It looks like Apple is resurrecting its Venmo competitor

Apple began considering its own peer-to-peer payment system back in 2015. Since then, however, nothing seems to have come of it. Today, however, Recode reports that Apple is again in negotiations to launch its own money-transfer system to rival competing services like PayPal’s wildly popular Venmo. Apple’s new service, likely a feature for Apple Pay, could enable you to send money to a friend’s iPhone from your own.

Apple Pay is doing well for the tech giant, but extending its influence into the peer-to-peer space could encourage more consumers to actually use it. Mobile payments between peers are hot right now, with companies like PayPal, Square, and even Facebook getting into the act. While businesses like Square aren’t making much from peer-to-peer payment systems, the ease of sending money to friends and local service providers is bound to become more ubiquitous as more people try it out. Venmo itself continues to grow rapidly, with a reported $ 6.8 billion in transactions through its app. US banks have also launched their own competing service, Zelle, thereby cutting out third-party middlemen.

While one source told Recode that Apple may announce its new payment service this year, another noted that the launch date and announcement may not be set as of yet. Whatever the timeline for the new Apple service, having the ability to pay rent or split a dinner bill with just your iPhone could be just the thing to convince many of us to use it.

Source: Recode

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Use this app to find your keys like you find your Pokémon

We’ve seen Bluetooth item trackers before, like Tile and Protag’s Duet, but they’re usually pretty dull. Pixie, on the other hand, will curb the anxiety of losing something by turning it into a game. Like other trackers, Pixie uses Bluetooth, but it also adds augmented reality into the mix, so your phone will actually show you where the general area where your device is. Once you get in real close, it’ll start pointing you left and right like a good old-fashioned game of hot and cold. You could also use it to cheat at hide and seek with your kids.

Pixie has another trick up its sleeve. If you have multiple devices, they communicate with each other which helps the app know where they are with greater accuracy. The makers of Pixie claim it’s a similar principle to how GPS works, but in fact there’s no GPS going on here, so you’ll still need to be within general Bluetooth distance from the item you’re trying to find (around 40 feet).

One thing I thought clever was that Pixie has made an iPhone case that has one of the trackers baked right into it. The trackers, called “Pixie points,” look like a large, thick, guitar plectrum, and have approximately 12-month battery life. They’re also solid little critters, with IP67 dust-and waterproofing. Ideal if you lose an item outside in the rain — your phone might not fare so well, but at least you’ll find it.

Pixie comes in packs of two (including a phone case) for $ 49, or packs of four (again, with a phone case) for $ 99, and will be available starting January 25th. Just don’t lose your wallet in the meantime.

Click here to catch up on the latest news from CES 2017.

Source: Pixie

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Soon cops will search your phone just like your car

Imagine a routine traffic stop during which the officer has the legal right to search not just your car, but your phone too.

That’s where we’re likely headed: A Florida court recently denied Fifth Amendment protections for iPhone passcodes, saying suspects must now reveal them to police. The decision came after a previous court had ruled that a suspect couldn’t be compelled to give up the key to unlock his phone based on laws against self-incrimination.

A trial judge had denied the state’s motion to compel the suspect to give up his passcode, finding that it would be tantamount to forcing him to testify against himself, in violation of the Fifth Amendment.

But the Florida Court of Appeal’s Second District just reversed that decision. Judge Anthony Black said, “Unquestionably, the State established, with reasonable particularity, its knowledge of the existence of the passcode, Stahl’s control or possession of the passcode, and the self-authenticating nature of the passcode. This is a case of surrender and not testimony.

“More importantly,” he added, indicating future cases about passcodes and Fifth Amendment protections, “we question the continuing viability of any distinction as technology advances.”

The case tipping the scales in favor of the police comes by way of a total creep getting caught shoving his phone under a woman’s skirt and taking photos. It’s pretty hard to feel bad for the guy. Many people know that “upskirts” are illegal, and most know it’s also a really shitty thing to do to someone. But Aaron Stahl didn’t care. He followed a woman around a store, and when he thought she wasn’t looking, he crouched down, shoved his phone under her skirt to take photos and got caught doing it.

When she asked him what the hell he was doing, he claimed he’d dropped his phone. She yelled for help and tried to stop him from leaving. He ran. But the store had him doing everything on surveillance cameras and got a clear shot of his car’s license plates. When police caught up to Stahl and arrested him for third-degree voyeurism, he’d conveniently left his phone at home.

