What’s new in tech
Hacked by a toddler
A 3-year-old boy disabled his father’s iPad until 2067 by repeatedly entering the wrong password, said Doug Criss in CNN.com. Evan Osnos, a staff writer at The New Yorker, sent out a tweet asking for help along with a photo of his disabled Apple tablet. The message on the screen seemed too far-fetched to be true: “Try again in 25,536,442 minutes.” That’s more than 48 years. Apple has a security feature that locks a device after a wrong password, and “the more times an incorrect password is entered, the longer the lockout time grows.” The company says that users with this problem can restore an iPhone or iPad, but the process will erase all the data—bad news if it hasn’t been backed up.
Grieving on Facebook
Facebook said a new system should help prevent you from getting notifications of dead friends’ birthdays, said Mihir Zaveri in The New York Times. Typically, after someone dies, a friend or family member can request that the deceased’s profile be deactivated or “memorialized,” which turns the account into a place “where people can post tributes or see posts from when that person was still alive.” But until a page is memorialized or turned off, the accounts will keep sending birthday reminders and other suggestions. Facebook said the new AI-driven system will be better at identifying pages of deceased users. The move is among several “aimed at easing users’ grief,” which also include placing a tributes section on memorialized pages and giving legacy contacts more control of those profiles.
Alexa, who’s listening in?
Amazon employs thousands of people who listen to voice recordings captured by its Echo speakers, said Matt Day in Bloomberg.com. That means anytime you ask “Alexa” for something, a live human might listen to your request. “The recordings are transcribed, annotated, and then fed back into the software” to help improve Alexa’s speech recognition. But it raises privacy and ethical questions. Two workers “said they picked up what they believe was a sexual assault” and were told by managers not to interfere. Another picked up “a woman singing badly in the shower.” The recordings don’t show the user’s full names or addresses, but they are associated with a user’s first name, account number, and device serial number. Alexa’s privacy settings do include an option to “disable the usage of voice recordings for the development of new features.”