TechSummit Rewind #038

Editor’s Note: This is the TechSummit Rewind, a daily recap of the top technology headlines.

AT&T had ‘highly collaborative’ relationship with NSA: documents

ATT-Logo

New documents released by Edward Snowden have revealed that AT&T had a “highly collaborative” relationship with the NSA, and the Dallas-based company had an “extreme willingness to help,” according to a joint report from The New York Times and ProPublica.

According to the report, AT&T installed surveillance equipment at the NSA’s request to at least 17 internet hubs in the U.S. In comparison, Verizon installed “far fewer” systems at its hubs.

In addition, AT&T provided the NSA with emails sent between foreigners years before Verizon did. That data often goes through cables owned by one of the US telecoms, since much of the world’s internet traffic enters the US on its way to a foreign destination – even if both the sender and recipient live outside the country, according to the documents. The company also helped the NSA intercept all internet communications from the United Nations.

Notably, the NSA uses codenames instead of mentioning Big Blue by name, but the details line up with AT&T, according to the Times and ProPublica.

The company’s partnership dates back to 1985, and NSA documents are careful to warn officials to mind their manners when dealing with AT&T.

“This is a partnership, not a contractual relationship.”

-The NSA documents

Google, HTC vets prepping ‘awesome’ smartphone for Sept. 1 launch

NextBit

Normally, a no-name company’s attempt to jump into the smartphone business would be meant with laughter, but Nextbit, who counts Google Ventures as a backer, as well as Android veterans Tom Moss, Mike Chan, and former HTC design chief Scott Croyle, should at least earn your curiosity.

The San Francisco-based startup, which began as a software startup focused on a cloud-based tool that allowed you to move files and settings between Android devices, has shifted gears into the hardware business. Nextbit plans to launch its first smartphone on September 1st.

“It’s going to be friggin’ awesome.

“Phone fatigue is a real thing. That’s why we’re doing something different.”

-Tom Moss, NextBit CEO

The phone will be in the new “premium tier” of Android smartphones, according to Moss, which is roughly $300-$400.

8chan-hosted content disappears from Google searches

8chan Google search

Google appears to have filtered its search results by banning an entire domain, and adding a warning about “suspected child abuse content” to a search for the domain itself. The company banned imageboard site 8chan since Wednesday, according to Imgur posts.

Attempts to search Google for content hosted on that site came up empty, as well as searches for specific pages, and sites containing the terms 8chan, 8ch, or 8ch.net. Only related sites like 8chan’s Twitter account were brought up. In the case of a direct domain search, or for more targeted terms, the brief page of results would end with the aforementioned warning.

After users began reporting the lack of 8chan content among Google’s links, 8chan founder Frederick Brennan confirmed his findings in a Medium post Thursday and publicly ask why 8chan was singled out.

“It seems to me like Google has abandoned the same policy we use, and a policy that U.S. hosted websites have held to for a very long time.”

-Frederick Brennan, 8chan founder, on Google’s reactive removal of links after DMCA/abuse reports were filed

The “child abuse content” phrase attached to the domain’s searches only appeared on ten other Google results up until that point.

Google also uses a hashing system that automatically filters and blocks search results that contain previously reported images of abuse.

Private browsing made more private in Firefox, Tracking Protection added

Firefox Private browsing

Mozilla is testing a new private browsing mode in Firefox that doesn’t just lose all traces of your browsing habits on your machine, but also blocks online services that could track you while surfing the web.

That’s similar to plug-ins like Ghostery and the EFF’s Privacy Badger can do for you, but Firefox now puts it in its own incognito mode.

This new experimental feature is now available in the Firefox Developer Edition for Windows, Mac, and Linux, as well as the Firefox Aurora channel for Android.

“Our hypothesis is that when you open a Private Browsing window in Firefox, you’re sending a signal that you want more control over your privacy than current private browsing experiences actually provide.”

-The Firefox team

Even when you are in this new private browsing mode, online services can still track you through techniques like fingerprinting, even without access to all of your machine’s cookies.