In a police interview, Stahl consented to a search of his phone, an Apple iPhone 5. But when police actually went to his house with a warrant and got the phone, he withdrew his consent before giving them his passcode. Basically, Stahl attempted to show he’s innocent by not being accountable for his phone.

And as we all know, without the passcode even Apple can’t pop open someone’s iPhone and hand the contents over to police.

That’s meant authorities have had to get a little creative about looking through people’s phones.

After much wrangling and embarrassment earlier this year, the FBI forked over $ 1.3 million to have the San Bernardino shooter’s iPhone hacked into. Just a few weeks ago, Scotland Yard actually “mugged” a suspect. In that instance, British cops waited until their target was on a call before physically snatching the phone and continually swiping it to keep the screen unlocked while they apprehended their guy.

The Florida case shows a flip in the opposite direction from 2015’s ruling by a Pennsylvania federal court, which decided the authorities can’t force someone to surrender his or her phone’s passcode. Just as he opposed the Pennsylvania court decision, I’m sure law professor and SCOTUS blogger Orin Kerr would agree with Florida’s judges that a code isn’t in itself incriminating.

“For example, imagine the government orders you to turn over any and all crystal meth in your possession,” Kerr opined about Pennsylvania’s passcode ruling. “In response to the order, you hand over a plastic bag filled with some substance. Your response effectively testified that you think the item in the bag is crystal meth and that it is in your possession. That’s admitting to a crime — possession of crystal meth — so you have a Fifth Amendment right not to have to produce the item in response to the order.”

Here, the judge hasn’t asked Florida’s creeper of the year, Aaron Stahl, to turn over any and all upskirt photos. Just the passcode.

The decision will likely lead to further challenges, but different courts around the United States are tackling the iPhone-evidence conundrum. Judge Black’s opinion will no doubt influence how others rule.

“Providing the passcode does not ‘betray any knowledge [Stahl] may have about the circumstances of the offenses’ for which he is charged,” Black said, writing for the Florida court’s three-judge panel. “Thus,” he said, “compelling a suspect to make a nonfactual statement that facilitates the production of evidence for which the state has otherwise obtained a warrant … does not offend the privilege.”

This is a compelling argument for handing over Stahl’s passcode. But then again, it’s also compelling because he’s such a blatant scumbag about all of this. Maybe it’s a false equivalency, though I’m inclined to believe it’s the rest of us who’ll pay for this guy’s troll-like behavior. He brazenly violated a woman’s privacy and expects his privacy protections to be upheld so he can get away with it. He’s not all that different from the guy on Twitter claiming death and rape threats are protected free speech.

This ruling is supposed to be about the greater good, but there’s nothing that feels great or good about it.

We’ll probably wade through a hodge-podge of law-enforcement rules across the nation until this gets ironed out, while precedents are set that aren’t thought through. In the meantime, we can be sure bad cops will collect passcodes and see what else they can get into with them. Because, thanks to security fatigue, people reuse the same passwords and PINs wherever possible.

It doesn’t take the mind of a hacker to figure that someone’s four-digit cellphone PIN is probably the same as her ATM and voicemail PIN codes.

So look: It’s not that cops and border guards and probably stormtroopers can’t demand access to people’s phones and computers nearly everywhere else in the world, because they can. It’s just that here, we’ve been living in an arrogant fantasy that we were somehow immune to that type of control. Rest assured that countries on every other continent circling our shaky blue orb don’t live in this fantasy.

We might be inclined to think that the world has gotten more fascist. No. It’s just that we’re losing our virginity, and effectual consent is bad for authoritarianism. Welcome to the rest of the world. It’s time to quit whining about Android vs. Apple security, or how broken the password model is, and realize your cutesy privacy island never existed in the first place.

Laws like these might be what we deserve, after years of remaining relatively ignorant to the realities of how tech tools like cellphones and Facebook are used by authoritarian leaders and surveillance-happy police. We’re about to enter a future where our president embraces letting government off the leash when it comes to surveilling citizens.

I remember when Google’s Eric Schmidt said, “If you have something you don’t want anyone to know, then maybe you shouldn’t be doing it in the first place.” And when Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg said that if you’re not doing anything “wrong” then you don’t have anything to worry about when it comes to losing your privacy. It’s starting to look like these weren’t just harmless words from eccentric tech billionaires.

