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Microsoft Will Shut down UWP App’s Ad Monetization Platform

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After a significant cool down towards UWP over the past couple of years, Microsoft is shutting down the Ad Monetization platform. The service will sunset entirely on June 1, 2020, with some underperforming ad networking ending before them.

“This decision was made primarily because it is no longer viable for us to continue operating the product at the current levels,” said Microsoft of the changes.

Developers will continue to receive their regular payouts up until the closure date, with no changes to the schedule. From June 8, they’ll be able to download of all their historical ad performance data as analytics pages are taken offline.

For UWP developers who will struggle, Microsoft recommends switching to another ad platform.

“While this transition may be painful for developers who rely on the Ad Monetization platform today, we want to provide adequate time to make the transition to another ad platform,” it said. “Our recommendation is to begin initiating a switch over immediately by evaluating alternate options for ad monetization for your Windows apps.”

With this move, the future of UWP is even more uncertain. On January 16, the company seemingly removed a 95% revenue split agreement it made with developers less than a year ago. A day earlier, it had shuttered the Microsoft Store for business and education.
Last year, the company made the decision to allow Win32 games on its store and laid out a roadmap for XAML Islands v1, which essentially lets .NET and Win32 apps use UWP features like Inking and Fluent Design controls.
Still, research from UWP dev Arlo seems to indicate that most of the UWP cash comes through in-app purchases or donations. If that’s the case, it’s unlikely to have a wide-reaching effect on UWP development, but it’s unlikely to garner a feeling of trust and stability.

Unfortunately, it’ll be the developers who jumped on UWP early who are likely to be hit first, but the current model clearly wasn’t working. Until the landscape becomes clearer, devs of free UWP apps can also explore optional subscriptions and other monetization forms.

Source Winbuzzer

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Facebook Introduces A Trio Of New Privacy-Focused Tools

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Whether Facebook is just playing the game or looking to change, the company has committed to improving privacy over the next 10 years. In an effort to restore its tarnished reputation, Facebook has announced several new solutions surrounding privacy.

The three new tools are a Privacy Checkup tool, Off-Facebook Activity tool, and alerts for third-party logins.

Let’s start with the Privacy Checkup, which is an update for an existing solution. Now, Facebook users can boost their profile security by having more control over how their personal information is shared.
Facebook says it will send notifications to 2 billion users advising them to review their privacy settings. The network says the notification will roll out next month and will appear in the News Feed.
“This makes it even easier to adjust who can see your posts and profile information, strengthen your account security by turning on login alerts”
More New Tools
Moving on, the company also announced a new feature that allows you to monitor and control your activity away from Facebook. Users can view a summary of apps and websites that pass information about their activity to Facebook.
The company says this tool is now already available to all its users.
“Off-Facebook Activity marks a new level of transparency and control. We’ve been working on this for a while because we had to rebuild some of our systems to make this possible.”
Finally, the company has created a new notification system for Facebook Logins. Logins already allows users to sign into third-party apps and services but it will now send you a notification when you use the service to log into a third-party.

Source Winbuzzer

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Microsoft M12 Invests in SuperAwesome Safe Internet Platform

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Microsoft has been confirmed as a backer of SuperAwesome, a platform that aims to deliver safe content to children. Microsoft’s M12 venture fund has been announced as a new investor in the London-based startup, although the level of investment has not been revealed.

“In our first meeting with M12, we instantly realized that they shared our perspective and values on both privacy and responsibility by design for children.”

SuperAwesome has enjoyed a strong growth patterns as it secured major clients such as Lego, NBC, Hasbro, and Mattel. Now reaching 500 million, the platform is a major investment opportunity.
Enter M12, which has recently opened its first European office alongside locations in Seattle, Tel Aviv, San Francisco, and Bengaluru.
SuperAwesome is seeking to corner an area of the market focused on “zero-data internet”. This proprietary term allows children to leverage the company’s solutions to ensure they are not tracked online.
“In 2013, we started as a handful of people in a room, mostly being turned down by investors,” SuperAwesome cofounder and CEO Dylan Collins said. “Today our kid tech platform enables over 12 billion kid-safe transactions every month, ranging from advertising and video to community and parental consent.”
SuperAwesome has several apps and services. Among them is AwesomeAds, which allows companies to send contextual ads that don’t rely on user data. Elsewhere there’s Kidfluencer, which provides a content creation platform for YouTube. Finally, there’s also Kids Web Services, which gives developers tools to add verifiable parental consent (VPC) features into the apps.
M12 Evolution
Some people may know M12 better has Microsoft Ventures. The company decided to change the branding of its venture capital in April.
Launched two years ago as Microsoft Ventures, the initial branding caused some confusion. That’s because Ventures was originally the name of Microsoft’s startup accelerator. That accelerator later became Microsoft ScaleUp, but the company was worried people would be confused.

