TIME privacy

What Uber Still Won’t Say About Your Data

Travis Kalanick, chief executive officer of Uber Technologies Inc., gestures as he speaks during the Institute of Directors (IOD) annual convention at the Royal Albert Hall in London, U.K., on Oct. 3, 2014.
Travis Kalanick, chief executive officer of Uber Technologies Inc., gestures as he speaks during the Institute of Directors (IOD) annual convention at the Royal Albert Hall in London, U.K., on Oct. 3, 2014. Chris Ratcliffe—Bloomberg/Getty Images

A privacy audit left some questions unanswered

Uber, the massively popular car-hailing company, has acquired a reputation for being overly cavalier about data privacy. Last November, Uber vice president Emil Michael suggested investigating journalists critical of Uber to find dirt in their “personal lives.” A venture capitalist said his private location data was broadcast to a large audience at a Chicago Uber launch party. And a Buzzfeed reporter in November was tracked on her way to an interview with New York’s top Uber executive.

Uber has since refocused its attention on riders’ privacy, rewording its data policy and hiring an outside attorney to conduct an investigation.

“At Uber, protecting the personal information of riders is a core responsibility and company value,” said Uber CEO Travis Kalanick in a Friday statement. “Delivering on that value means that privacy is woven into every facet of our business, from the design of new products to how we interact with riders, drivers and the public at large.”

The results of that audit were released Friday. The investigation, led by Harriet Pearson, a Washington, D.C. attorney at Hogan Lovells with an impressive history of arbitrating privacy and security issues, agreed with Kalanick’s own assessment: Uber has a strong privacy policy. Her six-week investigation at Uber involved reviewing hundreds of documents and interviewing Uber’s leadership. It ultimately resulted in an exculpatory report that Pearson called “comprehensive.”

“In our view, Uber has dedicated significantly more resources to privacy at this point in its age as a company given its sector and size than other companies that we’ve observed,” said Pearson in an interview with TIME. Uber is about six years old, it’s valued at more than $41 billion.

The saga has raised important questions about how private companies access our personal information, from our credit card data to our precise location. A lot of Uber’s data can be really useful: The company uses it to settle internal disputes, fix bugs or help cities plan traffic patterns, as it has done in Boston, for example.

But in the age of the Snowden National Security Agency revelations, consumers are particularly sensitive about how their personal information is used. Uber has promised to follow the report’s recommendations, such as expanding employee training and making its policies more transparent. But the audit still left some questions unanswered, according to Bruce Schneier a fellow at Harvard University’s Berkman Center for Internet & Society.

“I saw nothing in their statements” to alleviate privacy concerns, says Schneier of Uber’s report. “Anytime you put this kind of surveillance power in peoples hand, they look up their enemies and friends… If the culture is not, ‘we don’t do this,’ than you do it.”

Here’s what we still want to know more about.

How many employees at Uber can see my personal data?

Uber says access is limited to employees who have a reason to need it, like those investigating fraud, answering user-driver inquiries or conducting trip analyses, said Katherine Tassi, Uber’s managing counsel for privacy, in an interview. But Tassi doesn’t have an exact figure.

“There’s no one particular number of employees that have access to user data,” she said.

How does Uber prevent its employees from looking at my data?

Uber gives employees access to customer data based on their responsibilities, while others are locked out through technical controls. “We noticed those kinds of controls at various levels” at Uber, said Pearson.

The report indicates Uber uses a combination of passwords, informal rules and employee monitoring to restrict access. In any case, according to Pearson, the company has a well-developed system for monitoring who is accessing your data and when.

So has Uber explained its recent privacy missteps?

Not fully. “We’re not going to comment on those specific instances that were in the press, but in general, we’re an organization of human beings and human beings make mistakes,” says Tassi. Pearson says her investigation only examined Uber’s privacy program and its structure, not particular incidents. So we don’t actually know how common it is for Uber employees to tap into your data, despite the company’s policy.

Do Uber employees ever get in trouble for doing fishy things with users’ data?

Uber won’t say. We know that Uber “disciplined” New York executive Josh Mohrer in November for tracking that Buzzfeed reporter’s ride, but we’re not sure how. Other than that, we don’t have any evidence Uber employees committed any other privacy violations.

Are Uber employees taught not to spy on me?

Uber talks informally with its employees about protecting customer data. Employees get “communications” from the senior team on handling riders’ data, Tassi said, and new Uber hires have to accept the company’s data access policy.

But when pressed, Uber didn’t say whether there’s a formal training program for employees, merely saying it was “in early stages of development.” That training “needs further formalization,” said Tassi.

