TIME Companies

Uber Says a ‘Number’ of Lyft’s Investors Want Uber to Buy Lyft

The Hamptons Lure Uber Top Drivers Amid NYC Slow Summer Weekends
Th Uber Technologies Inc. car service application (app) is demonstrated for a photograph on an Apple Inc. iPhone in New York, U.S., on Wednesday, Aug. 6, 2014. Bloomberg—Bloomberg via Getty Images

Uber's statement came in reaction to Lyft's claims that Uber staffers were scheduling and then canceling Lyft rides.

Ride-hailing service Uber has shot back at bitter competitor Lyft over accusations that Uber employees intentionally called in and then cancelled Lyft rides in order to slow down the service’s drivers. Lyft claims Uber engaged in this practice at least 5,000 times since October, according to Bloomberg.

In a statement Tuesday, Uber denied Lyft’s claim and asserted Lyft was actually the one engaging in the shady practice. “Lyft’s own drivers and employees, including one of Lyft’s founders, have canceled 12,900 trips on Uber,” Uber said. “But instead of providing the long list of questionable tactics that Lyft has used over the years, we are focusing on building and maintaining the best platform for both consumers and drivers.”

Uber went so far as to say Lyft’s tactics are part of a strategy to provoke a buyout from Uber, which is now valued at $17 billion. “A number of Lyft investors have recently been pushing Uber to acquire Lyft,” Uber’s statement reads. “One of their largest shareholders recently warned that Lyft would ‘go nuclear’ if we do not acquire them. We can only assume that the recent Lyft attacks are part of that strategy.”

Lyft and Uber offer similar services and have gotten into the habit of copying each other’s featuresets. Last week, for instance, both companies announced a new carpooling option within mere hours of each other. And they’re increasingly battling for the exact same customers—Lyft just launched in New York, where Uber already operates. Whereas Lyft is most well-known for being a rideshare app and Uber a taxi-hailing app, Lyft has essentially adopted the taxi-hailing model in New York under regulatory pressure to do so.

A Lyft spokesperson did not immediately respond to an email seeking comment.

 

TIME Social Media

Twitter Refutes Report That 23 Million Active Users Are Bots

Twitter Says 23 Million of Its Users Are Not Actually Bots
A user scrolls through a Twitter feed. Bloomberg via Getty Images

Clarification follows misinterpretations of its SEC filing, which disclosed how many users are on third party apps

Twitter is defending itself after reports this morning suggested that the company admitted up to 8.5%, or 23 million, of its active users are automated bots.

In a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission, Twitter said that “up to approximately 8.5% of all active users used third party applications that may have automatically contacted our servers for regular updates without any discernible additional user-initiated action.” Some observers interpreted that line to mean that 8.5% of Twitter’s active users were so-called “bot” accounts, which post autonomously based on scripts.

However, a Twitter spokesperson told TIME Tuesday that the third party applications mentioned in the SEC filing are not necessarily posting on users’ behalves. Rather, that statistic measures the usage of third party apps that users authorize to automatically compile their social media feeds into one spot, like Samsung’s Social Hub. The spokesperson added that while it’s difficult to know accurately if these apps can also auto-post content, the statistic’s focus was on only apps that aggregate Twitter content automatically “with no user action involved,” as the SEC filing said.

Still more confusion was caused by another portion of the SEC filing, in which Twitter corrected its Q2 earnings report to say that 11% of its active users “solely used third-party applications to access Twitter,” a broader definition including apps that can only auto-pull as well as ones without auto-pull functions. The corrected figure was down 3% from the 14% figure Twitter originally reported in its Q2 2014 earnings report. Twitter made the change Monday after it discovered the number “included certain users who accessed Twitter through owned and operated applications,” like the well-known TweetDeck.

Some observers took the 14%-to-11% correction to mean that 3% of Twitter’s users access the social network through Twitter-owned apps other than its primary offerings — the company’s usually mum about how many people are using those apps. But Twitter shot down that calculation as well, saying Tuesday the adjustment was made to correct a computational error, not to fix how the figure was computed: it’s therefore incorrect to deduce that this 3% indicates the percentage of users who access Twitter through Twitter owned and operated apps, Twitter said.

