Facebook tracks data from non-users, and keeps it from them

In the wake of the Cambridge Analytica scandal that’s seen Facebook stock take a big hit and a strong user backlash against the platform, those who never signed up for the social network could be forgiven for being a little smug. But not so fast.

As it turns out, Facebook, which is in the business of gathering as much data from as many people as possible in order to run precisely targeted ads, gets its information about you from many sources, not just what’s on the profiles of its users. 

This gives the lie to Facebook’s official line that the users are in control of the data that they share, and that the company is only using the data that people willingly offer up.

What are Facebook’s ‘shadow profiles?’

Even if you’ve never signed up for Facebook, the company might still have a file on you, gathered through uploaded contact lists, photos, or other sources.When someone you know joins Facebook, the social network can find traces of you in the email/phone contacts, for example. Should you then register on the network, you’ll find it already has an uncanny ability to suggest friends from your social and professional circle before you’ve told them any details.

As well as details pulled from your social and professional circle that you may not have consented to share with the company, Facebook’s file on you also contains information on your web browsing through use of embedded ‘like’ and ‘share’ buttons. These can be tracked even if you’re logged out of your Facebook account.

Privacy advocates refer to these files on non-users as ‘shadow profiles’, and, given Facebook’s huge userbase, there’s a good chance the company has one on you even if you’ve been diligent in avoiding the social network. 

Zuckerberg has, of course, never heard of such a thing

Mark Zuckerberg testified before a congressional hearing last week, Mark Zuckerberg  was asked about shadow profiles by new Mexico Democrat Ben Luján. The Facebook founder and CEO claimed not to be familiar with them, and although it’s not a term Facebook uses officially, it’s also hard to believe Zuckerberg has never heard of the most widely used name for these occult files.

Congressman Ben Luján questions Zuckerberg on ‘shadow profiles’:

Nonetheless Zuckerberg confirmed the company collects information on nonusers. “In general, we collect data of people who have not signed up for Facebook for security purposes,” he said.

Trouble is, non-users haven’t given their consent to have his personal data collected, and what’s worse, don’t have any recourse to access this data without registering. Yes, you heard that right.

I don’t have a Facebook account, and want to access my personal data

We’ve explained how to download all the information Facebook has on you, a sensible precaution to take if you’re planning to #DeleteFacebook. Fine, if you’re already a Facebook user. But if you don’t have a Facebook account? Facebook’s help page for this situation directs you to a process that requires you to sign up for the social network.

So to add insult to injury, not only has the non-Facebook user had their data gathered without their consent, but they have to sign up to a service they don’t want and ‘consent’ to give up more information to the company in the process of requesting this data.

It’s clear from this that Facebook’s problems with privacy don’t just concern its active users, but will remain a problem for those who have quit the social network or never signed up for it in the first place. This is likely going to cause some tension when Europe’s GDPR kicks in, as the regulation requires data-portability for all citizens, not just Facebook users.

Zuckerberg has stated his willingness to comply with GDPR for its European users but has stopped short of guaranteeing similar protections for users in the US and elsewhere. Nonetheless, if Facebook wants people to take seriously the idea that they can control their data, it needs to bring the information in these shadow profiles into the light—where users and non-users alike can see their personal data and claim it.

What do you think of Facebook’s data collection practices? What kind of changes would you like to see?

Android News + App Reviews + Hardware Reviews – AndroidPIT

What to take away from Mark Zuckerberg’s Congress hearings

The monarch of Menlo Park spent hours being grilled by senators, and if you have the time to catch up on the whole thing, you can find video links to both hearings here. Fair warning, it’s not easy to sit through the majority of clumsy questions and slimy evasions to get to the good bits.

Nonetheless, I found several points of interest that provide some food for thought about the future of Facebook and our data. In the true spirit of Facebook, let me present a ‘curation’ of my highlights from the Zuck’s testimony for your scrolling pleasure.

Mark Zuckerberg suits up, sits up

Much is made of Mark’s boyish appearance in the press, and I’ll admit I wasn’t above it myself in the opener here, but it does look like he did his best to come across as grown-up as possible in the senate hearings. I was really hoping to see Zuck rock up and face the music in his signature grey t-shirt and hoodie, but the Facebook CEO dug the apology suit out of his wardrobe.

That’s how we know things got serious. Unfortunately, the grown-up act was somewhat undermined by the rather high cushion on his chair. Whatever the comfort or advantage of this elevation, Zuckerberg of all people should have remembered that social media exists, and people on it can be kind of mean:

Haha, yes. But before we may be tempted to infantilize the Facebook CEO and let him off the hook for youthful naivity or hijinks, let’s remember that he’s actually a 5’7″ 33 year old father. I, a younger man, managed not to undermine democracy and compromise the privacy of millions in the last couple of years. Zuckerberg can do the same.

