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Google responds to Apple App Tracking Transparency with new rules for Android

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Google released a notice today about the future of Android and user data transparency. While not a direct response to Apple’s update with iOS 14.5 – at least not explicitly – Google’s “pre-announcement” of an upcoming safety section in Google Play should effectively keep the two operating systems in-step on several privacy-centric fronts. The new section in Google Play for Android apps will “help people understand the data an app collects or shares, if that data is secured, and additional details that impact privacy and security.”

Suzanne Frey, VP, Product, Android Security and Privacy posted a note this week about how developers and users will be affected by the update to Google Play and Android. Android already has a system in place where apps alert users about what permissions they seek – location data, contacts, personal info, audio, storage files, and camera access. With this update, it’ll all be a bit more clear up front, listed in Google Play.

What will apps show?

Developers will be asked to share the following items with users in their app listing in Google Play: What type of data is collected and stored, and how the data is used. That should be simple.

• What type of data is collected and stored: Location, Photos & Videos, Audio files, Storage files, Contacts, and Personal Information.
• How the data is used by the app or the developer/group that makes the app. This could also include disclosure of data sharing with 3rd-party sources.

Google Play will also begin listing information as follows in a new Safety Section for each app. New elements will highlight whether:

1. Security practices are in play (data encryption, for example) for user data
2. Google’s Families policy is followed with user data
3. The app “needs this data to function or if users have choice in sharing it”
4. The app’s safety section “is verified by an independent third-party”
5. Data deletion is an option for the user upon uninstall of said app

When Safety Section will appear on Google Play

Here on May 6, 2021, Google first made their “pre-announcement” of this new policy. In Q3 of 2021, the policy will be “available” for the public and developers to read. In the fourth quarter of 2021, developers will be able to start declaring information in the Google Play Console as outlined above.

In the first quarter of 2022, users in the public will begin to see the new safety section in Google Play. At some point in the second quarter of the year 2022, Google will set a deadline for all new and existing apps to declare the information outlined above.

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Apple Back to School 2021 promo adds free AirPods to select iPad and Mac

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Apple has launched its new Back to School deals, and if you’ve been considering a new iPad or Mac for the classroom – either remote or in-person – you could get a treat for your ears, too. The Cupertino company is adding to its usual education discount with an AirPods promo, and a discount for Apple Care+.

There are actually seven new deals, all of which include a free set of AirPods. If you’re looking for a Mac, you can take your pick from Apple’s latest M1-powered models both portable and desktop.

The MacBook Air is priced from $899 under Apple’s education pricing, for example, or $73.91 per month for 12 months. The MacBook Pro 13-inch, meanwhile, starts at $1,199 for students, or $99.91 per month for 12 months.

As usual, there are bundles of software with educational pricing as well. The Pro Apps Bundle for Education – which includes Final Cut Pro, among other things – is $199.99, for instance.

If it’s your dorm room desktop that needs an upgrade, meanwhile, Apple has two options there. The new 24-inch iMac – using Apple Silicon – gets new education pricing, starting at $1,249, or $104.08 per month for 12 months. Again, you get a set of free AirPods. The Mac mini is included too, for $649, or $54.08 per month for 12 months.

Those who have a bigger budget – or bigger requirements – can also get education pricing on the Mac Pro. That starts at $5,599, or $466.58 per month for 12 months.

Over on the tablet side, there are two education deals arriving just in time to get going on iPadOS 15. If you want an iPad Air, that starts at $549 for students, or $45.75 per month for 12 months. The Apple Pencil 2nd generation is $119, while the Smart Keyboard Folio for iPad Air is $159.

The new iPad Pro, meanwhile, will start at $749 for students, or $62.41 per month for 12 months. The iPad Pro’s Magic Keyboard is from $279.

As for Apple Care+, education pricing knocks 20-percent off the cost of Apple’s extended warranty.

To quality for education pricing, you’ll need to be either a current or newly accepted college student, or the parent of such a student. Faculty, staff, and homeschool teachers of all grade levels also qualify, and there are discounts for other models in Apple’s range, albeit without the free AirPods deal.