TIME Smartphones

Why Microsoft Would Invest in An Android Startup

The Latest Mobile Apps At The App World Multi-Platform Developer Show
A logo for Google Inc.'s Android operating system is displayed on an advertising sign during the Apps World Multi-Platform Developer Show in London, U.K., on Wednesday, Oct. 23, 2013. Chris Ratcliffe—Bloomberg / Getty Images

The potential investment hints at a larger battle to grab real estate on your phone's homescreen

Microsoft is reportedly set to invest in a startup building its own version of the Google-owned Android mobile operating system.

Microsoft will hold a minority stake in Cyanogen, which rewrites Android’s open-source code and offers it as a souped-up alternative to Google’s version of the platform, the Wall Street Journal reports. Some 50 million devices currently run Cyanogen’s Android, while CEO Kirt McMaster says his army of 9,000 volunteer programmers are reshaping the software into a superior product.

“We’re going to take Android away from Google,” McMaster told the Journal.

That raises a few intriguing question about Microsoft’s investment — such as:

Why should Microsoft care about this startup?

Google currently dominates the mobile market. Roughly 84% of the world’s phones come pre-installed with Android, according to estimates from IDC. That means a vast majority of phones come pre-packaged with Google apps. Unbox the phone, and there they are the home screen. The user can always download rival apps, but who’s going to take the time to download Microsoft’s apps when Google’s are already there?

How did Google come to dominate the home screen?

Google gives away Android’s source code for free, even to rival device manufacturers. But the giveaway comes with a few strings attached. If device makers want access to Google’s most popular apps, such as Search and the Google Play store, they have historically had to sign agreements to place those apps “immediately adjacent” to the home screen, according to signed contracts reported by the Wall Street Journal.

Cyanogen’s version of Android, however, would release device makers from those contractual obligations. That would mean if Microsoft made hardware running Cyanogen’s Android, it would be freed up to put its on apps front and center.

Can’t Microsoft just puts its apps on the phones it already makes?

Sure, but Microsoft’s Windows Phones comprise only 3% of the global market. That’s why Microsoft has recently unleashed its flagship apps for iPhone and Android phones. Apple iPhone and iMac users have already downloaded Word, Powerpoint and Excel more than 80 million times to date. Now that its apps are in a polygamous relationship with rival devices, Microsoft might want to ensure they get front and center on all devices.

Will Google let that happen?

Probably not without a fight. The whole purpose of the free Android giveaway is to route as many users as possible to its search pages, where it gets millions of eyeballs on its advertisements — and Google’s ad business, especially on mobile, is already showing weaknesses.

TIME apps

Here’s Why You’ll Love the New Outlook App

A logo sign at the headquarters of Microsoft in Redmond, Wash.
A logo sign at the headquarters of Microsoft in Redmond, Wash. Tripplaar Kristoffer/SIPA—AP

The app still has room for growth and improvement. So don't delete OWA just yet

This story was originally published at the Daily Dot.

After Microsoft acquired email app Accompli for $200 million in December 2014, the endgame for the acquisition was pretty clear: use the established email client to bring Outlook to Android and iOS.

Outlook has been noticeably absent for mobile, especially as the rest of the Office suite has made its transition to the non-Windows platforms. While it doesn’t have the fanfare that a Gmail has, nor the new glow of all the messaging apps that threaten the concept of email entirely, Outlook has plenty of dedicated users who have adopted the email client as a way of life. It is as common in the workplace as any office supply.

Now it can finally be a part of Android and iOS user’s mobile desk. Given how ubiquitous Outlook is for people working for companies and organizations that swear by the platform, downloading the app will be inevitable. Will it also be painful? Here’s what you’ll love (or hate) about the new Outlook app.

Cross platform, finally

Outlook has never really conquered mobile. While millions may use the Microsoft-made email client, phones from the company spend more time on the shelf at the store than in people’s pockets. Even Windows diehards have an Android or Apple handset. Ever since Microsoft has stopped trying to punish those people by withholding their products from them and instead embracing them, they’ve racked up over 80 million downloads.

Outlook will increase those totals and probably would have made more sense as the first app to make the jump instead of the last. Then again, it’ll also help push people away from the desktops and laptops running Windows. And suspiciously, the new Outlook isn’t available for Windows Phone users yet. Could Microsoft be abandoning the hardware business altogether to focus on making apps?!

Read the rest of the story at the Daily Dot.