A Facebook spokesperson told the New York Post that it was “the committee’s standard practice” for comfort, and not a ploy Facebook or Zuckerberg himself to enhance his height. Basically, a demonstration of Congress’ unwillingness to bust Mark’s ass, in any sense of the phrase.

The CEO’s own data was stolen

How special is Mark Zuckerberg’s own Facebook account? Recent events have revealed the CEO’s special powers, such as being able to ‘Unsend’ private messages on Facebook. But when it comes to data harvesting, the snake is not immune to its own poison.

Yes, Mark Zuckerberg’s own data was sold to a malicious third party, according to an answer he gave to the Democratic representative Anna Eshoo. Which third party? Facebook isn’t telling, but it could well be GSR, the company started by the Cambridge University researcher Alexsandr Kogan. 

Despite this, Zuckerberg isn’t cavalier about his own private information. Senator Dick Durbin asked if Zuckerberg would be comfortable sharing the name of the hotel he stayed in the night before.

“No. I would probably not choose to do that publicly, here” he replied. “I think everyone should have control over how their information is used.”

Regulation is on the cards – but who will shape it?

“My position is not that there should be no regulation.”

“I think the real question, as the internet becomes more important in people’s lives, is what is the right regulation, not whether there should be or not.”

Statements straight from Mark Zuckerberg’s mouth. The Facebook founder has mentioned regulation ever since his first initial public addressing of the Cambridge Analytica scandal in his CNN interview. This is a shrewd move on Zuckerberg’s part. The faster Facebook takes the initiative on regulation, the more it can control it.

Senators and representatives agree that new regulations would be an appropriate response to the scandal. Frank Pallone, the ranking member of the house committee on energy and commerce,  stated in his opening remarks. “I was happy to hear Mr Zuckerberg concede that his industry needed to be regulated. We need comprehensive privacy and data protection legislation.”

It would be a mistake, however, to simply ask Zuckerberg what kind of regulation he thinks would be appropriate. A mistake that several lawmakers appeared to be happy to make regardless. Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, openly asked for Zuckerberg’s assistance in writing regulations on tech platforms. Representative Fred Upton also asked Zuckerberg what regulation he would like to see.

As an example of the kind of regulations Facebook might face, multiple representatives asked Zuckerberg whether or not he would enforce the EU’s GDPR for Americans. Interestingly, while Zuckerberg praised GDPR, he promised “controls” along the same lines for Americans, rather than “protections”.

Partisan politics played a role

In a time when America feels more divided among partisan political lines than ever, it seems that both Republicans and Democrats believe that Facebook works behind the scenes to unfairly benefit the other side.

Senator Ted Cruz appeared concerned that Facebook suppressed right-leaning content and asked about Facebook’s handling of conservative media, including content related to Glenn Beck and a Fox News personality. Democrats, on the other hand, had issues with Facebook’s slow and ineffective response to Russian interference in the election.

While their specific reasons may differ, it’s good to see that both sides of the aisles can see problems with Facebook. Whether they can work together for a solution, on the other hand, remains to be seen. Whatever Zuckerberg’s personal political philosophy on social issues, Facebook as a corporation has been shown to reliably act in its self-interest, with the bottom line as the highest ideal.

Facebook Zuckerberg Mark Zuckerberg in more carefree times, unscarred by Senate hearings. / © Facebook

It’s not just about privacy, but monopoly

Sen. Lindsey Graham, a Republican from South Carolina, shot straight with an incisive question: “Who is your biggest competitor?”

“If I buy a Ford, and it doesn’t work well and I don’t like it, I can buy a Chevy,” Graham continued. “If I’m upset with Facebook, what’s the equivalent product I can go sign up for?”

“You don’t feel like you have a monopoly?”

Zuckerberg’s snarky response, “It certainly doesn’t feel that way to me,” elicited laughter from Senate Judiciary Committee. While senior lawmakers like Graham may not have the technical expertise to understand Facebook’s processes, it doesn’t take a whiz-kid to identify a big problem.

Graham’s words to reporters after the hearing were surprising considering his party membership: “If we are counting on Facebook regulating itself, we’re going to fail. … I am a Republican. I don’t like regulating things unless you have to, but to me, you’ve got a very large organization without any real competition.”

Peter Thiel’s Palantir remains in the shadows

Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., a former vice president of the long-departed web video company RealNetworks, zeroed on Palantir Technologies, the surveillance company chaired by Facebook board member Peter Thiel.

Palantir works on big data analysis, similar to Cambridge Analytica. It’s been used by police departments and the National Security Agency. Palantir founder and Facebook board member Peter Thiel is a strong supporter of Trump and is skeptical about the benefits of democracy. The fact that Thiel, with Palantir in his hands, could sit at Facebook meetings concerning the handling of sensitive political data should rightly be a concern of lawmakers.