We can glean something from the 11% figure, though, as the roughly 8.5% of users on third party apps that can only auto-pull is contained in that figure, Twitter said. That means the remaining chunk—as little as 2.5%—indicates the percentage of users using third party apps that don’t have the capacity to auto-pull, Twitter said.

So what does that mean? The users in this 2.5% group are using third party apps that may have the capacity to automatically post content in an authentic, non-spamming manner—friendly “bots,” if you will—such as the Earthquake Robot feed, which automatically tweets news about earthquakes.

Indeed, the kind of Twitter account many people associate with the term “bot”—false or spam accounts—are not counted as active users, and are thus entirely independent from the aforementioned groups, Twitter said. These false or spam accounts make up less than 5% of Twitter’s monthly active users, according to the SEC filing.

 

 

TIME Virtual Currency

How Bitcoins Could Put Your Finances at Risk

Virtual currencies could cause you to lose "real" money, according to a new report

+ READ ARTICLE

The Consumer Finance Protection Bureau released a report Monday concluding that virtual currencies, such as Bitcoin, offer less protection than regular currencies and can be vulnerable to outrageous mark-ups, online scams and hackers.

In addition to publishing the report, the bureau has also added a virtual currency section to their complaint page where people who have run into problems with Bitcoin or other similar currencies can register their issues.

According to Bitcoin.com, there are more than 13 million units of virtual currency around the world.

TIME Video Games

Sony Says 10 Million PlayStation 4 Game Consoles Have Been Sold Worldwide

Sony confirmed the PlayStation 4's latest sales figures during its Gamescom 2014 press conference in Cologne, Germany.

At Gamescom 2014, Sony announced that it’s sold more than 10 million PlayStation game consoles worldwide since the system launched in November 2013. And that would be 10 million plucked off shelves by consumers, not just shipped to stores.

The last time the console majors rolled out unit sales specifics (around the end of March), Sony said it had sold through some 7 million PS4s, Nintendo that it had sold through just over 6 million Wii Us, with Microsoft bringing up the rear at around 5 million Xbox Ones shipped to stores. Microsoft said in July that with the Xbox One’s price drop from $499 to $399 and removal of Kinect in early June, Xbox One sales had more than doubled, but it was unclear then (as now) what the actual figures were.

TIME Video Games

For Better or Worse, Rise of the Tomb Raider Is for Xbox One Only

Score one -- a really, really big one -- for Microsoft.

The sequel to the unexpectedly acclaimed 2013 Tomb Raider series reboot, Rise of the Tomb Raider, is going to be exclusively on Xbox One when it launches next holiday 2015. The game was announced in June at E3, but the assumption then was that it would be multi-platform. It was a safe assumption: The original as well as its remastered version were available for Xbox and PlayStation platforms (as well as PC and Mac).

Crystal Dynamics’ head of product development Darrell Gallagher made the announcement at Gamescom 2014 today, and lest you wonder if “coming holiday 2015, exclusively to Xbox” means a timed-exclusive, with the game eventually rounding the bend for rival platforms, it sounds like that’s not the case (and that it is indeed Xbox-only forever).

Here’s Gallagher clarifying things on Crystal Dynamics’ Tomb Raider Tumblr:

Dear Tomb Raider Community,

As you may have seen, we’ve just announced that Rise of the Tomb Raider, coming Holiday 2015, is exclusively on Xbox. We consider all of you to be the lifeblood of Tomb Raider and the work we do at Crystal. I’d like to give you some insight into this decision, and why we feel this is the very best thing for the Tomb Raider sequel we’re creating at the studio.

Tomb Raider in 2013 was a success due in large part to your continued support. Our goal has always been to deliver something truly special with Rise of the Tomb Raider. Today’s announcement with Microsoft is one step to help us put Tomb Raider on top of action adventure gaming. Our friends at Microsoft have always seen huge potential in Tomb Raider and have believed in our vision since our first unveil with them on their stage at E3 2011. We know they will get behind this game more than any support we have had from them in the past – we believe this will be a step to really forging the Tomb Raider brand as one of the biggest in gaming, with the help, belief and backing of a major partner like Microsoft.