TIME Video Games

This Is the Most Exciting Star Wars Development Yet

You can now fly X-Wings and the Millennium Falcon

Arcades aren’t quite dead yet, at least according to Disney and Bandai Namco. The two companies have launched an immersive new Star Wars arcade game called Star Wars: Battle Pod that lets players pilot iconic vehicles like the Millennium Falcon, an X-Wing, and Darth Vader’s TIE Advanced. The massive, 1200-pound cabinet features a 18-degree curved screen, as well as a chair that rumbles on impact and air blasts to mimic flight. The game recounts specific, iconic scenes like the Battle of Hoth (yes, you can fly a Snowspeeder) and the destruction of the Death Star II. Check out the video above for some behind-the-scenes footage of the development of the game.

Star Wars: Battle Pod launched in U.S. arcades this January and will arrive in other countries later in the year. Those who can’t manage to find one of these beauties out in the wild will have to be content playing the still-excellent Rogue Squadron for Nintendo 64.

TIME Super Bowl

How to Watch the Super Bowl Online for Free

Super Bowl
Cornerback Richard Sherman #25 of the Seattle Seahawks takes the field for the 2014 NFC Championship against the San Francisco 49ers at CenturyLink Field on January 19, 2014 in Seattle, Washington. Jonathan Ferrey—Getty Images

Cord-cutters rejoice

In years past, trying to watch the Super Bowl online might have left you feeling deflated. But this year the cord-cutters among us have lots of solid options for streaming the big game.

Let’s take a look at your two best choices:

1. NBC’s livestream. Super Bowl broadcaster NBC is offering up a free livestream of Sunday’s game that starts well ahead of the 6:30 p.m. ET kickoff. And unlike lots of other TV streaming solutions, you won’t have to prove you’re a cable subscriber to tune in.

NBC is airing pre- and post-game coverage, the game itself and Katy Perry’s halftime show on desktop and tablets to promote its new TV everywhere plan. Desktop users can catch NBC’s Super Bowl coverage starting at noon ET Sunday on NBC.com; tablet users should download the NBC Sports Live Extra app for iOS or Android.

2. Via Verizon Wireless. NBC’s free stream won’t work on your phone because of an exclusive deal between the NFL and Verizon. If you happen to be a Verizon customer, you can stream the Super Bowl on your phone for free if you’ve got a More Everything plan; other Verizon customers will have to shell out $5 for the privilege. Either way, Verizon subscribers can use the NFL Mobile app for iOS or Android to catch the action.

So that’s it! Enjoy the Super Bowl, and remember that if you’re streaming the game on your computer, there are lots of good ways to beam it over to your big-screen TV.

TIME App

Now Your Kids Can Watch 6-Second Videos That Match Their Attention Spans

Resistance is futile

Vine has unveiled a new kid-friendly app that will allow your children to constantly scroll through six-second videos of silly characters on your iPhone while you wait in line at the bank.

The new app, called Vine Kids, is the same as Vine except it’s loaded with age-appropriate content, such as cartoon animals who make funny sounds. You scroll left or right to switch videos, and you tap to hear sounds.

Here’s how much kids love the idea:

Resistance is futile. Say goodbye to your iPhone.

TIME legal

My Drone Landed in Someone’s Yard—Is it Theirs Now?

Inspire 1 Drone Officially Debut In Shenzhen
The 'Inspire 1' drone is presented outdoors on November 26, 2014 in Shenzhen, Guangdong province of China. ChinaFotoPress/Getty Images

Navigating unmanned aircraft law can be as tricky as maneuvering in the sky

We’ve all been there before. It’s late at night, you’ve had a couple cocktails, and you want to pull out the ol’ drone for a spin. You know, night piloting. Then, before you know it, a tree jumps right into your quadcopter’s path, and it has crashed onto a nearby lawn in the dark.

So, is your drone a goner? Well, that’s a complicated answer.

First, there’s the booze issue. “We prohibit our members from drinking and flying any type of model aircraft,” says Dave Mathewson, executive director of the Academy of Model Aeronautics. Founded in 1936, the 175,000-member organization makes sure pilots like Drunky McDarkwing take to the skies in a responsible way. In fact, just last month the group teamed up with several other organizations, including the Federal Aviation Administration, to launch a “Know Before You Fly” campaign aimed at educating new recreational pilots. “We truly believe that most of these new enthusiasts who are purchasing this technology intend to fly safely and responsibly, they just lack the guidance that helps them understand how to do that,” he says.

For instance, the campaign urges operators who are flying for fun to keep their unmanned aircraft below 400 feet, stay at least five miles away from any airport, and remain within the pilot’s line of site. “This allows the operator to have situational awareness of the airspace around him and gives the ability of sense-and-avoid that is so prominent — and the number one priority — for all operators in the national airspace,” says Mathewson.