“I’m not really familiar with what Palantir does,” said Zuckerberg. Thiel’s heart must be truly broken at this disregard from his business partner.

Zuckberg claimed that Palantir, didn’t have access to Facebook data which contradicts statements from a former Palantir employee. In March, whistleblower Christopher Wiley testified to the UK parliament that Palantir employees worked with Cambridge Analytica to turn the wrongfully obtained Facebook data into models for its voter-targeting ads. Palantir also told the New York Times that one of its employees helped Cambridge Analytica in a personal capacity.

What Zuckerberg wasn’t willing to answer

The sharpest questions of all came from California Democrat  Sen. Kamala Harris, who attempted to tease out the details behind the decisions to disclose Cambridge Analytica’s misuse of user data. While Zuckerberg eventually admitted that Facebook leaders did have a meeting about the issue, he claimed not to know when the meeting was, who was in it, or exactly how this decision was made.

Zuckerberg also refused to say whether Facebook tracks browser activity and activity across different devices, even when the user has logged off the site, before conceding to the house Facebook tracks this information, but that most users understand and approve of it. The Facebook CEO carefully noted that browsing information is not part of “your content” – i.e. not something that the user uploads to Facebook. Regardless, it’s still something that most users will be giving up to Facebook without explicit consent.

So far, a soft touch

Barring the occasional pointed question, it was difficult to get a sense of any meaningful resolution to Facebook’s problems with fake news, hate speech, monopoly and misuse of private data. With only 5 minutes per questioner, Zuck’s dunking stayed strictly in the shallow end. 

What we’re left with after two official hearings isn’t much more than what we had at the end of the CNN interview. Apology, evasion, a promise that everything will be fine if we just Facebook time and space to fix itself. Zuckerberg, philosopher-king of Online, will reform his kingdom.

It remains to be seen whether the coming days will shake the high-cushioned throne.

What do you think? Did Congress ask the right questions? Can Zuckerberg be trusted to reform Facebook?

Android News + App Reviews + Hardware Reviews – AndroidPIT

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How to transfer everything from iPhone to Android


Jump to section:

One-click solution: Wondershare MobileTrans

If you want a one-stop solution for transferring your data from an iPhone to an Android (or from a BlackBerry or Symbian device for that matter), it’s hard to go past Wondershare MobileTrans.

MobileTrans is a one-click program that lets you transfer your contacts, text messages, calendars, photos, videos and music between devices. Depending on the OS you’re switching from you can also sync apps and call logs too. MobileTrans also works as a backup service with cloud storage options. Here’s the full scope of its capabilities:

mobiletrans table All the files and data you can transfer between devices with MobileTrans. / © Wondershare

You can grab a free trial version of MobileTrans which will let you see how easy the program is to use, but if you want to do the full transfer or restore your backups you’ll have to pay for a license – either a one-time affair ($ 19.95) or a single user license ($ 39.95).

Once you’ve got a license, you can transfer all of your contacts, calendar info, messages and media, restore backups and even wipe your old device. Do note that the single user license is only good for up to five devices using one computer.

AndroidPIT Wondershare MobileTrans 1 MobileTrans gives you options to transfer data, make backups and restore as well as delete old data.  / © AndroidPIT

How to transfer data between iPhone and Android with MobileTrans

We transferred everything from an iPhone 6 to a Galaxy S6 as an example so you can see just how easy the process is. As mentioned above, you’ll only get this full functionality with a paid license.

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1. Launch the MobileTrans program and connect both devices with a cable to your computer. You’ll see both devices populate either side of the first window you see.

AndroidPIT Wondershare MobileTrans 6 Wait until both origin and destination device are connected. Flip their position if necessary. / © AndroidPIT

2. You might be prompted to enable USB Debugging on and Android and to accept an RSA key (on Android) or ”Trust” the computer you’re connected to (on Apple).

AndroidPIT Wondershare MobileTrans 2 Enable USB Debugging, accept the RSA key and ”Trust” the computer you’re connected to. / © AndroidPIT

3. You can flip the devices if they’re in the wrong place for the transfer you want to make.

4. You might be asked to uncheck the ”encrypt iPhone backup” in your iTunes settings if you’ve previously opted for an encrypted backup. Once you’ve done your transfer you can recheck the encrypted backup option again. (Note that you also have the option to clear the destination phone’s data before transferring).

5. Once you’ve got both phones connected properly all you need to do is check the boxes next to the data you want to transfer: contacts, text messages, calendar, call logs, apps, photos, music and videos. Naturally, you won’t be able to transfer apps from an iPhone to an Android, but you get the idea. We didn’t have any videos or text messages on our iPhone either, so we left those blank.

