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Unlock problems are still a smartphone problem, the Blob in Paris Zoo, and more

☕ Good morning! Hook the coffee to my veins.

Phone unlocking and (in)security

Fingerprints still aren't too secure

There are two stories from today regarding unlocking your phone. Both have caveats, but both are emblematic of a wider problem: device security isn’t foolproof, just yet.

  • The first is that the Google Pixel 4 face unlock works if you’re alive, sleeping, or dead, as this Twitter video shows.
  • That seems problematic, given it’s the default setting.
  • In Apple land, someone thought of this and made the iPhone face unlock require “attention” - eg your eyes being open, by default. (The setting is “Require attention for Face ID”). A similar toggle is available on Huawei phones with 3D face unlock.
  • Now, it’s not quite a Pixel 4 issue just yet. Given it’s not yet being sold, final consumer software settings aren’t yet known, and some pre-release Pixel 4 devices did have a setting to require eyes to be open for the phone to unlock. Clearly the one in the video does not, though.
  • And it’s apparently smartphone privacy day because the Samsung Galaxy S10 has a new problem, too: if you apply a third-party screen protector on the device, a non-registered user could unlock the phone with any fingerprint, and it costs as little as $3.
  • Here's the problem, via Android Authority: “A British user told a tabloid that she applied a third-party screen protector to the device. Her husband’s fingerprint was then able to unlock the phone, even though it wasn’t registered on the flagship.”
  • Now, if the story is accurate, and who knows exactly what's going on here, it’s a problem.
  • Samsung says it is patching the problem, via a statement to Reuters, "Samsung Electronics is aware of the case of the S10's malfunctioning fingerprint recognition and will soon issue a software patch."
  • Which is fine.
  • But Samsung also told Engadget the following: “We're investigating this internally. We recommend all customers to use Samsung authorized accessories, specifically designed for Samsung products.
  • Which, er, isn’t the best response I’ve ever read? 
  • It’s sort of outrageous that Samsung says it can only ensure your privacy if you pay for its “authorized” stuff. Or am I interpreting it wrong?
  • The Galaxy S10 uses an ultrasonic in-display fingerprint sensor compared to capacitive scanners seen on other devices, so there’s an argument from Samsung that you need to respect its tech... But, if a random bit of film can compromise your $1000 smartphone, that on you Samsung.
  • Any random amateur criminal just needs a bit of non-authorized Samsung gel plastic, and they can't be stopped, again, if the story is accurate.
  • Look, it’s been the case forever, but while passwords and PINs and pattern unlocks are a bit of a hassle, they do at least seem much, much more secure than occasionally fooled newer methods, for now.

Round Up:

📶 Here’s why Google didn’t launch a 5G Pixel phone this week: “It will get there, but now is not the right time to buy a 5G phone” (Android Authority).

Google killed off Google Clips, too (Android Authority).

🤝 Google Pixel 4 will receive updates until October 2022 at the very least (Android Authority)

🔌 Thought you’d cut the cord with Stadia’s wireless controller? Think again (Android Authority).

📈 Netflix reported its numbers, and subscriber numbers weren’t great but the outlook was good enough to send stock soaring (CNBC).

🤔 Netflix also says competition from Apple and Disney will help (9to5Mac). Interesting.

📉 Inside Facebook’s botched attempt to start a new cryptocurrency (WSJ, $). The world was going to change, and then it ..wasn’t? Facebook seems to have misjudged many elements of its Libra project, to put it mildly.

🎤 Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg will give his 'most comprehensive take' on freedom of speech in a livestream today at 1pm ET, apparently (Business Insider)

💸 Inside Apple's long, bumpy road to Hollywood: two years in a steep learning curve (Hollywod Reporter). Another fun insidery read, with some of the money being sloshed around utterly crazy for first seasons, as this fun reaction suggests.

💸 How a massive Facebook scam siphoned millions from unsuspecting Boomers (BuzzFeed News). Facebook appears to have made $50m from scam ads… and BuzzFeed is doing the work that Facebook should be?

🌳 Patagonia founder Yvon Chouinard talks about the sustainability myth, the problem with Amazon—and why it’s not too late to save the planet (FastCompany).

🔋 Volvo XC40 Recharge: its first fully electric car, with Android Auto embedded, and pledged to go carbon-neutral (The Verge).

🚗 Tesla Model Y prototype spotted in Washington – start of long-distance testing? (Electrek).

💰 Elon Musk smoking Joe Rogan's weed somehow ended up costing taxpayers $5 million (Gizmodo).

The FrankOne is a simple and portable coffee brewing gadget (TechCrunch).

🕹 Analogue Pocket is a modern handheld for playing your old Game Boy games, coming 2020 (The Verge).

🚁 China’s Z-20 helicopter, aka the CopyHawk, looks awfully familiar (Jalopnik).

🔫 I mean, this is a pretty late article for this Fortnite stuff, but “Fortnite is exciting again” isn’t wrong (The Verge).

🐟 Excited marine biologists find a "whale fall" on ocean floor (YouTube).

🐜 Also, here’s a headline I didn’t expect to see today: Fastest ants in world found in northern Sahara, researchers say (The Guardian).

Throwback Thursday

Biology is probably the one area of science where I can confidently say I know a vanishingly small amount. So, someone else might have explain the details of this one: The Paris Zoo now has a new attraction: the "blob".

Paris Zoo blob

  • No longer is the zoo just for helping preserve the likes of rare tigers and pandas and such.
  • The blob is actually pretty cool though, and challenges what we know about “life”.
  • “It’s an organism with no brain but 720 sexes”, reports The Guardian, somewhat mysteriously if you don't understand 
  • “The blob is a living being which belongs to one of nature’s mysteries”, said Bruno David, director of the Paris Museum of Natural History, of which the Zoological Park is part.
  • “It surprises us because it has no brain but is able to learn (...) and if you merge two blobs, the one that has learned will transmit its knowledge to the other,” David added.”
  • It also heals itself in two minutes, which would be a handy thing to do.
  • (Image via Paris Zoo / MNHN - FG Grandin)

Blob, zoo, together, and we’re all learning something,

Tristan Rayner, Senior Editor.

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