EU Deal Will Force iPhones To Use USB-C Charger By 2024

Products from Apple and other smartphone manufacturers will have to use the same charger under a landmark deal provisionally approved by European lawmakers on Tuesday, bringing years of debate to a close and overriding the tech giant’s complaints that such regulation would hamper innovation and harm consumers. 

By Fall 2024, all mobile phones, tablets and cameras sold in the European Union must be equipped with the same USB-C charging port for wired charging, according to a provisional agreement announced by European lawmakers

The requirement—a world first—will apply to a string of devices including smartphones, headphones, e-readers, handheld gaming consoles, portable speakers and tablets “regardless of their manufacturer” and will also ensure charging speed is “harmonized” for devices that support fast charging.

Laptop makers must also comply, though they will have an additional 40 months after the new rules come into force to make the change. 

Thierry Breton, the EU’s Commissioner for the Internal Market, celebrated the new rules as a win for consumers and an important step towards reducing e-waste, according to Bloomberg.

Given the number of electronic devices used every day, having “a common charger” is also “common sense,” Breton added. 

The legislation, which has been negotiated within EU institutions for years, still needs formal approval from the European Parliament and European Council, which it is expected to secure later this year. 

Key Background: The European Union has long sought to standardize electronic charging but for a decade has struggled to overcome the political barriers and opposition needed to do so. Such rules would slash e-waste, save money and be far better for consumers, who the bloc says are “frustrated” with “incompatible chargers piling up.” U.S. tech giant Apple, which has invested in its own “Lightning” connector and resisted moving to the technologies used by other smartphone makers, has been a particularly fierce opponent, arguing that standardization would harm consumers and stifle innovation. 

What To Watch For: Wireless charging. The rules on standardized charger ports only apply to devices using wired charging, the EU said, meaning those only charging wirelessly will not have to include a USB-C port. However, the legislation will also allow the European Commission to develop standards for wireless charging in the future as it becomes more prevalent, according to the press release.

Big Number: $312 million (250 million euros). That’s how much money is wasted every year on unnecessary charger purchases in the EU, according to the European Council. There is also around 11,000 tonnes of waste produced every year from unused or thrown away chargers and cables, the bloc said.

Source: Forbes

Twitter Fined $150 Million By FTC For Alleged User-Privacy Violations

The Federal Trade Commission levied a $150 million fine on Twitter, alleging that the social network let advertisers use private data to target specific users — without informing users of the practice.

According to the agency, Twitter violated a 2011 FTC order that “explicitly prohibited” the company from misrepresenting its privacy and security practices. In addition to the $150 million fine, Twitter is banned from “profiting from its deceptively collected data,” the FTC said.

In August 2020, Twitter disclosed that it expected to face an FTC fine of $150 million to $250 million related to the allegations.

In a blog post, Twitter chief privacy officer Damien Kieran wrote, “Keeping data secure and respecting privacy is something we take extremely seriously, and we have cooperated with the FTC every step of the way. In reaching this settlement, we have paid a $150M USD penalty, and we have aligned with the agency on operational updates and program enhancements to ensure that people’s personal data remains secure and their privacy protected.”

In a statement about the FTC’s fine against Twitter, FTC Chair Lina Khan said, “Twitter obtained data from users on the pretext of harnessing it for security purposes but then ended up also using the data to target users with ads. This practice affected more than 140 million Twitter users, while boosting Twitter’s primary source of revenue.”

According to a complaint filed by the Department of Justice on behalf of the FTC, Twitter in 2013 began asking users to provide either a phone number or email address to enable two-factor authentication, an enhanced form of security (beyond just a password).

From 2014 to 2019, more than 140 million Twitter users provided their phone numbers or email addresses after the company asked for the info, according to the complaint. Twitter, however, “failed to mention that it also would be used for targeted advertising,” allowing marketers to target specific ads to users by matching the information with data they already possessed or obtained from third-party data brokers, the FTC alleged.

Source: Variety

New York City Removes Its Last Payphone From Service In Favor Of High-Speed Wi-Fi Kiosks To Meet Daily Communication Needs

It’s the end of an era: New York City removed its last public payphone on Monday.

The boxy enclosures were once an iconic symbol across the city. But the rise of cellphones made the booths obsolete.

The effort to replace public pay telephones across the city kicked off in 2014 when the de Blasio administration solicited proposals to reimagine the offering, the city’s Office of Technology and Innovation said in a news release.

Officials selected CityBridge to develop and operate LinkNYC kiosks, which offer services such as free phone calls, Wi-Fi and device charging. The city began removing street payphones in 2015 to replace them with the LinkNYC kiosks.

There are nearly 2,000 kiosks across the city, according to a map from LinkNYC.

“Just like we transitioned from the horse and buggy to the automobile and from the automobile to the airplane, the digital evolution has progressed from payphones to high-speed Wi-Fi kiosks to meet the demands of our rapidly changing daily communications needs,” Commissioner Matthew Fraser said in the release.