AndroidPIT Wondershare MobileTrans 4 Make your data selections in the center and click ”Start Copy” to begin. / © AndroidPIT

6. Click ”Start Copy” and sit back and wait. Depending how much media you have on the original phone, the process may take several hours to complete, so make sure you have a power source at the ready.

7. Once the transfer process has completed, you can disconnect both phones.  

AndroidPIT Wondershare MobileTrans 5 The transferring process could take a while, so sit back and relax. / © AndroidPIT

Cloud-based apps

If the apps you use are cloud-based, like Gmail, Spotify or Facebook, you hardly have to do anything: it’s just a matter of installing the apps, entering your usernames and passwords and picking up from where you left off. Transferring everything else is a bit more complicated, and that’s what we’ll cover next.

Contacts

If you don’t already have one, sign up for a free Google Account: you’ll need it to do pretty much anything on Android. Once you’ve done that, backup your iPhone and then log in to iCloud.com. Click on Contacts, select the ones you want to transfer and then click on the little gear icon at the bottom left of the screen. You’ll see an option to Export vCard. Clicking on this will export the selected contacts in vCard format.

transfercontacts1 Using iCloud.com makes exporting contacts easy. / © AndroidPIT

Now, log in to Gmail and click on Gmail > Contacts. You’ll see the option to Import Contacts in the left hand sidebar. Click it, choose the vCard file you just created and let Google do the rest.

transfercontacts Google makes it simple to import contacts from pretty much anything. / © AndroidPIT

Calendar

This is a little more complicated, but it’s still easy. Go back to iCloud on your iPhone and this time and open the Calendar app. You’ll see a list of your calendars in the left hand sidebar, and a little wireless icon next to each one. Click on that to open that calendar’s sharing menu.

transfercalendar Transferring your calendars is a little more time consuming, but it’s still easy. / © AndroidPIT

What we want to do here is to create a public calendar we can then import into Google Calendar. To do that, click Public Calendar and copy the entire link you see on screen. 

Open a new browser window or tab and paste the link, but don’t hit Enter just yet: you need to change the bit that says “webcal” to “http”. Do that and press Enter, and your computer should now download an .ics calendar file with a really long and incomprehensible file name.

Repeat this process for each calendar you want to transfer.

Now, we need to log in to Google Calendar on your Android phone and click on Other Calendars in the left hand sidebar. Click on the drop-down arrow and choose Import Calendar, and then select the .ics file you just downloaded. Clicking on Import will now add the events to the Google Calendar you select (if you have more than one). You’ll need to repeat the process for each calendar.

Text messages and WhatsApp chats

Please note that without using a questionable third party tool, it is not currently possible to transfer iMessage or WhatsApp chats from iOS to Android or vice versa. We can only recommend backing up your chats in iCloud for now.

whats app backup chat The ability to make Google Drive backups doesn’t help when moving from iOS to Android. / © AndroidPIT

Email

The most seamless way to manage your iCloud emails on an Android smartphone is through the preinstalled mail app, using IMAP access from Apple. With SMTP access, you can still send e-mails under the old Apple address, too. The necessary server data for setting it up is in this Apple support document

iCloud Documents

If you’ve been storing files in iCloud, you can get them by logging into iCloud.com, clicking on iCloud Drive and then choosing the appropriate app folder – but remember that some file types, such as Pages documents, won’t work in non-Apple programs. If you’ve got files in proprietary formats such as Pages, convert them to RTF or Microsoft Word files in the Pages app before transferring them.

Bookmarks

Once again, the easiest way to do transfer everything is via iCloud. In your iPhone, go into Settings > iCloud and ensure Safari is enabled; now, go to your PC or Mac and open iCloud for Windows (PC) or System Preferences > iCloud (Mac) and do the same.

If you haven’t already downloaded iCloud for Windows you can get it from here. What we’re doing here is ensuring that our iPhone bookmarks are being synchronized with our PC or Mac.

transferbookmarks1 If you sync Safari via iCloud, it’s easy to transfer your bookmarks. / © AndroidPIT

On Windows, the next step is to click Bookmarks > Options and then choose Firefox or Chrome.

Click Apply and then Merge, and you’ll be told to download the iCloud Bookmarks extension for the browser you selected. This extension will sync your bookmarks from Safari to Chrome or Firefox.

If you chose Chrome, the next step is easy:

  • On a PC, open Chrome and log in to the Google Account you use for Android and the bookmarks will be synced automatically.
  • On a Mac, open Chrome, click the “hamburger” Chrome menu at the right hand side of the window and select Bookmarks > Import Bookmarks and Settings and select Safari as the source.

transferbookmarks See that icon with a star? That’s the one you need for getting bookmarks into Firefox. / © AndroidPIT

Firefox is a little trickier for both PC and Mac.

If you’re on a Mac, the next step is to open Firefox, choose Bookmarks > Show All Bookmarks and then click on the star icon in the toolbar. This brings up the importing and backup options.