But these guidelines are aimed at recreational users, and aren’t necessarily intended for people who want use a drone to check their gutters for leaves. In fact, according to Mathewson, those uses aren’t even authorized. “It’s an incredibly gray area,” he says. “The FAA will tell you that there are no guidelines under which you can do that, although we also know that there are probably thousands of operators out there right now that are using the technology for various things including checking out your roof. We know that there’s search and rescue activity taking place.”

According to Mathewson, the FAA is working on special drone regulations, but they that have been delayed several times since 2009. he says. “Once these regulations are put in place, this will define how other uses of the technology can operate in a national airspace.” Wait, what? National Airspace? Yes, technically, the air above your roof falls within the National Airspace, which is why you need to keep your drone below 400 feet.

All these guidelines say nothing about using a drone to make a buck. That is another tangle of law and regulations that the FAA has only recently begun to sort out. In general, the FAA requires civil operators to apply for a Special Airworthiness Certificate, something akin to a pilots license, and commercial users have to apply for an exemption to fly for profit. As of early January, the FAA had granted just 12 exemptions in response to the 214 requests it has received — a logjam no doubt made more complicated by drones’ rising popularity. “In fairness to the FAA, this is a challenging endeavor for them,” says Mathewson. “The technology is evolving so quickly that it’s been difficult for the FAA to keep up.”

If this answer to the crashed drone question seems to have veered off course, it hasn’t. The FAA has to consider not just everywhere drones can go, but who can pilot them, and what these devices can do. For instance, though it would seem like common sense anyway, the government agency even had to issue a flight restriction over the Super Bowl. It has also been pulling together resources for law enforcement agencies tasked with investigating unauthorized drone activity.

And when it comes to retrieving your drone, it may come down to boring, old property law, which is largely jurisdictional. Common law states that whoever owns the property where your drone crashes can keep it, until or unless you come to retrieve it. In some places, statutes require that people turn lost personal property over to a government official, and if it has not been claimed after a period of time, the original owner’s rights expire. Now, if your neighbor just so happens to live at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, you’re in luck. The authorities were nearby, and snapped up your drone right quickly. Also: Don’t ever do that again.

TIME apps

This App Rewards Students With Food for Not Checking Their Phones in Class

Italian style hoagie sandwich
Students can get discounted hoagies in exchange for focusing in class. Matthew O'Shea—Getty Images

Points add up to get discounts at local shops

The way to a teenager’s brain is through their stomach. Students on two campuses can now earn discounts at local shops and eateries by building points on an app that measures whether they check their phones during class.

The app, Pocket Points, was developed by a student at California State University, Chico, and has now been implemented on the Penn State campus as well, according to the Penn State news site Onward State.

When students arrive at their lectures, they open the app (which can tell when it’s in a campus classroom) then lock their phone. The app then measures how long they go before checking their phone again. The longer it stays locked, the more points they get, and the more hoagies/cheesesteaks/pizzas they get to redeem at participating locations. Because if highly-trained Ph.D.’s can’t get kids to focus, surely the promise of hot cheese can.

If only they could make this work for grown-ups at dinner parties.

[Onward State]

TIME How-To

How to Hide Anything on Your iPhone

TIME.com stock photos Social Apps iPhone
Elizabeth Renstrom for TIME

You have a right to privacy. Here’s how to protect it.

The eyes may be the window to your soul, but your iPhone is the peephole into your daily life. Who you contact, which apps you use, which selfies you snap — it’s all right there. So if you care about your privacy, it’s worth taking some simple steps to protect it. Here are seven ways to keep digital snoops at bay.

Pair Touch ID With a Complex Password

If you’re already using your fingerprint to unlock your iPhone, you’re on the right track. (If not, tap Settings >Touch ID & Passcode and add it now.) Here’s another trick: add a complex password to enter each time you power up your phone. (Tap Settings > Touch ID & Passcode, disable Simple Passcode and follow prompts). For a stronger passcode that’s quick to enter, stick to all numbers and aim for up to 12 digits. That won’t stop a dedicated hacker, but it’s tougher for an unwanted onlooker to figure out than a standard 4-digit password.

Nix the Notifications on Your Lock Screen

Hide your notifications by going to Settings > Notifications and toggling off the Show on Lock Screen slider. Alternately, you can also fine tune this setting so that only certain apps can place notifications on your lock screen using the options right below this setting. You can even block notifications from individual message threads: go into the message, tap the word Details on the upper right hand corner of your screen and slide the Do Not Disturb Button to the left. Voila.