The last public pay telephone will be displayed at the Museum of the City of New York as part of an exhibit looking back at life in the city before computers.

Source: CNBC

A $350,000 Bored Ape NFT Was Sold For Only $115

A Bored Ape Yacht Club (BAYC) NFT has just been sold for 115 DAI ($115) in what appears to be either a costly mistake or a hack.

Data from OpenSea shows the previous owner with the moniker “cchan” accepting a 115 DAI bid on Monday for BAYC #835. That’s 99.9% lower than the current floor price — the lowest price one is available to buy — of the popular NFT collection.

The same owner also sold Mutant Ape #11670 for 25 DAI ($25) to the same buyer. The floor price for mutant apes is 22.6 ETH ($76,000).

While it is not immediately clear why the owner would accept such low offers, the situation seems to be a mistake with cchan confusing DAI for ETH. There were three other high-value bids for the Bored Ape between 75 ETH and 106 ETH placed by other collectors that were not accepted.

The floor price for BAYC sits at 106 ETH ($350,000) as of the time of writing. But the NFT in question sports sunglasses and a cigarette, several traits that mean it would typically sell higher than the current floor price. (It’s hard to specify exactly how much it specific NFT should be valued — a wider problem that has been perplexing NFT traders when it comes to using them for loans).

Apart from being sold much lower than the floor price, the sale also represents a major loss for cchan, seeing as the BAYC NFT was initially acquired for 16 ETH in August last year.

Source: The Block

Some Verizon Customers Getting Spam Texts From Their Own Numbers; Carrier Says It’s Working With US Law Enforcement To Find Those Responsible

If you’re a Verizon customer who’s been getting mysterious spam text messages that look like they come from your own phone number, you’re not alone. Multiple Verizon customers have reported receiving similar messages this week, in which they’re encouraged to click an obscure link to receive a gift. The carrier says it’s working with police to stop the texts.

“Verizon is aware that bad actors are sending spam text messages to some customers which appear to come from the customers’ own number,” a Verizon representative said in an emailed statement. “Our team is actively working to block these messages, and we have engaged with US law enforcement to identify and stop the source of this fraudulent activity.”

A relative of a CNET team member got a text that matched the description of similar messages that were received by other Verizon customers and have been called out in social media and news reports. “Free Msg: Your bill is paid for March,” the message said. “Thanks, here’s a little gift for you.” The message included a cryptic link that made it impossible to know what it was about.

In some cases, the links in these texts direct people to what looks like a prompt to take a Verizon customer survey. “Dear Verizon customer, we would like to personally thank you for always paying your Verizon bills on time by giving you a Free Apple Watch Series7!” the message says. “All we ask from you is to answer a few quick questions about your recent experiences with Verizon’s services.” The message ends with a link to take the survey, encouraging the recipient to take it as soon as possible because “this exciting offer is only available today.”

The uptick in spam messages that mobile phone users are receiving comes after the US government doubled down on its fight against robocalls. Last year, the US Federal Communications Commission mandated that phone and cable companies implement a technology called Stir/Shaken that’s designed to curb the tide of spam calls by requiring voice providers to verify where calls are coming from. The move has, however, led criminals to explore other avenues to keep trying to scam mobile phone users.

“Stir/Shaken has shut down one avenue,” Clayton LiaBraaten, senior advisory board member at Truecaller, which makes a spam-blocking and caller ID app, told CNET in December. “But it’s making already very capable criminals even more sophisticated and sinister in their scams.”

A Verizon customer who received a spam message almost identical to the one received by the CNET employee’s relative posted about it in December on the Verizon Community blog, wondering if the message and link were some sort of phishing attempt. “We cannot confirm it is a valid link” a Verizon customer support representative said in a reply to the post. “We recommend not pressing on it.”

Spam texts like these are one of many forms of phishing, where hackers make use of human error to gain access to sensitive information, typically by preying on gaps in a victim’s tech savvy. Instead of a brute force attack, the cybercriminal poses as a legitimate organization or a familiar face — in this case texts from a victim’s own phone number — and issues a call to action that sounds either fun or urgent (which gives victims little time to think twice). Hackers can use a technique called “spoofing” to disguise their identity by deliberately falsifying the information transmitted to your caller ID display.

After you’re lured into a false sense of security and take the bait, the phisher nets your sensitive information. Phishing attempts aren’t exclusive to mobile phonesThey can be disguised as quizzes or questionnaires on social media, too, with questions designed to trick you into revealing info you might use to verify your accounts.

If you receive a mysterious text message encouraging you to click on a link, verify the origin of the message before taking any further action, even if the contact seems legitimate — including your own phone number. 

Source: CNET

Google Domains Is Finally Out Of Beta After Seven Years And Is Offering A 20% Registration Discount

Google’s domain registration service entered public beta in January of 2015. It’s now exiting beta into general availability in 26 countries, and Google Domains is marking the occasion with a discount.  

Google Domains, which has a nifty icon consisting of a dot and slash, says it has millions of active registrations and aims to be the “easiest place to find, buy and manage a domain.” Long beta periods are a hallmark of Google services, with Gmail’s lasting five years.