This doesn’t mean that we’re walking away from our fans who only play on PlayStation or on PC. Those are great systems, with great partners, and amazing communities. We have Lara Croft and the Temple of Osiris coming to those platforms this December, and Tomb Raider: The Definitive Edition is available on PS4.

We know that there are probably many more questions and concerns. Please do send them to us, and we’ll answer to the best of our ability. Meanwhile we’re going all out to try and make something truly special – the most ambitious Tomb Raider game ever built.

Thanks,

Darrell Gallagher
Crystal Dynamics Head of Studios

TIME Innovation

Origami-like Robot Folds Itself Into Shape and Walks Away

+ READ ARTICLE

As a writer, the path of least resistance would be to frame this piece along the lines of small robots assembling themselves, then building bigger robots, then taking over the world. The old robot-overlord routine.

But these MIT- and Harvard-developed self-folding robots — cool as they are — don’t look all that menacing quite yet. For starters, one of the key ingredients is polystyrene, which is the same stuff used in Shrinky Dinks. That’s adorable. Second, it takes around four minutes for the things to assemble and start walking away. And third, the assembly has to be pre-programmed, so there’s still some human intervention.

Thirty years from now? That might be a different story. I’ll be retired (or homeless) on a beach somewhere, though, so I’ll just head for the water if these things start getting uppity. They can’t swim, can they? Can they?!!

In the interim, the researchers envision self-assembling structures that could be used in dangerous places like space or battlefields.

[ExtremeTech]

TIME apps

Here’s How to Avoid Having to Use Facebook Messenger

Social Networks Facebook WhatsApp.
Marie Waldmann—Photothek/Getty Images

Facebook Messenger is here, but there's a work-around that lets iPhone users avoid it

Facebook is in the midst of forcing its mobile users to download a second app to chat in real time with their friends. Messenger, a stand-alone texting app, is replacing the Messages tab within Facebook for iPhone and Android users. Users aren’t happy about it — Messenger currently has a 1-star rating in the App Store — but there may be a work-around to avoid the new app, at least for now.

iPhone users will soon see a screen that compels them to download Messenger when they click the Messages tab. There’s no getting around this — you have to at least start downloading Messenger to send private missives to your friends. However, if you pause the download in the App Store, then return to Facebook, the old messaging interface will return. You can even give Messenger a test drive and delete it if you don’t like it. After that, Facebook won’t pester you to download the new app again.

Our tests showed that the test only worked with iPhones (sorry, Android owners). And since the shift to Messenger is part of Facebook’s broader strategy to both dominate the messaging space and unbundle the company’s different offerings into discrete apps, it’s likely it’ll close this loophole sooner rather than later.

But for now, you can show off your rebellious side by refusing to download a small social app — and you’ll save 35 megabytes of space to boot.

TIME Innovation

Ultra High-Resolution Satellite to Snap Better Photos for Maps

worldview-3 satellite sensor
The WorldView-3 satellite sensor will launch August 13 to capture high-resolution photos DigitalGlobe

The sensor can capture features as small as roughly a foot in size

One of my favorite features of Google Maps (aside from the killer turn-by-turn directions with lane assist) are the included satellite images. It’s both fun and useful to see the world from a bird’s eye view. The only downside: old government restrictions on just how good those satellite photos could be added unnecessary pixelation and blurring.

But as technology has changed and improved, so too have the rules. In June, the feds updated their satellite privacy requirements to allow for far more detailed aerial photos. On August 13, DigitalGlobe will launch its WorldView-3 Satellite Sensor to take full advantage, allowing the company to capture features as small as 31 centimeters (just over 12 inches).

The new satellite will be capable of collecting “key features such as manholes and mailboxes,” the company explains.

The WorldView-3 will bring higher resolution satellite photos to Google and Microsoft, both of whom rely on DigitalGlobe for images. Best of all, it shouldn’t take long to see those new images – according to DigitalGlobe, the new satellite is capable of capturing 680,000 square kilometers of photos per day. That would allow the satellite to capture detailed shots of the entire United States in just over two weeks.

To learn more about the next-gen WorldView-3 satellite and the technology behind it, you can visit the Satellite Image Corporation website.

This article was written by Fox Van Allen and originally appeared on Techlicious.