Select Import Data From Another Browser and choose Safari.

On both PC and Mac, the next step is to click on Firefox’s Tools menu and select Set Up Sync. This enables you to log in to your Firefox Account (if you have one) or create a Firefox Account (if you don’t). Once you’ve entered the details, you can then open Firefox on your phone and choose Options > Sync > Pair a Device to get the bookmarks onto Firefox on your phone.

Photos and videos

If you’re using the Google Photos app on your iOS device, this is easy if you enabled Google’s automatic backups. Just get the Google Photos Android app (probably preinstalled on your new phone), set it up and everything will be there for you.

Google Photos Install on Google Play

The manual way to transfer photos from iPhone to Android is to drag everything and drop it (if you have a Windows PC). Connect the iPhone via USB, open My Computer and look for the iPhone icon. Open it and look for the DCIM folder. That’s where your pictures are; just select them and drag them to a folder on your PC.

transferphotos On a Mac? Use Image Capture to get your iPhone photos. / © AndroidPIT

You can then connect your Android phone and drag the files from your PC to your phone. If you’re feeling particularly flash, you can connect iPhone and Android at the same time and drag photos from one to the other, but we’d recommend transferring to the PC first so you’ve got a backup of your pictures.

Things are slightly different on Macs, although the basic idea is the same. Instead of My Computer you’ll need to launch Image Capture to import your photos. Once you’ve done that you can connect your Android device and drag from your photos folder (or anywhere else you put the imported pics).

Music

This one’s a bit trickier. You’ll need Apple’s iTunes and Google Music Manager installed. First of all, in iTunes make sure all your music is actually on your computer: if there’s a little icon of a cloud with a downwards arrow on it, it hasn’t been downloaded. Make sure your purchased music is there too (it may be hidden in Preferences > Store > Show iTunes in the Cloud Purchases).

itunes google play music2 Use Apple’s iTunes and Google Music Manager to move your music to your Android. / © AndroidPIT

Once you’re sure you’ve got everything, open Google Music Manager and in the setup page, select Upload Songs to Google Play. Specify iTunes as the source and let Google Music Manager do its thing. For more detailed instructions, see our article on how to use iTunes with Android.

Have you recently moved from iPhone to Android? Was it painful or a pleasure to transfer everything? Let us know in the comments.

Android News + App Reviews + Hardware Reviews – AndroidPIT

How to install apps from outside the Google Play Store

The Google Play Store is the simplest and safest way to download apps onto your device, but sometimes there are reasons you might need to install apps from other sources, or maybe you’re looking for the sort of apps that just can’t be found on Google Play. Or maybe, they’re just not available in your local version of the Play Store. If you can find the APK, however, you can still go ahead and install them via sideloading.

Jump to:

Setting up your device

While there could be some slight variation in exactly where you’ll find this setting on your Android phone, it’s usually buried within one of the security menus. 

  1. Head to Settings
  2. Then Security and lock screen or on other devices this might just be called Security
  3. Check Allow installation from unknown sources, as shown below.

By checking this, you’ll be able to install APK files downloaded from outside the Google Play STore. Often, if you’re prompted to allow installation of files from unknown sources while actually trying to install one, a pop up will ask you if you want to allow just this installation, or to allow them by default.

Normally it’s safest to just allow them individually unless you’re install a whole batch of APKs. If you are installing a whole lot at once, remember to go back and change this setting back.

unknown sources Always download and sideload apps from sites you trust.  / © AndroidPIT

What are the risks of sideloading?

There’s a reason that installing APKs from unknown sources is switched off by default in Android: it’s inherently unsafe to download random APKs from the Web and install them on your phone. While that might seem contradictory with providing a guide on how to install from outside Google Play, as long as you know (and trust) where your apps are coming from.

The efficacy of anti-virus has long been up for debate, but if you do think they’re worthwhile on an Android device, they’ll often scan apps before you install them, providing another potential line of defense. 

By leaving the installation of all unknown apps on by default, you’re opening the door for any malware-infected or malicious apps to silently download other nefarious software silently in the background. If you disallow by default and only allow on a case-by-case basis, there’s a much smaller risk of this. 

Downloading and installing an APK

By now, you know that where you download your APK from is key. Let’s take a simple example like downloading and installing WhatsApp from outside the Play Store.

In this case, WhatsApp provides its own direct download page that you can either visit on a desktop and then transfer the file to your phone, or visit on your phone browser (requesting the desktop site from your browser settings) and then download it directly to your device. 

Once downloaded, you can check out your Downloads in the app drawer and select the downloaded APK file. Clicking on that will start the install process, and if required, will ask you to allow the app permissions to continue.