Source Winbuzzer

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Google Details Apple Safari Vulnerability That Allows Third-Parties to Spy on Users

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Google security researchers have disclosed vulnerabilities that are currently in Apple’s Safari web browser. Specifically, the company says there are issues in the Intelligent Tracking Protection technology Apple uses to protect users from third party tracking.

In a case of irony, Google has found Intelligent Tracking Protection could be doing the exact opposite of its remit. Researchers say the service is actually allowing third parties to track Safari users. In a report published in the Financial Times (FT), Google said the details of the research will be published soon.

According to the research, there are five ways an attacker could exploit the vulnerabilities in ITP. Each of the methods would allow third parties to get “sensitive private information about the user’s browsing habits”.
It’s an interesting situation because Apple has long boasted about its relative user security compared to other companies.
One feature within the ITP technology is designed to store website data when a user visits the site. A problem in this feature could allow hackers to “create a persistent fingerprint that will follow the user around the web,” according to the report.
Apple Response
As mentioned, Apple has built user trust by claiming to be different from other companies. While vulnerabilities like this question the quality of the company’s efforts, the problems may not through into question the validity.
There may be a vulnerability, but Apple’s ethos of wanting to protect user privacy seems to be intact.
Either way, the company says it has already fixed this problem and was aware of them already.
This was confirmed in a blog post by Apple privacy engineer John Wilander, who thanked Google researchers “for sending us a report in which they explore both the ability to detect when web content is treated differently by tracking prevention and the bad things that are possible with such detection,” he wrote.

Source Winbuzzer

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Microsoft PowerToys Receives PowerLauncher Tool

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Microsoft has this week introduced a new tool for its PowerToys app collection. Specifically, the service now includes a PowerLauncher.

As the name suggests, the new tool is a quick launcher. It has some interesting additions such as support for plugins and a search ability.

PowerLauncher was developed by Jessica Yuowono, a Program Manager for Microsoft. The App allows users to launch an app instantly and search for other tools. Other features on the service include auto-complete.
Microsoft says PowerLauncher is designed to make it faster to find search results than the Win+S shortcut. Indeed, the company says the launcher can replace that key group. However, the tool is currently under review and not available widely on PowerToys just yet.
In the meantime, you can see its details on GitHub.
New PowerToys
Last year, rolled out its re-tooled PowerToys in preview. Two features are part of the preview, which is a reimagining to the suite that has its roots in Windows 95.
With ShortcutGuide, users can hold the Windows key for a customizable amount of time to get a list of keys they can combine it with. This overlay taps into the content on a user’s screen, pointing out taskbar elements, shortcuts, and more.
FancyZones is arguably more useful. With it, users can choose between preset window layouts or create their own.
In October, Clint Rutkas returned to Microsoft to head up the PowerToys division. Rutkas was with Microsoft for years, including as Senior PM for the developer platform. In June he decided to move to Facebook as a Developer Advocate.

Source Winbuzzer

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Microsoft President Calls EU Plan to Ban Facial Recognition a ‘Meat Cleaver’ Solution

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Microsoft president Brad Smith has issued a more cautious response to the EU’s proposed facial recognition ban than competitors. The Union is reportedly mulling a ban of up to five years for facial recognition tech in public areas while it works out how to prevent abuses. The tech has been found to be in use by several law enforcement agencies across the world, with concerns that it infringes citizen’s human right to privacy.

However, in a conference arranged by Bruegel (via VentureBeat), Smith indicated that he’s reluctant to support the ban. The chief legal officer and president of Microsoft pointed out some of the positives of the tech, such as reuniting families with missing children.

