiming five people have reported thefts via the iOS app totaling $1.6 million. Fake Treznor apps on Android are also thought to have stolen a total of $600,000.

    Scam apps and other bad actors are continuing to be an issue for online storefronts like the App Store. So-called "fleeceware" on iOS and Android that rely on high subscription fees have cost consumers more than $400 million, research from Avast claimed in March, but while they are morally questionable, they're technically legal.

    Developers have also complained about scam apps that attempt to copy established apps, including marketing videos, but charge users a subscription while not providing all of the promised features. The complaints include how the apps are manipulating App Store reviews to get high scores, with fake praise cancelling out negative complaints.
  • Job application sheet signed by Steve Jobs sells at auction for $222,394

    A signed job application filled out by late Apple co-founder and CEO Steve Jobs has sold at auction for about $222,000.

    Credit: Charterfields
    Credit: Charterfields

    The rare piece of Apple memorabilia consisted of a single sheet of paper filled out by Jobs in 1973, predating his joining of Atari the following year and the founding of Apple Computer with Steve Wozniak in 1976. It's believed to have been filled out around the time Jobs dropped out of Reed College in Portland, Oregon.

    It sold at auction from Charterfields on Wednesday. The "hammer price" was 162,000 British pounds, which is roughly $222,394.57 in U.S. dollars.

    In the job application sheet, Jobs listed his interests of "electronics tech or design engineer - digital," though he left the past employment lines empty. He also listed his answer to "access to transportation?" as "possible, but not probable."

    Back in 2018, the exact same sheet of paper was sold to an "internet entrepreneur from London" for $174,757.

    Steve Jobs memorabilia items typically fetch a high price on the auction block. In 2020, a Fortune magazine signed by Jobs went up for auction at a minimum bid of $11,000.
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  • Firefox 87 introduces new SmartBlock tracker blocking mechanism

    Beyond bug fixes, Mozilla's latest update to the Firefox browser is designed to fix websites broken by tracker blocking.

    Firefox 87 launches, introduces new SmartBlock tracker blocking mechanism

    Firefox 87 launched on Tuesday, and with it brought a new feature that Mozilla is calling "SmartBlock," which will activate when operating in Private Browsing and Strict Tracking Protection Modes.

    For many websites, when third-party trackers are disabled, crucial parts of the page break. This includes everything from images not appearing, features not working, forms not submitting, or entire pages failing to load.

    SmartBlock was designed to answer this problem. The company states that it "fixes up web pages that are broken by our tracking protections, without compromising user privacy."

    Firefox accomplishes this by providing local stand-ins for the blocked content, which behave similarly to the blocked content. The stand-ins are bundled with Firefox and not loaded from third-party sites, so user privacy remains uncompromised.

    Mozilla states that SmartBlock will replace common scripts classified as trackers on the Disconnect Tracking Protection List, and that users should see improvement in website functionality and reduced loading times.

    In December, Firefox released Firefox 84, which added native support for Apple Silicon.
  • Classical musicians review AirPods Max

    Sometimes forgotten in consumer headphone reviews are the folks that make music to be heard through them. We've asked three professional musicians for their impressions of the AirPods Max as they listen to their favorite classical works.

    Musicians from the Imperial Symphony Orchestra

    Reviews of Apple's AirPods Max headphones have been largely positive, both from audiophiles and tech reviewers alike. While their sound and noise cancellation features rank high among headphones in their price range, we wanted to investigate if orchestral musicians would confirm their quality.

    AppleInsider partnered with the Imperial Symphony, a professional orchestra found in Lakeland, Florida to interview three of their musicians and get their impressions of the AirPods Max. Joining us in the video is Whitney Robles, Principal Flute of the orchestra, Lorenzo Sanchez on Viola, and Jennifer Stahl -- Principal Oboe.

    Each musician chose two of their favorite classical pieces to listen on Apple's headphones. Whitney Robles chose "Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun" by Claude Debussy and "The Planets Suite: Jupiter" by Gustav Holst.

    After listening to these works, Whitney commented that she was able to hear individual instruments, even to the point of hearing each entrance. From low instruments and brass to the highest sound in the orchestra, the piccolo, she was able to hear every detail and articulation.

    Lorenzo Sanchez chose a string quartet by composer Dmitri Shostakovich and a symphony by William Grant Still. Sanchez described the sound as "very clean" and was even able to pick out the viola part distinctly.

    When comparing them to his Sony WH-1000XM4 he prefers the sound adjustment options the Sony offers like EQ, but says the clarity of individual instruments comes through on the AirPods Max.

    Having performed in the Imperial Symphony for 30 years, Jennifer Stahl has plenty of live performance experience. As she listened to "Fanfare for the Common Man" by Aaron Copland, Stahl claimed it sounded as though she were "in the middle of the stage" with musicians "sitting right next to her".

    In their closing thoughts, each described how using AirPods Max may change their listening habits. Whitney Robles claimed that she would have kids listen to orchestral works using these to pick out specific instruments. Given that many orchestras are still unable to perform in-person, these headphones provide a "live performance" feel when listening.

    Jennifer Stahl, while initially surprised at their cost, says they're worth it. She listens to music often at home, but if she had the AirPods Max Stahl says she would listen more often and find greater enjoyment.

    Our thanks to the Imperial Symphony Orchestra and its musicians for collaborating on this classical musician take of the AirPods Max. You can read the full AppleInsider review here and find the latest price guides on our site.

    You can also listen to the classical works used in this video on Apple Music:

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