Sideloading an APK from a PC

If for some reason you have trouble downloading an APK directly to your Android, you can also download the file to your PC, then connect your phone to the PC via cable (select Transfer Files) and copy the APK into your phone. This still requires that installation from unknown sources is allowed, and additionally requires a dedicated file explorer app to access the APK.

Many apps can’t be downloaded directly from the company that makes them, however. In this instance, you’ll want to check out one of the more trusted app repositories like APKMirror. From there you can download manually vetted apps that use the same digital signatures as the apps on Google Play. 

Where to get an APK?

If you can’t find what you’re looking for on the Play Store or APKmirror, there are some alternative app repositories out there. We’ve taken a look at the most important ones in this article.

messengerlite You still get to see the list of permissions before installing. / © AndroidPIT

Have you tried to install apps from outside Google’s Play Store? Let us know how it went in the comments below! 

Android News + App Reviews + Hardware Reviews – AndroidPIT

Firefox’s new add-on could protect your data from Facebook

The Facebook backlash continues with no satisfactory answers from Zuckerberg. Many are questioning whether they should delete Facebook all together. Mozilla announced an add-on today that will apparently help to keep our online activity private. Is this the start of a positive trend, or are companies simply capitalizing on our fears?

A step in the right direction?

Mozilla were among the first companies to announce its pausing of advertising activities following the Cambridge Analytica scandal. It’s now introducing a new feature for Firefox, called Facebook Container, that will prevent Facebook from tracking you by isolating your activity outside of the website, thus making it more difficult for it to determine targeted ads and messages. Mozilla explained more in their blog post:

 As a user of the internet, you deserve a voice and should be able to use the internet on your own terms. In light of recent news on how the aggregation of user data can be used in surprising ways, we’ve created an add-on for Firefox called Facebook Container, based on technology we’ve been working on for the last couple of years and accelerated in response to what we see in terms of growing demand for tools that help manage privacy and security

This all sounds great, but it is just a very tiny step in the right direction. It certainly couldn’t have prevented the data harvesting that so many are outraged by, and it doesn’t change the fact that there are still vast amounts of data that are currently in the hands of Cambridge Analytica and other companies that can’t be taken back.

Rivals in the tech world will attempt to exploit Facebook’s weaknesses. Even the cynical can see some benefit in appealing to the privacy-conscious user and striking while the iron is hot.

Ultimately, we can’t expect other companies to step up and clean Facebook’s mess, but it’s nice to see that we have new tools to help us move forward, as the scandal has shaken many users out of complacency. Let’s hope it sticks!

The new Firefox add-on seems like an easy alternative if you need to keep your account and use Facebook’s features for your business, for example, while stopping Facebook from tracking you. It’s undeniable that the social media platform can have huge benefits, but it doesn’t outweigh the concerns for the protection of our data. 

firefox If you cannot delete Facebook, add-ons such as this could be very useful. / © AndroidPIT

While for now, this cannot ease fears over the way our data is being used, but we will hopefully see more and more tools and actions from companies like this in order to take steps to protecting our privacy.

Firefox for Android Beta Install on Google Play

Would you use this add-on? Or do you still think deleting Facebook is the best option?

Android News + App Reviews + Hardware Reviews – AndroidPIT

How to delete data from your lost or stolen device

If you make sure you take all of these steps, you can have peace of mind when your phone goes missing. Here are the steps necessary to protect your data remotely.

While you still have your phone, do this

If you want the ability to remotely wipe your phone, you need to install the Find My Device app and check your settings. It should be enabled by default, but check to make sure:

  • First of all, go to the Play Store and download Find My Device

Find My Device Install on Google Play

  • Go to Google Settings > Security > Find My Device
  • Ensure Find My Device is enabled
  • Allow your devices location to be accessed by the app

find my device You should install Find My Device on your smartphone / © AndroidPIT

If you have an older device you might also need to take these steps with the old version of Find My Device (Android Device Manager):

  • Look for Allow remote lock and erase and make sure it’s switched on.
  • Enable the second toggle in Device Manager: Remotely Locate This Device
  • Double check that both settings are enabled.

Find My Device works for tablets as well, but if you have multiple user accounts, only the person set as tablet owner can set these features.

It’s a good idea to take a few other precautions too: don’t store anything sensitive on microSD cards (remote wiping can’t erase them), make sure you have a decent lock code or pattern, and consider investing in an app such as AirDroid or Lookout. Both apps offer remote wipe features, but they can also transfer crucial data before pulling the plug.

How remotely wipe your Android phone

Oh no! Your phone’s gone! It’s time for action, and by action we mean Find My Device. You can access Find My Device in two ways: via the Find My Device app on another Android device, or via the website here.

Once you’ve logged in, Find My Device will attempt to locate your missing device. If it’s on and can get a signal, you’ll see the location on a map. You’ll also see three options: ring it, lock it or remotely wipe it. If the device isn’t on or can’t get a signal, Find My Device will report its location when it switches on and connects to a Wi-Fi or cellular network.