“I’m really reluctant to say let’s stop people from using technology in a way that will reunite families when it can help them do it,” he said. “The second thing I would say is you don’t ban it if you actually believe there is a reasonable alternative that will enable us to, say, address this problem with a scalpel instead of a meat cleaver.”
It’s not the first time Smith has referred to the example, perhaps because Microsoft was accused of doing the opposite by helping the US’ ICE. He’s referencing the use of the Automated Facial Recognition System (AFRS) by the Dehli Police to trace 3,000 missing children in just four days. But while that’s an achievement, the use of the tech by Indian law enforcement is a concern to many Indian citizens. The tech is being deployed increasingly across airports, cafes, and more recently political rallies across India. One concern is that children are being used as positive press while it both tests and improves the system’s capabilities.
Tech Advances Faster than Regulation
This is where the trouble may lie with Smith’s statement. Currently, how can Europe ensure that facial recognition is only used for good? We’ve previously seen governments secretly mass surveilling their population without their knowledge, tapping into global internet infrastructure and forcing companies to hand over data.
Well, Microsoft executive suggests that we’ll only discover those answers by actively using the tech. “There is only one way at the end of the day to make better technology and that is to use it,” he said.

He has previously said Microsoft welcomes regulations surrounding the software and has turned down a law enforcement request to use the tech. At the same time, though, the tech giant has been accused of working with universities linked with the Chinese government to further the tech. Smith also says he has no issue passing the tech to governments, saying it’s the purpose and lack of bias that’s important.
In contrast, Google’s Pichai was more supportive. He said it was important governments tackle it sooner rather than later and notes that it may require a “waiting period” while governments and tech companies think about how he’s being used. However, the CEO also called for different rules for different sectors. One example given was self-driving cars.
So it seems Smith and Pichai agree that the EU should be cautious in regulation, but the Google CEO is generally more concerned about the tech’s widespread use. The question with facial recognition is always whether the good outweighs the bad, and Pichai seems to lean more towards the latter side.

Source – Winbuzzer

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LinkedIn Embraces AI to Thwart Fake Profiles

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Social media networks face a major battle in keeping peace on their platforms. One major problem is people creating profiles to post inappropriate content, which could be anything from offensive images, false advertising, or profanity and hate speech. AI is helping to handle such profiles and LinkedIn has explained how it handles the situation.

The Microsoft-owned platform has over 300 million monthly active users. While it’s arguable LinkedIn’s business-centric model does not make it as open to hate speech as Facebook or Twitter, the platform faces its own specific issues with fake profiles.

In a blog post, software engineer Daniel Gorham explains LinkedIn previously used human curators to find words and phrases on a block list. If words or phrases were found that breached terms of service, a profile would be taken down.
However, the effort behind maintaining such a policing effort was too costly. Gorham points to the following issues with this method:
“Scalability. This approach is a fundamentally manual process, and significant care must be taken when evaluating words or phrases.
Context. Many words may be used in both appropriate and inappropriate contexts. For example, the word “escort” is often associated with prostitution, but may also be used in contexts such as a “security escort” or “medical escort.”
Maintainability. Blocklists only grow larger over time as more phrases are identified. Tracking performance as a whole is simple, but doing so on a phrase-by-phrase basis is non-trivial. Significant engineering effort is required to ensure the stability of the system is maintained.”
AI Approach
Instead, LinkedIn turned to artificial intelligence and machine learning. The company now uses an AI model that has a convolutional neural network. Basically, this is an algorithm that uses image analysis.
“Our machine learning model is a text classifier trained on public member profile content. To train this classifier, we first needed to build a training set consisting of accounts labeled as either “inappropriate” or “appropriate.” The “inappropriate” labels consist of accounts that have been removed from the platform due to inappropriate content.”

Source – Winbuzzer

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Microsoft Backs Google Legal Fight to Stop APIs Becoming Copyrightable

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Microsoft has joined other tech giants, such as IBM, in filing court documents that support Google before its court battle in the US. Google is facing the Supreme Court to decide if copyright applies to the interfaces of software applications.

Specifically, the court will hear the Google vs Oracle case in March. Oracle had previously gained an advantage when the US Court of Appeals reversed a previous decision that deemed Google’s use of Java API package in Android as “fair use”.