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TIME hackers

Founder of America’s Biggest Hacker Conference: ‘We Understand the Threat Now’

Black Hat founder Jeff Moss speaks during the Black Hat USA 2014 hacker conference at the Mandalay Bay Convention Center in Las Vegas
Hacker Jeff Moss also known as The Dark Tangent speaks during the Black Hat USA 2014 hacker conference at the Mandalay Bay Convention Center in Las Vegas, August 6, 2014. Steve Marcus—Reuters

The hacker who has presided for 22 years over what is today the biggest hacker conference in the United States talks to TIME about Edward Snowden, Dorian Gray and hackers' changing role in society.

For one weekend every year, thousands of the world’s best—or worst, depending on your point of view—hackers meet in Las Vegas, Nevada, for Defcon. It’s one of the biggest hacker conferences on Earth, with about 15,000 attendees this year. It’s an event that some feel pushes the boundaries of legality, as hackers teach one another skills from lock picking and password cracking to evading government surveillance. The weekend is a celebration of hackish whimsy, the right to privacy and radical freedom of expression.

The light-up electronic badge needed to get into the conference can only be purchased with cash, and organizers collect no information about attendees’ identity. The place is rumored to be teeming with cybercriminals and federal agents alike, plus hordes of hackers trying to crack each other’s systems. Using the Wi-Fi is highly discouraged by some, for good reason: One room is home to an electronic bulletin board called the “Wall of Sheep,” which lists the user ID and partial password of any hapless hacking victim at the conference.

While covering the 22nd annual Defcon, TIME caught up with the founder and patriarch of the conference, Jeff Moss — better known by his hacker handle, “The Dark Tangent,” more commonly rendered simply as “DT.” With his pink t-shirt, short curly black hair, thin-framed rectangular glasses and a bouquet of badges dangling from his neck, DT looked the part of a pasty chieftain presiding over an ancient rite in digital dystopia. He doesn’t give out his age (Wikipedia places it at 39, which seems close enough).

This interview has been edited for length.

TIME: You’re ageless.

DT: I know. But I’m afraid at one point it’ll all come crashing down. What’s the horror movie where when the painting on the wall burns and everybody ages?

Do you have a Dorian Gray painting somewhere?

That’s my concern.

This conference has a nefarious reputation. Is that fair?

Oh yeah. I think there’s a little bit of nefariousness. The nefariousness is really more of an irreverence. You’re judged on what you know and what you can do, so it’s really kind of a put up or shut up culture, and you’re judged on what’s in your head, not how you look or what kind of watch you own. Sometimes people don’t know how to deal with that.

Is the Wi-Fi here safe to use?

It’s funny. It used to be you wouldn’t use our secured network because nobody really trusted it, they’d use their phone. Now everybody’s hacking the phones and intercepting phone calls and SMS messages, and nobody trusts their phone thanks to Snowden and all, and they want to use our secured Wi-Fi.

The last Defcon happened just after National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden was first granted temporary asylum in Russia. Where does he fit into the zeitgeist of this community?

I think the cult of personality around Snowden has been replaced by concerns about what he revealed. Last year, there was sort of this sense of impending doom. It was like, “My God, what are you going to tell us next?” Now it’s like, “Ok, we understand the threat now. We understand what’s going on due to the revelations.”

Last year, it was just this sense that offense was so totally overwhelming, defense is helpless, what are we going to do, woe is me, the sky is falling. Now we’ve had a year, and you can see what the reaction has been: more energy than ever from the Electronic Frontier Foundation and the [American Civil Liberties Union]. Hackers like Josh Corman [an Internet security expert] trying to make a contribution to make things more secure. IETF [the Internet Engineering Task Force, which develops the protocols on which the Internet is based] has decided that pervasive Internet surveillance is a threat and needs to be taken into account for all future Internet protocols. You see Google and Microsoft investing money to create foundations to audit software. Everybody’s responding in their own way, so this year it feels much more hopeful. I think that’s a much more healthy response. We feel like we’re trying to take our own future into our hands.

