The UpStream

Google facing new legal challenges over handling of child data

posted Sunday Feb 23, 2020 by Scott Ertz

Google facing new legal challenges over handling of child data

If there is any company in the United States that understands the fallout from not completely complying with the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA), it's Google. In the past few months, the company was on the receiving end of a Federal Trade Commission fine, which ultimately changed the entire community policy for YouTube. However, this seems to have had little to no effect on the wider Google, as they are once again in trouble.

A lawsuit, filed by New Mexico, claims that Google has violated both COPPA and New Mexico's Unfair Practices Act. Unlike the YouTube issue, where the company tried to claim that they couldn't control that children were using the platform, there can be no mistaking the intentions in this case. This case involves Google's tools being offered to school students.

While adults tend to understand that if the tool is free, the product is you and your data, children cannot understand exactly what that means. This is the reason why laws like COPPA exist, preventing companies like Google from tracking the behavior of children and creating data profiles of them. The suit claims that Google has knowingly done exactly that, saying,

To drive adoption in more schools-and to alleviate legitimate concerns about its history of privacy abuses-Google has been making public statements and promises that are designed to convince parents, teachers, and school officials that Google takes student privacy seriously and that it only collects education-related data from students using its platform.

Despite these claims, New Mexico believes that Google has been mining student data on the platforms and while using its hardware and software in schools. The suit insists, "Google has used Google Education to spy on New Mexico children and their families."

Google claims that the claims are "factually wrong" and that the Google Education platform allows educators to control the data collected and requires parental consent, adding, "We do not use personal information from users in primary and secondary schools to target ads."

Nvidia's GeForce Now is losing game publishers at an alarming rate

posted Sunday Feb 23, 2020 by Scott Ertz

Nvidia's GeForce Now is losing game publishers at an alarming rate

It was just two weeks ago that Nvidia finally took its long-awaited GeForce Now cloud gaming platform out of beta and certified it as ready for the market. When the platform launched, it was populated by games from nearly every major game publisher. In some cases, the platform had direct connections to developer platforms, such as Activision Blizzard's Battle.net and Ubisoft's Uplay.

However, in the past 2 weeks, things have changed. Within days of launch, Activision pulled all of their titles, and such the Battle.net connection, from the platform. This was a big public blow for the platform, as many players were excited about GeForce Now to be able to play Activision games in particular. While it seemed like a major problem for Nvidia, it was only the beginning. This week, Nvidia announced,

Please be advised most Bethesda Softworks titles will be removed from the GeForce NOW service today. Wolfenstein Youngblood will remain for all members. Founders members can continue to experience the game with RTX On.

And with that, another publisher disappears, almost entirely, from the anticipated platform, whose attraction was the large catalog of games. With it, popular franchises, such as Fallout and The Elder Scrolls, both properties that could have been big draws to the platform.

However, as these publishers pull out of the platform, it seems to have little effect on user growth. In fact, the company also announced that subscriber count has already hit 1 million. As part of that announcement, they also announced that Cyberpunk 2077 would be available on GeForce Now on Day 1. The important part of this announcement is that they are still successfully working with publishers to bring high-profile games to the service. However, the longevity of these relationships seems questionable, so changes are not only inevitable but also incredibly unpredictable.

Apple might finally be eliminating iPhone's biggest limitation

posted Sunday Feb 23, 2020 by Scott Ertz

Apple might finally be eliminating iPhone's biggest limitation

For anyone who has used a computing device other than iPhone or iPad at any time in the past few decades, there is one commonality - the ability to determine default apps for common tasks. The behavior is such an important piece of computing that, when Microsoft began to build their web browser, Internet Explorer, into Windows 98SE and beyond, Europe was afraid they were going to eliminate the ability to change the default browser option. That wasn't the plan, but it didn't stop worry, anger, and an anti-trust case.

Today, that anti-trust case has likely continued to have an effect on the industry. Almost all new platforms that have been created since have included the ability to set default web browser, email client, and more. The biggest exception to this rule is Apple's iOS and iPadOS. Owners of an iPhone or iPad are forced to use Safari as their web browser and Apple's email app as their default email. This is another example of Apple's attempt at owning a complete monopoly in its ecosystem. But that might finally be about to change.

According to Bloomberg News, iOS 14 will bring to an end that aspect of the company's monopoly. This move could possibly be the biggest change in Apple's policy of control since the inception of iOS, which issued in this new corporate philosophy. It might also be the most anticipated feature from Apple.

The ability to choose your own browser, email app, maps app, etc., are so commonly requested, that both Google and Microsoft have baked the ability into their own application ecosystems. If you use Outlook as your email client, which is very common, you can choose what apps will open from Outlook. Standard links can be opened in Safari or Edge, and location links can be opened in Apple Maps, Citymapper, Google Maps, or Waze. Google's applications offer similar settings, all for the same reason. But, it would be nice to know that, no matter where you open a link, it will open the way you want it to.