It offers over 300 domain endings and touts integration with other Google services, especially for business owners. For example, you don’t have to verify TXT records when integrating a website with Search Console, Google App Engine, or Cloud Run. There’s also the ability to add Workspace to a domain and use Google Sites or Blogger, as well as third-party services like Shopify, Squarespace, WIX, Bluehost, and Weebly.

In terms of reliability, it leverages the “same infrastructure used by Google,” including a “high performance DNS” and 24/7 support There’s also one-click DNSSEC to counter DNS spoofing and cache poison attacks. Contact information can also be kept private for free on WHOIS and RDAP. Other features include DNS record export if you want to move in the future.

Plans are available from $7/year, though .com starts at $12. Meanwhile, Google Domains is celebrating the “move out of beta” with a 20% discount (up to $5 off) on one domain registration or transfer-in using the code DOMAINS20. It’s available for new and returning users until April 15. 

Source: 9to5Google

Wingstop Has Filed A Trademark To Serve Chicken Wings In The Metaverse — Application Covers “Downloadable Virtual Goods” Including NFTs And Virtual Food And Drink

You’ll never go hungry in the metaverse. After McDonald’s applied for trademarks to open a virtual restaurant, another fast-food chain is winging its chances in the digital sphere, in which it has expressed an interest in setting up camp.

As reported by Insider and outlined by trade attorney Mike Kondoudis, on February 25, Wingstop submitted a trademark application for “downloadable virtual goods,” including non-fungible tokens, digital art, “virtual food and drink,” and loyalty and reward cards. The filing was made with the US Patent and Trademark Office.

From the application, it also seems like Wingstop is looking at opening an NFT platform for chicken wing-loving cryptocurrency holders to buy, sell, and trade related virtual assets.

Publicly, Wingstop remains tight-lipped about its metaverse plans, but tells Insider it hopes to “serve the world flavor in a virtual space.”

Source: DesignTAXI

Sony’s Next VR Headset Could Follow Your Eyes To Optimize Objects You See

Tobii, a Swedish firm specializing in eye-tracking technology, made a brief announcement Monday that it is currently “in negotiation” with Sony Interactive Entertainment.

This could lead to Tobii being the provider of eye-tracking tech in the next-generation VR headset Sony is developing, the PlayStation VR2 (PS VR2).

Not much is known about the headset yet, although Sony has previously revealed images of the controllers, innovatively shaped to encircle the player’s hands. The VR2’s predecessor, the PS VR, was released in October 2016, before the famed PlayStation 5 was even released.

SlashGear notes that Sony has detailed the use of eye tracking in the VR2, alongside other features like haptic feedback and 3D audio. The headset, using cameras that follow the user’s line of sight, will reportedly be able to detect “the motion of your eyes.”

Foveated rendering is incorporated to ensure that the areas of an image in direct view of the user are rendered at full quality, while the surrounding areas are displayed at a lower resolution to represent peripheral sight.

Source: DesignTAXI

NASA To Retire International Space Station And Crash It Into Pacific Ocean In 2031

In less than 10 years, the International Space Station—the site of many an interstellar marvel—will become a relic in Earthling’s minds, vanishing like it never existed. NASA plans to decommission the orbital outpost at the end of 2030 and actualize the ISS’s retirement by crashing it into the Pacific Ocean in January 2031.

The space station, which made its maiden launch in 1998 and was first occupied by humans in 2000, is destined to make its descent home alone—with no humans on board—before sharply plunging into a very remote area often dubbed the “spacecraft cemetery,” reports Gizmodo.

Point Nemo, as the crash zone is called, is 1,670 miles away from the closest inhabited area.

Although a 2030 date is expected, Jonathan McDowell, an astronomer at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, warns the news outlet that this deadline could arrive earlier, since NASA hasn’t disclosed if partnering space forces, like the one in Russia, would agree to back the ISS through 2030.

Be that as it may, with the outpost’s retirement, NASA will hand over the keys of space exploration efforts to a private sector, whose activities will continue to be supported by the space agency.

“The private sector is technically and financially capable of developing and operating commercial low-Earth orbit destinations, with NASA’s assistance,” explains Phil McAlister, director of commercial space at NASA Headquarters. Combined with the resources of private entities, NASA will continue “sharing our lessons learned and operations experience… to help them develop safe, reliable, and cost-effective destinations in space.”

The ISS was, in actual fact, scheduled to retire in 2024, but the Biden-Harris administration quietly prolonged its operations to last through 2030. It is believed that this will be the last extension.

As it approaches its last legs, the ISS is reported by NASA to be “busier than ever” and entering its “most productive decade,” as well as paving way for more diversity in space exploration roles.

“Today’s youth are tomorrow’s scientists, engineers, and researchers,” notes the space agency. “It is thus crucial to our nation and NASA’s efforts to maintain the interest and curiosity of today’s students so they continue to be inspired by and participate in the wide scope of space exploration roles.”

Source: DesignTAXI