With the decision reversed Google appealed to the court and a new date (March) was set move through the case again.

On January 6, Google issued its opening brief and has gained support from several rivals. IBM, Mozilla, and Microsoft are among the 27 “friend of court” briefs siding with Google. All the companies believe software APIs should not be copyrightable.

Microsoft Briefing

Microsoft said last year’s decision “takes an unduly narrow view of fair use that elevates functional code to the same level of copyright protection as the creative expression in a novel”.

According to Microsoft, if the decision is applied it will create a “problematically narrow standard” for evaluating use of code.

“While Google used the software interfaces at issue for the same purpose as in Oracle’s Java platform – allowing a program to invoke computer functionalities – it incorporated them into a completely different platform that opened new possibilities for programmers and consumers,” wrote Microsoft.

Microsoft points out APIs are vital for interoperability across numerous services, such as web browsers and the cloud. If company’s can copyright APIs, Microsoft argues it would harm the industry and customers.

“If, as in computing’s early days, every device had its own proprietary interface, one could never add a product outside a particular vendor’s offerings to the system. But in today’s interoperable ecosystem, consumers generally can choose smart products based on their merits and functionality, without worrying about compatibility with their existing system,” wrote Microsoft.

Source – Winbuzzer

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New Microsoft Launcher Preview Gets It Surface Duo Ready

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Microsoft Launcher’s 6.0 preview launched yesterday, and it appears to make several adjustments to suit the upcoming Surface Duo. The dev team says its rebuilt the launcher on a new codebase which has enabled several important features.

The most notable one for the Dual-screen Duo is a landscape mode. You can now use Microsoft’s Android experience in practically any orientation, the dock simply moving to the end of the screen as everything rotates.

It also adds a full-fledged dark mode, turning the search bar, news, timeline, settings, and everything else true AMOLED black. This should save your eyes in the dark, while new icons bring it closer to the modern design language.

Microsoft also says the launcher features better memory performance, new widgets, and improved activities, search UI, apps list, and dock. It’s probably one of the biggest overhauls to the launcher yet, and ensures Duo users will have a pleasant, Windows-like experience despite the differing OS.

Unlike other previews, this one is delivered as a separate app, rather than an opt-in. That may be because all of the features of the main app aren’t there yet. My experience has been next to flawless so far, but Microsoft also warns that there could be a lot of bugs.

“This is an Alpha version of the Microsoft Launcher so as such some features may not work properly, or the experience may be unstable,” said the dev team. “Additionally, this version only contains a subset of the standard features from the main app.”

Source – Winbuzzer

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Google Discloses the Winners of Its Android Search Engine Auction, and Bing Is Included

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Google has unveiled the search engines that will feature as options for European Android users in the near future. The company was previously slapped by a €4.34 billion fine, partly for “Illegal tying of Google’s search and browser apps”. Shortly after, it announced that users will be able to choose which default search and browser they want.

Controversially, though, the alternatives were sold away to the highest bidder. Google has now announced the result of those bids, which vary somewhat for each country. Its own engine will always be available, of course, and DuckDuckGo will be offered universally.

In the UK, Microsoft’s Bing makes its sole appearance, hitting first, followed by DuckDuckGo and Info.com. Also featuring in some countries is GMX, a subsidiary of United Internet, and privacy-focused search engines Qwant and Privacy Wall.
The bidding will open again in four months, but not everyone is happy. Ecosia boycotted it under moral grounds, saying that selling promotion space goes against the EU’s wishes for an open and free internet.
The ruling has essentially been used for profit by Google when it could have simply let users enter their engine of choice when setting up a new Android device. For its part, Alphabet Inc. stresses that users can still customize and change their search provider after the initial setup.
“As always, people can continue to customize and personalize their devices at any time after set up,” it wrote in an August blog post announcing the auction. “This includes selecting which apps to download, changing how apps are arranged on the screen, and switching the default search provider in apps like Google Chrome.”
Whatever your thoughts, EU users will see the option from March 1 when they start up a new phone or reset their OS. The choice will affect their search engine across Chrome and the home screen while installing the provider’s app.

Source – Winbuzzer

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