The UpStream (Page 21)

Netflix begins canceling dormant accounts, 12 months or more

posted Saturday May 23, 2020 by Scott Ertz

Netflix begins canceling dormant accounts, 12 months or more

A lot of industries have embraced the idea of recurring revenue rather than traditional sales. Even companies like Microsoft, which has been known for software sales, has moved to a more lease-based model. But, this model also makes customers uneasy because of the likelihood of forgetting about your subscription. We've all done it - signed up for a service and entirely forgotten that we have it. But, at least we know we will continue paying for it forever.

That may not be the case anymore if that subscription is for Netflix. Starting soon, the company will begin automatically disabling inactive accounts. If you have not interacted with your Netflix subscription for at least 12 months, the company will terminate the account, as well as the billing. Fortunately, there are a couple of backups in case you want to keep your account but just forgot about it.

First, the company will send you a warning email before the purge. If you interact with your account and tell them to retain it, they will. At that point, you're back to business as usual. If you let it expire and decide later that you want to pick back up where you left off, you can always reactivate and your previous account activity is retained.

This move is a huge departure from the normal operating procedures for subscription services. Most of these companies are happy to take your money and provide nothing in return. However, Netflix seems more interested in the providing value portion of the relationship than they are on the taking your money part. It's not a terribly surprising move from the company, as they tend to focus on the wants and needs of their viewers, whether it be in planning out original content or apparently working to save you money. Hopefully this will inspire other subscription services to follow suit.

Facebook is looking to challenge Amazon with Facebook Shops feature

posted Saturday May 23, 2020 by Scott Ertz

Facebook is looking to challenge Amazon with Facebook Shops feature

While Google managed to constantly attract the eye of governments across the globe, the company that seems determined to build a single portal for all internet activities is Facebook. The platform, which started as a way for college students to get to know their classmates, has grown to offer a large variety of services. Whether you are looking to find a date (Facebook Dating) or a used videogame (Facebook Marketplace), you can likely accomplish it on the platform. But, if you are a small business trying to sell products, it's not that easy on Facebook.

That changes now, however, as Facebook has introduced Facebook Shops. This new feature is intended to allow businesses to open digital stores on the platform. Businesses, especially small businesses, will be able to list products through their stores, either directly or indirectly. The system is designed to integrate with popular online shopping systems.

This concept is similar to that of the Facebook Instant Articles feature for publishers. As a publisher, you create your content on your own website. A more direct and unified version of the post is made available through Facebook, making it easier and faster for users to access while maintaining the publisher's branding. Shops will allow something similar, allowing online stores to import their products into the platform, allowing users to remain on Facebook while still shopping for the store's products.

The feature will not be exclusive to the Facebook platform, either. It will be introduced as Instagram Shops in the near future. While the feature may be the same, the target demographic is obviously different. Instagram's users tend to skew younger, and the feature there could be used as more of a competitor to Etsy than to Amazon.

Shops will only be available to valid corporations with a TIN and a business bank account. This will help mitigate to a small degree the dangers of online stores, especially those who act as drop shippers for questionable products. With a registered corporation and a business bank account, there is more of a chance of tracking down the representatives if something goes wrong.

Fortnite is evolving from casual game to digital community center

posted Saturday May 23, 2020 by Scott Ertz

Fortnite is evolving from casual game to digital community center

When Fortnite first hit the scene, it was widely viewed as a casual game for kids. Over time, the popularity of the title has grown immensely, to the point where it is a household name. The average age of the players has increased as adults latch onto the game in every growing number. With the current global state of staying at home and desperately looking for something to do, the game has grown again in popularity.

But, a game can't stay stagnant for too long when the eyes of the world are on it. As such, Epic Games has looked for ways to incorporate other aspects of life into Fortnite. The newest example of this is by incorporating the trailer for the upcoming film Tenet into the relatively new Party Royale mode, which is less about fighting and more about just having fun. So, while hanging out, you can watch the trailer for a film planned for theatrical release on July 17. Of course, the plans could be thwarted, but for now, the film is still planning to release in theaters.

If Party Royale mode sounds familiar, it might because you remember the massive failure that was PlayStation Home. This feature of the PS3 allowed you to develop your own property, but it was also about the overall community. There were town halls, gathering spots, and more. In the game, you could even watch movies with friends. However, where Sony failed, Epic Games hopes to succeed, thanks in part to the partnerships it is building.

The Tenet project is far from the first time that Epic Games has used the game for non-game content. In the past, they have used this same in-game mechanic to bring Star Wars content into the lobby, though that was a full film preview as opposed to a general trailer. However, the company has been working hard to make the game more than just that. During the global lockdown, Epic has begun to use the game, especially through the environment of Party Royale, as more of a community center than just a game.

The company has set up virtual concert stages and held actual concerts on these stages. They have featured names like Steve Aoki, deadmau5, and Travis Scott, showing just how much attention the game has attracted. It also shows how much confidence Epic Games has in the community features of Party Royale.