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Leica Leitz Phone 1 wraps a hefty 20MP 1-inch camera in familiar design

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Leica has revealed a new smartphone, with the Leitz Phone 1 promising a hefty sensor for photography along with 5G capabilities. Although the camera company has co-branded smartphone cameras before now, the Leica Leitz Phone 1 takes a fairly atypical approach.

Where it’s common to find three or four sensors on most recent smartphones, regardless of price point, Leica’s handset takes a more focused approach. It has a single rear sensor, in fact, packing 20-megapixels.

What makes the difference is the sensor’s physical size: a full 1 inch, which is far larger than the primary camera on just about every other device out there. It has an f/1.9 ultra-wide, 19mm-equivalent lens, too. If you’ve been keeping track of recent photo-focused smartphone launches, that might sound familiar.

Indeed, Sharp announced its Aquos R6 back in May, and the 1-inch Summicron camera and lens system tallies with this Leica-branded phone. The big sensor is primarily being positioned as a foolproof way to get more light, of course, just as you’d expect from a regular camera. However there’ll also be what Leica is calling “Leitz Looks,” which are basically things like monochrome modes to edit images.

Unsurprisingly then, there’s a 12.6-megapixel selfie camera on the front of the Leitz Phone 1 as well. There’s also a 6.6-inch IGZO OLED screen with a 240Hz variable refresh rate, to trim motion blur, running at 2,730 x 1,260 resolution. An ultrasonic fingerprint sensor is under the display.

Also inside is Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 888 5G chipset running Android 11, paired with 12GB of memory and 256GB of storage. There’s a microSD slot compatible with up to 1TB cards as well. In addition to 5G there’s WiFi 802.11ax and Bluetooth 5.2; a 5,000 mAh battery rounds out the key specs, and the whole thing is finished in an IP68 glass and metal shell.

What distinguishes the two phones – Sharp-branded and Leica-branded – really is the aesthetic. That’s an important factor in the photography world, where Leica’s cameras are known for their distinctive red dot. For the Leitz Phone 1, there’ll even be a special branded soft-case, and a Leica lens-cap to protect the sensor.

Softbank will be offering the Leica Leitz Phone 1 as an exclusive in Japan, priced at 187,920 yen ($1,714), and right now there’s no apparent plan to launch it outside of the country.

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Amazon’s fake reviews policy catches a popular charger brand

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Most who shop on Amazon check the reviews for a particular product to ensure it’s worth their hard-earned money. However, many who frequently shop on Amazon may not realize how rampant fake reviews are on the website. There are many brands who pay people who purchase their products for reviews, sometimes handing out gift cards to entice buyers to leave five-star reviews.

Naturally, Amazon has a policy against fake reviews. Some very popular makers of electronics and electronics accessories have recently been booted from Amazon for allegedly violating that policy. The most recent brand to fall afoul of Amazon’s fake review policy is called RavPower, a popular maker of phone batteries and chargers.

Amazon has confirmed that all RavPower products have been removed from its virtual store shelves. There has been no official word from Amazon on why it removed RavPower products. Over the weekend, a journalist from the Wall Street Journal named Nicole Nguyen posted to Twitter that a RavPower charger she purchased had a card inside promising a $35 gift card in exchange for a review.

While Amazon hasn’t confirmed that tweet is the reason the RavPower products were removed from its marketplace, the proximity to the tweet and the products removal seems clear. RavPower isn’t the first popular brand on Amazon to be removed from the store. Previously Aukey and Mpow were also removed from the Amazon storefront. While no specific reasons for the removal have been offered, it appears the fake review policy resulted in those products being eliminated.

While, as of writing, you can still find some Aukey products listed on Amazon. However, it appears that everything RavPower branded has been eliminated. It’s worth noting that fake reviews aren’t limited to electronics on Amazon. I purchased a pump spray bottle for oil to use for seasoning cast iron pans earlier this year based entirely on many five-star reviews. When the product came in, inside was a card offering a $10 gift card if I showed them I left a five-star review for a product that cost me about the same amount. Ordering a product based on lots of good reviews only to find the reviewers are being paid to leave those reviews is quite disturbing.

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