Bytes: What’s new in tech
Apple to share facial data
Apple is under fire from privacy experts for agreeing to share iPhone X users’ facial data with app developers, said Stephen Nellis in Reuters.com. The new iPhone X’s Face ID feature allows the device to be unlocked through facial recognition, and a handful of new apps—such as Animoji, which lets users animate emoji characters with their own facial expressions— also rely on the feature. Apple has told app developers that they can take certain facial data off the phone to build new apps “as long as they agree to seek customer permission and not sell the data to third parties.” But privacy experts say it is alarming that developers can store the data—including information on “how often users blink, smile, or even raise an eyebrow”—on their own servers, where it could be hacked or misused.
Google cuts access to airfare data
Google is interested in competing with Expedia and Orbitz, said Andrew Hawkins in TheVerge.com. The search giant announced last week that it is shutting off access “to a feed that automates data for airfare search engines” as of April 2018. Travel sites such as CheapTickets.com and Kayak.com have used Google’s QPX Express API service to power their own sites’ information on flight availability. They must now move to alternate services like Fareportal or Skyscanner. Google is currently working on “its own consumerfacing Flights service” and has been integrating consumer-friendly, “cost-saving” features into Google Flights. It acquired QPX Express in 2010, and after much scrutiny the Department of Justice allowed the transaction as long as Google supported a “public-facing” service for five years. “That five years is now up.”
Alexa: Oprah’s new favorite thing
“Alexa is getting its first celebrity voice, and it’s Oprah,” said Sarah Perez in TechCrunch.com. “Before you get too excited, Oprah won’t respond to your day-to-day questions, as Alexa does.” Instead, Winfrey will help Amazon customers buy items from her holidayinspired list of “Favorite Things.” Simply ask Alexa to “shop Oprah’s favorite things,” and the multimedia mogul herself will respond with recommendations of her favorite products, including why she picked the item and an option to purchase it. If you decline to buy, she will move on to the next product on the list. Oprah identified 102 “favorites” this year, including “a Samsung TV, a 25-pack of Julep lipsticks, and waterproof snow boots from Sorel.” ■