Hide Clandestine Contacts

There’s no built-in setting for hiding individual contacts, but there are some smart workarounds. The simplest way is never to save the person’s name so only their number appears in your recent calls list. To hide all your recent and favorite contacts in the App Switcher – which appears atop your screen when you press the home button twice – tap Settings > Mail, Contacts, Calendars > Contacts > Show in App Switcher and toggle off Phone Favorites and Recents.

Deep-Six Secret Texts

This one’s easy – just delete them. Swipe left on the Messages screen to delete entire exchanges at once. If you only want to nix certain parts of a thread, hold your finger on the offending text bubble, tap More when it pops up, select each bubble you want to delete using the check marks at left, then tap the trash icon at the bottom left of your screen.

Zap Photos and Videos

Here’s one case when you’re better off using a third-party app instead of the iPhone’s built-in option. While you can hide any photo from your camera roll by holding your finger on it, then selecting Hide, the Hidden Album is not password-protected. Instead, try a free app like KYMS or Private Photo Vault, which require a password to access. Just remember to permanently delete the originals from the default iPhone photo app afterwards.

Make Apps Disappear

Don’t want anyone who borrows your phone to know you’re on Tinder or have a Private Photo Vault? There are two ways around this. First, you can hide apps inside another folder like your “Extras” by holding down the app icon until it starts shaking, then dragging it into the desired folder. Second, you can hide app icons altogether by dragging them into the dock, then using Spotlight to access it. Get a detailed explanation for how to do both tricks here.

Hide Your Search History in Safari

If you just want to browse privately for a while, open Safari, tap the page icon in the lower right corner, then tap Private. To clear your entire browser history, go back to your phone’s home screen, tap Settings > Safari > Clear History and Website Data. Pro tip: download the DuckDuckGo search engine and use it instead. Unlike Safari, it never stores your search history.

TIME Media

Why Jay-Z’s New Music Service Won’t Beat Spotify

Celebrites Attend The Miami Heat Vs Brooklyn Nets Game - May 12, 2014
Jay-Z attends the Miami Heat vs Brooklyn Nets game at Barclays Center on May 12, 2014 in the Brooklyn borough of New York City. James Devaney—GC Images

Most people don't want to pay more for higher audio quality

Business mogul Jay-Z has a new acquisition to add to his collection of night clubs, clothing lines and luxury champagnes. The rapper’s company, Project Panther Bidco, is picking up European streaming music service Aspiro for $56 million, according to Reuters.

But while the Oslo-based service has managed to rack up 580,000 paying subscribers in Europe with a Spotify-like service, the company’s bet on high-priced, high-fidelity music streaming isn’t likely to take the world by storm.

Back in October, Aspiro launched Tidal, a new service for the U.S. and U.K. that offers millions of songs in a high-fidelity, lossless FLAC format, with essentially the same audio quality as CDs. Tidal boasts a library similar in scale to Spotify’s, but its tracks are higher in audio quality. That improved quality comes at a price: Tidal costs $19.99 per month, while Spotify’s ad-free version is $9.99 per month.

And if the last 15 years of the music industry’s fortunes tell us anything, it’s that people don’t want to pay more for high-quality audio files.

An entire generation of music lovers have now grown up without being regularly exposed to CD-level audio quality. Whether ripping CDs to create low-fidelity MP3s, downloading compressed audio files off of iTunes or streaming tracks from Spotify, most young music listeners have gotten used to low-bitrate listening. Audio quality on YouTube varies wildly and is often quite poor, but it’s still the most popular way for teenagers to listen to music.

Moreover, convincing people to pay $9.99 per month for music is already a tough sell, let alone $19.99 per month. Only about a fourth of Spotify’s 60 million users pay for the service, and it’s the platform with the largest paid user base by far. The industry may never convince fans to pay $120 per year (or in the case of Tidal, $240 per year) en masse considering that even at the music industry’s peak in 1999, music buyers were only spending $64 per year on songs, according to an analysis by Re/code.

(Read more: 8 Spotify tricks that will change the way you listen to music)

Of course, there is a precedent for a previously price-sensitive market suddenly being flooded with popular premium products. Dr. Dre and Jimmy Iovine convinced millions of consumers that their flimsy iPod earbuds weren’t good enough. They have since created a billion-dollar empire selling expensive Beats headphones that produce higher-quality sound. Like Beats, Tidal will now be helmed by a big-name music star who is also a deft marketer. Perhaps Jay-Z will find a way to make high-fidelity audio cool, too.

But with so many competitors crowding the market and offering, to the layman’s ears, more or less the same product—25 million or so songs that you can stream whenever you want—it’ll be a challenge to lure customers at a higher price. Aspiro and Tidal may find a successful niche among audiophiles, but Jay-Z’s new music service probably won’t unseat the industry’s giants.

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