At that point you can erase all the data from your phone, but we’d strongly recommend trying the less-serious options in before you go nuclear and delete everything. Try them in this order:

Before you do anything, make sure it isn’t just lost

Lost phones are often mislaid rather than permanently missing or stolen. You can use the Find My Device to make the phone ring loudly for a five full minutes. This enables you to find your phone if it’s fallen onto the floor of your car or, been hidden in a slipper by one of your children – these things happen!

admring Try this before you go nuclear: lost phones are often just misplaced. / © AndroidPIT

Change the lock screen

There’s a second non-nuclear option available to you: changing the lock screen so that when the phone is next switched on, your message is displayed. “GIVE ME MY PHONE BACK” is likely to be counter -productive, but a “Please call me” message, possibly backed with a modest reward, might just work.

Tried that? Still no joy? OK. It’s time to destroy your data.

admlock You could try displaying a custom message on the lock screen. / © AndroidPIT.com

If all else fails, erase your data 

You will have the option to erase your data, but keep in mind that data on SD cards may not be deleted, and if it turns out it wasn’t stolen or permanently lost after all, then you will likely need your Google password to use it again after erasing. You also won’t be able to use the ‘Find My Device’ app after this process. 

Choosing the erase option will remotely wipe your phone or tablet on some devices. That’s the same as performing a full factory reset, so it’ll delete all of your settings, your music, your photos and your apps (but of course, not the SD card). As with locking, if the missing phone is off then selecting this option will remotely wipe it once it comes back online.

If you’re worried enough to take this option, you should also go into your Google Account and revoke access for your missing phone. We’d also recommend changing any passwords to your online services. The likelihood of a lost phone leading to baddies accessing all your stuff is very remote, but it doesn’t take long to remove that possibility altogether.

admerase When all else fails, delete all your stuff remotely. / © AndroidPIT.com

What if Find My Device can’t connect?

If Find My Device can’t connect, there are two more things you can try. Google Maps tracks your phone’s location history – or at least, it does if you haven’t turned that feature off in your Google Account – so you can sometimes discover where your missing phone has been by visiting the Location History page and checking the timestamps. It won’t necessarily tell you where your phone is now, but it can tell you where it’s been.

Another option is to use an app such as Android Lost, which works well on older Android devices. It is one of the few solutions that you can install remotely, so it’s a good option if you hadn’t enabled the Find My Device options specified above. The app and website look terrible but work well, although the device needs to be online via the cellular network or Wi-Fi for it to work.

Have you used Find My Device or another method to successfully find or wipe a lost phone? Let us know in the comments!

Android News + App Reviews + Hardware Reviews – AndroidPIT

3 things missing from the Samsung Galaxy S9

While the MWC 2018 does not start officially until tomorrow morning, many manufacturers took advantage of the weekend to announce their new products. Samsung, for example, unveiled its new Galaxy S9 and S9+ at its Unpacked event. This year, the world’s leading manufacturer played it safe, simply improving the technical characteristics of its Galaxy S8. Yet, I was hoping to see something more daring from Samsung. So here are 3 things that I think the new Galaxy S9 and S9+ lack.

Needless to say, the new Galaxy S9 and S9+ that have been introduced tonight look like great smartphones. But beyond the hype, are the Galaxy S9 devices so good? Without a doubt. However, they are not perfect for everyone, and I find them to be lacking in some critical ways.

Where’s that ‘wow’ effect?

Maybe it’s just me, but the presentation of the new Galaxy S9 didn’t excite me at all. Samsung may have improved the photo potential of its smartphones, opted for stereo sound or changed the position of the fingerprint reader, but I didn’t feel any real ‘wow’ effect. No major functionality. 

Unsurprisingly, the Galaxy S9 has continued with the attractive design of the Galaxy S8 but no changes have been made. Unlike last year, smartphones are unlikely to generate “aaaah”,”oooh” and “wow!”. The new position of the fingerprint reader can’t convince me either. Above all, it masks the absence of a fingerprint reader under the screen.

Although expected with the Galaxy S9, this type of fingerprint reader did not finally come into being, as Samsung probably decided to remove this functionality and opt for a traditional fingerprint reader at the back of the device. The South Korean manufacturer would indeed encounter some technical problems with this technology. The performance of the components for this sensor would not be very high. The mobile phone giant did not want to take any risks and would prefer to keep this novelty for its Note 9 phablet rather than for its Galaxy S9. 

