Mark Wilson

AdBlock Plus to introduce independent board to oversee Acceptable Ads program

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Ad blocking has been in the news quite a lot recently, not least because of iOS 9's new support for advertising avoidance. Perhaps the most famous tool in the arena is Adblock Plus. It's something that many people have become reliant on for cleaning up their online experience but Eyeo -- the company behind AdBlock Plus -- has been keen to encourage people to permit the display of some advertising through its Acceptable Ads program.

That companies can pay to bypass Adblock Plus is nothing new, although Adblock Plus insists that most ads that are deemed 'acceptable' are added for free. Today Eyeo announces that it is going to hand over control of the Acceptable Ads program to a completely independent board.

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If you're still using TrueCrypt, more security flaws mean it's time to move on


Security-minded computer users frequently turn to encryption to protect sensitive files. For those looking to go a step further, TrueCrypt offered full-disk encryption... at least it did until it was abandoned by its developers.

Since the software was dropped, researchers have discovered that it contains numerous security vulnerabilities, and two new flaws have been found that allow an attacker to gain elevated privileges. As part of Google's Project Zero, security researchers have been probing the encryption software -- which is still widely used -- for additional problems. The severity of the newly-discovered problems has led to renewed calls for remaining TrueCrypt users to seek an alternative.

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Edward Snowden is now a verified Twitter user


Former NSA contractor cum whistle-blower Edward Snowden is now officially on Twitter. Since blowing the lid on the surveillance activities of the NSA and sparking on-going global debate about privacy, Snowden has been a vocal campaigner for freedom of speech, privacy, and surveillance awareness.

Within hours of joining, Snowden -- who managed to bag the @snowden handle -- had amassed over half a million followers, and the flow shows no signs of abating. After a few hours, Snowden has posted just 7 tweets; but more interestingly he is only following one account.

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Google unveils Chromecast Audio and faster, redesigned Chromecast


While much of the attention was focused on the Nexus 5X and Nexus 6P at Google's event today, these were far from being the only announcements. Last year, the original Chromecast took the world of media streaming by storm, introducing a low-cost entry point into streaming, and now Google has two new Chromecast devices to show off.

The new-look Chromecast has something of a different appearance to the first generation. This time around, the device is circular and features a short, flexible HDMI cable rather than the rigid design from last year -- this should make the dongle easier to plug into TVs with restricted space. There's also a new product in the form of Chromecast Audio which can be used to stream music to just about any set of speakers.

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Come on... stop falling for these stupid Facebook hoaxes


Driven as it is by users, it is perhaps little surprise that Facebook is home to a lot of nonsense. Nothing wrong with this, but it becomes more of an issue when nonsense is disguised as something meaningful and is shared by people left, right, and center. Hoax copyright warnings spreading via statuses is a perennial problem, and there are a couple of prime examples doing the rounds at the moment.

You've probably seen at least one of them before, but the pair seem to be cropping up a great deal this time around. Should you see your friends posting 'helpful' advice about paying to make your Facebook profile private, or how to assert your copyright so Facebook can’t use your images, just remember that they are rubbish. Facebook seems to find it funny, though, and has responded in a slightly humorous fashion.

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Apple publishes praiseworthy, plain-speaking privacy policies


Perhaps inspired by the backlash Microsoft has faced over privacy concerns in Windows 10, Apple has published its own privacy policies on a new page that's designed to be easy to read. Written in plain English, the site sets out Apple's position regarding privacy in OS X and iOS. As well as touting the steps to which the company goes to protect its customers' privacy, Apple also uses the documents to trumpet numerous security features.

This is Apple riding the waves of interest concerning privacy, using it as an opportunity to get one over the likes of Microsoft and Google. There are promises of "telling you up front exactly what’s going to happen to your personal information and asking for your permission" as well as the offer that "if you change your mind later, we make it easy to stop sharing with us". Sounds great in theory, but does it stand up to scrutiny?

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Accepting Microsoft's Windows 10 privacy stance at face value is sheer folly


Yesterday, Microsoft's Terry Myerson defended how the company has handled privacy in Windows 10. The level of concern about privacy in Windows 10 is unprecedented -- it even has some torrent sites spooked --  but my colleague Brian feels that Microsoft has, somehow, earned our trust. He is wrong.

Microsoft has broken the trust of many users, and Myerson's post does little to patch things up. In reality, it is an exercise in public relations, spin, and misdirection. It also raises more questions than it answers. In particular, it highlights the obnoxious disregard Microsoft appears to have for home users.