Nothing changed before or after Snowden’s revelations. The security researchers knew that of course that’s what the NSA or any government can do. If you talked to the hackers last year it was like, “Of course you can do that. I’ve been doing that for 10 years.” But now that it’s sunken in at a more policy level you can have the conversation. Before you would say something to your parents and they’d be like, “Oh hahaha. You’re paranoid.” Next thing you know your parents are like, “Oh my God. You were not crazy. You’re not my paranoid son.” Now we’re at a place where people can relate and that’s a much more healthy place for us to be.

Do you have any demographic information on the people who attend this conference?

We don’t collect anything. Just the number of people. This is clearly a record. We plan for 5% growth or something and we exceeded that. Nobody saw the growth coming and there’s just this dot com feeling of people piling in more than ever.

I mean, this is the first Defcon TIME Magazine has attended.

Yeah! Do you know who else is here? C-SPAN!

…Really…

Yeah!

First time, huh?

First time. First it was just hackers talking to hackers, and then companies came in, and then it was other verticals, like telecoms. Now all of a sudden we’ve got medical, we’ve got policy, government. Just when we think we’ve gotten as many people who care about what we do here, all of a sudden a new greenfield [in engineering terms, a new creative frontier] room pops open and it’s airplanes, pacemakers and smart cars. That’s why I feel like there’s this energy. It’s like, “Oh my god, they’re listening to me! There’s a new avenue. I can do something new, try a new skill, develop my software.” It’s like greenfield again. Last year it sucked and this year it’s awesome.

TIME Security

The Government Is Trying To Explain Bitcoin to Normal People

US Government Issues Bitcoin Warning
A customer purchases bitcoins from the BMEX bitcoin exchange's Robocoin-branded ATM in Tokyo, Japan, on Wednesday, June 18, 2014. Bloomberg via Getty Images

Stepping into the Bitcoin market is like "stepping into the Wild West"

An independent government agency issued an exhaustive warning Monday about the risks of virtual currencies like bitcoin in an attempt to explain cryptocurrencies to the uninitiated.

The 6-page walkthrough from the U.S. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau outlined several of bitcoin’s potential dangers, including vulnerability to hackers, limited security, excessive costs and scams. It also announced a system that accepts virtual currency complaints. Though virtual currencies have become increasingly integrated into society, with states, companies, political organizations and even schools approving their use, the Internal Revenue Service has not granted it legal tender status in any U.S. jurisdiction.

“Virtual currencies are not backed by any government or central bank, and at this point consumers are stepping into the Wild West when they engage in the market,” CFPB Director Richard Cordray said in the statement.

Bitcoin risks, the CFPB said, include hackers who steal users’ private keys—the password to your digital wallet—using viruses and other malware. Unlike banks or credit unions, in which deposits are protected by federal agencies in case of failure, bitcoin isn’t insured by any government agency. If you lose your bitcoin stash, then “you are own your own,” the CFPB warns, and “there is no other party to help you.” Some digital wallet companies promise reimbursements for fraudulent transactions, but if there’s a widespread fraud event, it would probably be hard for most of these firms to come through on that promise. So what’s a bitcoin user to do?

“Read your agreement with your wallet provider carefully,” the report states. “Really, read your agreement with your wallet provider carefully.”

The report also tries to clarify bitcoin ATMs, which the CFPB points out don’t actually spew out bitcoin. Rather, the ATMs allow you to insert cash to be transferred into bitcoin to be moved into your digital wallet. The ATMs’ transaction fees may run as high as 7% and exchange fees $50 more than what you’d get elsewhere — and perhaps even more given bitcoin’s high volatility, the warning said.

The CFPB additionally warned customers of scams enticing users to invest bitcoin on the promise of high interest rates and no risk. In actuality, their bitcoin may be funneled into something else entirely, like someone’s food, shopping and gambling habits. The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission previously warned of these so-called Ponzi schemes involving virtual currencies, and noted that such “fraudsters are not beyond the reach of the SEC just because they use bitcoin or another virtual currency.” And while the SEC’s authority provides some comfort, there’s generally few safeguards for average folks who step into the so-called Wild West without their guns and bugles.

Moral of the story? Using bitcoin may have its benefits, but don’t let it be your fool’s gold. Because “if it’s too good to be true,” the report said, “it just may be.”

 

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