Your lock screen is protected by the Constitution, says court

posted Saturday May 23, 2020 by Scott Ertz

Since the rise in popularity of biometric security features on mobile devices, whether fingerprint or facial recognition, the legal ramifications have been front and center. While forcing someone to reveal a password or PIN was legally identified as revealing personal and proprietary information, what about looking at a camera? That is not an extraordinary action, similar to walking a line during a traffic stop. Luckily, last year, that issue was laid to rest, with a court decision saying that it required a warrant.

However, there is still some information that can be retrieved without unlocking a device. That information is contained on the lock screen and notification tray. It requires nothing more than the push of a button by anyone nearby to reveal text messages, emails, missed calls or voicemails, and more. The legality of law enforcement being able to retrieve this information without a warrant has been a grey area, but that seems to have come to an end - somewhat.

According to a legal ruling this week, the simple act of turning on the screen of a mobile device is classified as a search and, as such, requires a search warrant. The ruling comes through a District Court in Seattle, who was petitioned to suppress mobile phone data obtained via the lock screen of the device without a search warrant. The judge, John C. Coughenour, ruled that the data was obtained illegally, with the search violating the petitioner's 4th Amendment rights.

This ruling is important, especially for the district over which the court presides. Because of the level of the court, it is far from a standing precedent, but can be used in other courts as past evidence of support. It does not mean that any court, either at the same level or above, is required to follow this ruling. It is the beginning of a very positive legal movement of protection against overreaching law enforcement at a time when the government is trying to expand the capabilities of law enforcement.

YouTube has a big security problem and it could easily become yours

posted Sunday May 17, 2020 by Scott Ertz

YouTube has a big security problem and it could easily become yours

If you have a YouTube channel, you're about to read something that will likely upset you: "wanna be friends?" This comment has been absolutely rampant across the site, appearing on almost every video posted for months. Many creators have noticed that the comment can appear before a video is even made public, suggesting that there is something unsavory going on. Well, that fear is completely justified, as the result of the comment is far worse than just being obnoxious.

First, let me state - DO NOT INTERACT WITH THIS COMMENT. Content creators who have interacted with this comment, either replying or subscribing to the channel behind it, have reported losing access to their channels. These accounts are then added to the comment bot farm that has kept the channel in the spotlight on YouTube - comments on the channel's videos. These comments are never valuable, but value is not part of the YouTube algorithm.

If you check the views on the channel's videos (which we will not link to for security reasons), you will see something peculiar. A video, which is just over a minute long, and simply asks the viewer to subscribe has tens of thousands of views. This is suspicious because this type of video tends to get about 12 views. No one wants to see a video asking for a subscription with no content. Yet, this channel completely bucks that trend, likely because of its use of hijacked accounts to comment on its videos.

One channel, who was subsequently hijacked, did a deep dive into the problem. He showed the oddities of the channel, including the subscribe video's view count, and the average views on the videos that do feature content. However, the content is vague and nonsensical, leading to absolutely nothing. In response to the growing movement behind #YoutubersAtRisk, YouTube has begun to investigate and look for a solution to the problem. All of our comments from this channel are now gone and we were unable to find the comment on other videos, despite its popularity a few days ago. Hopefully, the issue is over, but it is important to secure your YouTube account anyway in case something like this happens again.

Google antitrust cases are coming from Justice Department and states

posted Saturday May 16, 2020 by Scott Ertz

Google antitrust cases are coming from Justice Department and states

Over the past few years, two technology terms referring to tax have become popular. While the term Apple Tax refers to the 30 percent commission Apple taxes on transactions made through services that developers don't want to use, Google Tax is very different. In the case of Google, it refers to taxes and fees designed specifically to target the company. That's because Google has become a target of investigation in nearly every western nation.

One country that has had a confusing relationship with Google has been the United States. Few laws have been created specifically against Google, but the government has been consistently wary of Google's motives and actions. For about a year, since mid-2019, the Justice Department has been investigating the company's moves and, in particular, its use of its search position to harm its competitors. The claim has been made repeatedly across the globe, with Google steal content and promoting their content. These claims date back more than a decade, and the FTC has been recommending an antitrust suit the entire time.

Those wishes form the FTC are finally going to be honored, as the Justice Department's investigation appears to be complete and a suit is imminent. The documents appear to be in the process of being drafted and could be filed by this summer. It is important to note that, while there has been speculation based on previous government investigations, the details of this particular investigation are still unknown.

The Justice Department investigation is not the only one currently underway. A group of State Attorneys General, led by Texas AG Ken Paxton, has been engaged in their investigation into the company. That investigation appears to be close to complete as well, and the group is expected to make its response known by this fall. While the two groups have occasionally worked together on their investigations, they have remained separate entities.

Google said in a statement to Business Insider,

We continue to engage with the ongoing investigations led by the Department of Justice and Attorney General Paxton, and we don't have any updates or comments on speculation. Our focus is firmly on providing services that help consumers, support thousands of businesses, and enable increased choice and competition.

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