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Accept Apple Pay and Android Pay with the new PayPal Chip Card Reader


PayPal Here users will be able to use the new PayPal Chip Card Reader to accept payments via Apple Pay and Android Pay, in addition to the more familiar credit and debit card options. The new reader launches in the US on 30 September, before spreading to the UK and Australia further down the line.

The updated card reader features a display to guide users through the process of making a payment, but it is the addition of contactless payment that is the key new feature. The PayPal Chip Card Reader has a price tag of $149, but some people will be able to get hold of it for $49.

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Google Play welcomes 100MB APKs


Google is increasing the maximum APK size in Google Play from 50MB to 100MB. The move comes in response to developers creating apps which offer richer experiences, and helps to avoid the need to download additional data after the initial APK download.

Expansion Files can still be used to allow for apps that exceed the 100MB barrier, but the aim in increasing the base limit is to speed up the installation for users. Now, rather than downloading an app followed by additional updates once the installation is complete, larger apps can now be downloaded and installed in one fell swoop.

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Google's Customer Match and Universal App Campaigns bring closely-targeted mobile ads


Google is making it easier for advertizers to very closely target mobile users, homing in on the 'moments that matter'. The company is launching two new ad products -- Customer Match and Universal App Campaigns -- in a bid to convert more views into sales.

The aim with Customer Match is to target people with ads based on what they are doing, where they are, and the device they are using. It ties in with searches, Gmail, and YouTube to enable businesses to create highly tailored ad campaigns. Universal App Campaigns helps advertisers gain greater reach across the Google network.

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Silent Circle's Blackphone 2 is the most secure Android phone available


With all of the talk about the iPhone 6s and 6s Plus, and the likes of the Samsung Galaxy S6 edge+, it's easy to forget that there are some genuine alternatives out there. One such smartphone is the Blackphone from the privacy-centric Silent Circle. The original Blackphone caused great excitement, and now the Blackphone 2 is available.

This is a phone that has been built from the ground up with security and privacy in mind. While the Blackphone 2 will appeal to anyone who is concerned about privacy, this time around there is a greater push to appeal to businesses and enterprise, including joining Google's Android for Work program. In terms of specs, opting for the most secure handset on the market does not mean making compromises: this phone is a beast.

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Leaked documents show UK Karma Police program was just as intrusive as the NSA -- and spied on the US


There have been countless stories about the activities of the NSA and the revelations by Edward Snowden continue. A new batch of documents leaked by the former NSA contractor show that GCHQ ran a program called Karma Police that was used to "build a web-browsing profile for every visible user on the internet".

If that sounds a little sinister, that's because it is. You would think that we might have become hardened to this sort of thing, but it is still comes as a slight surprise to learn of the extent of surveillance that has been taking place. The UK government has been building profiles of web users around the world based on their browsing histories (news, porn, social networking, and so on), monitoring email and Skype communication and more for the last seven years.

Continue reading app is dead, Free Basics from Facebook rises from the ashes


The project from Facebook has not been without controversy. Created with the aim of getting everyone in the world online, the program has been widely criticized and many partners pulled out. Now a rebranding has been unveiled for the mobile app and website.

With the launch of the Platform, Facebook has taken the opportunity to rename the portal through which people can access a range of free services. Changing the name to Free Basics by Facebook is described as a way "to better distinguish the initiative from the programs and services we’re providing", but it's hard not to think that it is also an attempt to move away from the controversy of, and it comes ahead of serious push into India.

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Facebook Notes transforms into a full-on blogging platform


Heard of Facebook Notes? No? It's something that has been around for a while, and provides away to write longer posts, but for some reason it has been largely ignored by Facebook users. The latest update could mean that's about to change.

Seemingly looking to take on the likes of Medium and Blogger, Facebook Notes has been treated to a facelift that makes posts more attractive and introduces new customization options. While Notes used to be (understandably, to some extent) all about the text, now graphics and formatting are given greater prominence.

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Apple admits iCloud problem has killed iOS 9 'app slicing'

iOS 9 edited

One of the key features of iOS 9 -- and one of the reasons 16GB iPhones were not killed -- is app slicing. This innocuous-sounding feature reduces the amount of space apps take up on iPhones and iPads... or at least it does when it is working.

At the moment Apple has a problem with iCloud which is preventing app slicing from working correctly. The feature works by only downloading the components of an app that are needed to perform specific tasks on a particular device, but at the moment regular, universal apps are delivered by default.

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