YouTube TV to cancel subscriptions in March paid through App Store

posted Sunday Feb 16, 2020 by Scott Ertz

YouTube TV to cancel subscriptions in March paid through App Store

Over the past few years, we've seen a growing discontentment with the policies of the unified application stores for mobile devices. Fortnite publisher Epic Games famously skipped Google Play for their game on Android. Netflix has led a similar campaign but aimed at subscriptions instead of app distribution. Because Apple requires any app offering a subscription to process through the App Store, Netflix does not allow users to subscribe from within the app. YouTube TV seems to be following their lead.

Starting in March 2020, YouTube TV subscriptions that were purchased through the App Store will be canceled. If you have your subscription canceled, the company will direct you to the website to re-up your account. If you have an active subscription through the website, you'll still be able to use the full service on your Apple devices. Current subscribers received an email stating,

You're currently subscribed to YouTube TV through Apple in-app purchases, so we're writing to let you know that, starting March 13th, 2020, YouTube TV will no longer accept payment through Apple in-app purchases. You'll be billed for one final month of service and then your in-app purchase subscription will be canceled automatically on your billing date after March 13th, 2020.

This policy has been growing in support because of Apple's tyrannical control over the App Store and everything that is distributed through it. Because no other stores are possible on the iPhone or iPad, Apple has a monopoly that they are more than happy to exploit.

The 30 percent Apple Tax, or the cut that Apple takes from every transaction in the App Store, has made it difficult to operate subscription services. To make matters worse, it means that the companies have to have more than one payment processing system, making the account management process more expensive, as well. It also means that support representatives have a more difficult time, making the user experience worse.

The price of a .com is about to rise care of the ICANN monopoly

posted Sunday Feb 16, 2020 by Scott Ertz

The price of a .com is about to rise care of the ICANN monopoly

If you are a .com domain owner, expect the price of your annual domain renewal to almost double over the next decade. This is thanks to the poor structure of the domain name registration process. To understand how domain names work, especially for .com, you'll need to know about a small collection of organizations that are involved. First is the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), a non-profit which is responsible for deciding which top-level domains exist, and who will administer each. Then we have the company Verisign, which is best known for security certificates but also administers all .com domain names. In addition, there is the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), which is part of the US Department of Commerce, which oversees the rules that govern .com.

To register your .com, however, you don't directly interact with any of these groups. Instead, you'll go to a company like GoDaddy, who buys the domain wholesale from Verisign. The price they pay for it is governed by the NTIA, who has given ICANN more freedom in setting price increases.

What does all of this mean? Verisign has permission from ICANN to increase the price of a .com registration 7 percent per year for the next decade. As the wholesale price increases, of course, the retail price, which you and I pay, will increase as well. If they take advantage of this ability, Verisign will see a profit increase of $500 million above the expected 2 percent inflation, in 2030.

If you're living entirely in the traditional old-school internet, there is no way around this monopoly. It shows one of the inherent issues with a centralized internet and lends credence to the concept of a decentralized internet. This concept already works and exists in a couple of implementations, including TOR. But, while TOR is known for a lot of illegal activity, other implementations are more straightforward. As ICANN continues to make the internet more expensive to operate, and companies produce easier access to decentralized networks, we may see a rise in its use.

Component pricing may make PlayStation 5 hard to price for Sony

posted Sunday Feb 16, 2020 by Scott Ertz

Component pricing may make PlayStation 5 hard to price for Sony

In the last console generation, pricing had a huge impact on initial console sales. During their respective E3 press conferences that year, Microsoft and Sony announced their console launch prices, with the Xbox One premiering at $499 bundled with a Kinect, and the PlayStation 4 premiering at $399 with the PlayStation Eye and Move offered as an optional $100 add-on. But, Sony actually made a change to its business plans following response to Microsoft's announcement, which came first. Originally, the PlayStation 4 was going to be bundled with the Eye and Move for $499. That decision changed the entire generation.

This generation, it appears that pricing could once again have a huge impact on sales, but this time Sony is not in charge. Instead, Sony is having trouble even nailing down the cost of the manufacturing for the PlayStation 5 because of the rising cost of some of its components. Speaking with Bloomberg, unnamed sources close to the situation have said that the current cost of building the console is around $450. That means that, if Sony keeps the same slim profit margin of the launch day PS4, the PlayStation 5 is going to have to sell for at least $470.

That price would put it far above anything Sony has on the market now, with the PlayStation 4 Pro retailing back at the original price of $399, but is often found on sale or in discounted bundles. According to Damian Thong, an analyst for Macquarie Capital,

Consumers will benchmark their expectations based on the PS4 Pro and PS4. If Sony prices above that, it would likely be to balance a need to offset higher materials cost, against risk to demand.

This means that we could see Sony pricing the PlayStation 5 higher than the $470 price point, expecting component prices to continue to rise. On the flip side, Microsoft's poorly named Xbox Series X opted to go with a lot of custom components for the core system, meaning that they have more control over the end price of components. That doesn't mean that the price of the elements won't change, but it does allow the company to have a better grip on their costs than where Sony seems to be today.

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