Bixby still held back in elementary school

Bixby Voice, Samsung’s digital assistant, which was presented with great fanfare last year and again evoked during the presentation, is still only available in a few languages (Korean, Chinese and English). Alright for a lot of people, fine. But as Google Assistant is busy training to be a universal translator, Bixby will seem increasingly provincial and uneducated in the company of other more cosmopolitan voice assistants.

samsung galaxy s9 s9p bixby2 c2vx Bixby is struggling to keep up. / © AndroidPIT

Admittedly, it’s only a matter of time before Bixby learns more, but poor Bixby is struggling to keep up while other voice assistants make their mark, and then there’s still that annoying physical button.

Why is Bixby so slow to learn? This would be a Big Data problem: it needs much more data in its reserve. It is only through the available data that the machine learning system can work: the more data it has, the more it can learn (and more quickly), which then adds new data, and so on. This problem of lack of data is undoubtedly linked to the slow development of different languages, but we do not have real concrete details on the why or how.

No progress toward longer battery life

There too, Samsung has remained relatively silent on the subject. No revolution has been announced in the field. The Galaxy S9 and S9+ quietly pick up the batteries of their predecessors, namely 3,000 and 3,500 mAh respectively. It’s a disappointment for me. In terms of battery life, the Galaxy S8 never proved to be the best student in the class. Even if they were not the worst, they often needed to be recharged during the day in case of heavy use.

Armed with equivalent batteries, the Galaxy S9 will not be able to last indefinitely because of the various greedy components that make it up. It will certainly be necessary to play with the definition of the screens to prolong the battery life of the smartphones and switch back to the default setting, i.e. Full HD+. That’s a real shame for a modern flagship.

What do you think is missing from the new Galaxy S9 and S9+? Let us know in the comments!

Android News + App Reviews + Hardware Reviews – AndroidPIT

How to prevent WhatsApp from eating up your data plan

I remember a few months ago when my father, who was used to working from home only using Wi-Fi, finally acquired a new data plan. About ten days after he started his plan, he called me to say: “I was trying to send you a video that I made of the cat and I couldn’t, it won’t let me send it”.

My father, like many people, uses his cell phone almost exclusively to check his mail, watch videos on YouTube, and talk and send files through WhatsApp. This is not bad, because each individual has different needs. His, it seems, is to watch and share videos. But those videos can devour your data before you know it.

The problem is that many times we don’t pay attention to the amount of data we consume when playing streaming videos or downloading media sent to us via WhatsApp because we are so accustomed to relying on the benefits of Wi-Fi.

Follow these steps to save your data while using WhatsApp

  • Open WhatsApp.
  • Touch the ‘three dots’ on the top right hand side
  • Select Settings
  • Touch the fourth option, Data and storage usage
  • Select the third option, When using mobile data
  • Deactivate the four options (Photos, Audio, Videos and Documents) and press OK
  • Scroll down to Low data usage and check the box on the right side
  • What we have done here is to disable the automatic downloading of any file type (Photos, Audio, Videos and Documents) when we are using mobile data. This will prevent these files from being downloaded with your data plan, so they will wait for you to connect to a Wi-Fi network in order to do so

In addition, we reduce the use of mobile data during calls we make through WhatsApp. This will allow you to save data, but it will also mean that the call quality could suffer a little.

Have you ever used up all your data plan without realizing? What other ways do you have to prevent this from happening?

Android News + App Reviews + Hardware Reviews – AndroidPIT

Poll results: Would you buy from Huawei despite warnings about spying?

With six top intelligence chiefs are warning Americans not to buy Huawei smartphones, we wanted to know if you are concerned enough to reconsider buying smartphones from Huawei in the future. Here are the results of last week’s poll.

Huawei’s efforts to make it in America started a while ago, and just as it seemed like the Chinese firm was about to catch a big break with an AT&T partnership, the deal as called off. When it rains it pours. Now, concerns about Huawei’s alleged links to the Chinese Communist Party are mounting and directors of the CIA, FBI, NSA and the Director of National Intelligence among others are cautioning the American public not to buy Huawei devices.

But, will this development affect how consumers feel about the brand? According to the over 450 people who responded to our poll, the answer is overwhelmingly “No”. While the carrier deal falling through is sure to hurt sales, it looks like Huawei’s brand is still intact, at least among the kind of smartphone enthusiasts who read AndroidPIT, as only 14 percent of respondents said they’d never buy from Huawei and 18 percent said they’re less likely to buy from Huawei than before. That leaves the vast majority, 68 percent, saying they would still buy a Huawei device regardless of the warnings!

Screen Shot 2018 02 23 at 6.25.35 PM Most respondents aren’t bothered by the warnings. / © AndroidPIT

In the comments, people seemed more mistrustful of US intelligence agencies than of Huawei. One user, George Silversurfer, even jokingly thanked the intelligence community for “having brought huawei to the public attention” and the user will “for sure will consider buying one”.

What do you think of the accusations against Huawei? Are you concerned about spying in general? Let us know in the comments!

Android News + App Reviews + Hardware Reviews – AndroidPIT