All I’m saying is that this is all connected, and the road that led to cops being able to search your entire life during a traffic stop is one paved with greed, perverse ideals and nightmarish lapses of empathy. Of course, some of us tried to raise the alarm back then, but we were written off as bad people with something to hide because we wanted boundaries.

But this story, the one about the Fifth Amendment and passcodes, is supposed to be about fairness and justice. Except with bad guys like Aaron Stahl, it’s a fairness that feels so cynical we barely understand how we got here.

Images: Getty Images/iStockphoto

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Snapchat’s Spectacles won’t make you look like a Glasshole

You would have thought that after the spectacular failure of Google Glass and the virulent public rejection its users experienced, other companies would be wary of developing and marketing camera glasses. But 2016 has been that kind of year. Earlier this week, Snapchat, they of the wildly popular messaging app, began rolling out its first wearable, Spectacles, through a series of pop-up vending machines. The $ 130 glasses are already a hot commodity, fetching upward of $ 900 on eBay. I managed to get my hands on a pair (don’t ask how) and have some thoughts on the matter.

The Spectacles are sunglasses first and foremost, and they function well in that role. The plastic frames are lightweight with circular lenses and come in a variety of increasingly loud colors: black, aqua and fire-engine red. I personally prefer a nice wayfarer or aviator shape, but the Spectacles still performed an admirable job of shielding my eyes from the sun’s damaging UV rays.

The camera itself is mounted on the tip of the left temple arm, where it meets the eye wire. The camera unit is entirely self-contained and runs on a rechargeable lithium-ion battery. And, like Apple’s wireless AirPods, the Spectacle’s case doubles as a charging station that can fully fill a dead battery in about 90 minutes. The camera, while not nearly as powerful as what you’d find on an iPhone 7 or Android Pixel, is good enough for what most people use Snapchat for.

And what they lack in image quality they make up for in ease of use. By not requiring you to have your phone in hand, the Spectacles can be used in a much wider range of situations. Suddenly, all of those action sports shots for which you previously had to break out the GoPro can be done in 10-second increments. Really, any two-handed activity would benefit from using these glasses. Take note, however: The glasses are not waterproof and are also susceptible to temperature extremes, so be sure to leave them back at the ski lodge this winter.

Pairing the Spectacles to the Snapchat app is super-simple. You simply put on the Spectacles, look at your snapcode and tap the “record” button on the glasses. Downloading data from the specs is straightforward, too. Just navigate to the Memories screen, pick the Specs tab from the top bar and select the correct Snap from the list. We’re not sure if there’s an upper limit to how many Snaps you can record on the device before syncing with the app, but we got north of 10.

I noticed that the app routinely failed to properly download video from the glasses to the phone, but usually did so on the second try. It’s a bit of a hassle, but an easily remedied one. Aside from being unable to actively monitor what I’m recording or reframe a shot, using Spectacles wasn’t all that different from using my phone. At least with the Specs, I never had to worry about my thumb covering the lens. Plus, if the worst happens, I’d rather drop a pair of $ 130 novelty camera-glasses than my $ 600 smartphone.

Now, whether I, as a 35-year-old attention-averse adult, would ever be caught dead wearing them in public is an entirely different question. See, I remember the dark days of the Google Glasshole. Even in techtopias like San Francisco, Glass wearers were publicly mocked. One lady was even physically assaulted at a bar in the Lower Haight. Many fine drinking establishments throughout the city still ban them outright. Granted, the Spectacles can capture only 10 seconds of video at a time, but I’d be very hesitant to show up to a place like Molotov’s or the Lucky 13 with these on my face.

Another question is: Where do you actually use them? They’re clearly geared for people who are out and about in the daylight hours (hence the sunglasses the camera’s built into). But what of Snaps taken indoors or at night? The camera is subtle enough that you won’t attract attention, but the bright-ring LED that flickers on to indicate that you’re recording — not to mention that you’re wearing electric-blue sunglasses in a bar at 11PM — is likely enough to draw quizzical looks from other patrons and questions from management.

Overall, though, these are a clever, relatively inexpensive wearable. They’re a tenth of the price of Google Glass, they actually function beyond serving as a way to strap a camera to your face and, depending on your age bracket, they could even be considered stylish. Getting your hands on a pair is going to be a challenge in the immediate future, but for those of us with active Snapchat followings, these Specs will prove invaluable.

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