What’s new in tech
Repression? There’s an app for that
Apple and Google are facing calls to shut down an app that allows men in Saudi Arabia to track and control the movements of their wives and daughters, said Mike Snider in USA Today. Absher, which is listed in Apple’s app store and the Google Play store, “lets men specify where women can go and how long women can travel and get alerts when movements go beyond that.” Created by the Saudi government, Absher is used for a range of services from motor vehicle registration to passport renewals—and by male “guardians” for monitoring women’s travel and passport use. A Saudi woman recently stole her family’s smartphones in order to escape from her relatives, because the Absher app could have allowed them to track her.
Amazon’s smart-home base
Amazon is getting serious “about rounding out its smart-home hardware offerings,” said Lauren Goode in Wired.com. The tech giant last week agreed to buy Eero, maker of Wi-Fi routers—devices that distribute Wi-Fi signals around your home—for an undisclosed price. Amazon’s roster of devices now includes “multiple speakers, TV streaming boxes and sticks, connected television sets, countertop displays, a wall clock, and a DVR.” It has also strategically acquired companies such as Blink and Ring, which make smart cameras and doorbells. Because Eero’s router system uses multiple devices placed around the home, it can continuously “spit out data” on how connected devices are performing, a boon for companies such as Amazon that need them to work seamlessly together.
The Federal Trade Commission revealed last week that online romance scams bilked Americans of $143 million, making them the costliest of all consumer frauds in 2018, said Adi Robertson in TheVerge.com. “These schemes exploit some very basic emotional vulnerabilities, and it’s hard to perfectly secure the human heart.” The median loss was $2,600 but rose to $10,000 among people age 70 and older. Technology has made such scams easier; often the scammer poses as an American living in a far-flung locale, such as Afghanistan—someplace difficult to call. After the scammers establish contact, they make up a financial emergency. In one case study from the cybersecurity firm Agari, a Texas man spent $50,000 during a relationship with someone posing as an American model living in Paris.