The experimental Private Browsing mode will also let you unblock some trackers, so you can still use those sites when they break under the pressure of not being able to track you.

The latest updates to these pre-beta Firefox versions also now enforce add-on verification to keep users safe from rogue extensions.

Wildcard debuts news reading app designed for mobile age

Wildcard

The news apps business has become the next space race for mobile devices. Wildcard, a news app with a unique look and feel that combines articles, photos, and videos about the day’s most important stories and other topics that interest you, is now putting its hat into the ring.

The app itself isn’t brand-new, but is rather the latest incarnation of an older version of the app introduced last winter. At the time, the startup, which is backed by $10 million in funding, was focused on building a new browser for the mobile age which took heavy advantage of the “card” format, but the first version was meant to be nothing more than a proof-of-concept, according to Wildcard CEO Jordan Cooper.

The team wanted to determine the best way to showcase consumer web content on the phone to see how consumers would respond to apps that used the card-style design. They found that the majority of the app’s tens of thousands of users gravitated toward using Wildcard for reading news and consuming media.

The new app offers a news reading experience that combines sources from thousands of publishers, grouping them according to the news story in question. Sources may include articles from newspapers and blogs, along with smaller sites, and video from sites like YouTube or Vimeo. However, unlike recently-defunct news app Circa, Wildcard isn’t focused on using an editorial team to summarize the news into bite-size chunks, but curating the selection of stories and sources presented to you.

The app does borrow the ability to “follow” stories and receive push notifications when there are updates or new information.

Wildcard’s curators are tasked not with telling you what story to read, but with weeding out the junk, the clickbait, and the noise. The stories are ranked based on a combination of their overall importance, objectively speaking, as well as how important they may be to you, according to Cooper.

“It’s not going to give you just the stuff that’s perfect for you. We believe there’s a baseline of what’s happening in the world every day that our curation wants to surface for you…then, in addition to that, we want to be really strong and deep in the areas you do care about.

“[Before Wildcard], some of our most active users were getting their news primarily from Facebook. We can do better than that.”

-Jordan Cooper, Wildcard CEO

Wildcard still features the same fluid, card-like design of its predecessor and users can share out story collections, rather than single URLs, to sites like Facebook and Twitter.

The app itself has been in private beta testing with 1,000 users, and has seen retention of around 40% during this time. Now, it’s live on the App Store for anyone to try for free.

Wildcard is also working on a feature that would allow media and video producers to natively publish in the app.

Livetext now available worldwide

Livetext

If Livetext, Yahoo’s audio-free video messaging app that launched last month, intrigues you, but you don’t live in the US or the handful of test markets where it was available, then today is a good day for you. The app is now free worldwide, which allows anyone with an iOS and Android device can get a hold of it.

#ApplevsSamsung: Court rejects Samsung’s latest appeal

AppleVsSamsung_AP

The U.S. Federal Circuit Court of Appeals on Thursday has refused to re-examine Samsung’s appeal of a 2012 jury verdict that found that the South Korean tech giant violated Apple’s iPhone patents.

The court rejected Samsung’s bid to reconsider a previously ruling that largely backed Apple, leaving the U.S. Supreme Court as the only legal option left for Samsung to try to overturn hundreds of millions of dollars in damages Apple is now owed in their ongoing patent feud.

Samsung urged the Federal Circuit to rehear the case with its full 12-judge roster, arguing that at here-judge panel erred earlier this year when it left a jury’s verdict that the South Korean tech giant’s smartphones and tablets infringed on Apple’s design patents earlier this year.

That part of the verdict, which has been pared from the original $1 billion judgement, account for about $400 million of the $548 million in damages, Samsung still must pay Apple from their first trial.

The Washington-based appeals court, which reviews all patent appeals, upheld the centerpiece of Apple’s case against Samsung, which rested on claims that Samsung’s smartphones and tablets violated Apple’s patent rights on the iPhone.

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