Android ‘L’ to include data encryption by default, preventing police from accessing files

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Google said today that the upcoming Android L release would enable data encryption by default when users set up a new device. Previous versions of Android included the security measure as an option, but many users did not choose to activate it. Now the feature will automatically be turned on, meaning no data on the phone will be accessible without the owner’s password.

Essentially this will prevent anyone—including police—from reading stored text messages, viewing photos from the phone’s library, or checking the call history (among other things) even if allowed to do so by a court order. Apple rolled out a similar feature to its iPhone users with an update yesterday.

As reported by the Washington Post:
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Sprint announces revamped family data plans with double data, individual plans coming soon

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Sprint has unveiled its newest family data plans in an attempt to win back customers that have fled to rivals AT&T and Verizon. The new plans offer twice as much data as the competition at about the same prices. It’s the latest move by the floundering carrier following the less-than-stellar reception of its recently-announced “Framily” plans.

The new plans allow up to ten lines with a shared data pool of 20 GB—paired an additional 2 GB per device as part of a limited-time offer—for a grand total of up to $40 GB of shared data through 2015. A pricing chart (below) breaks down how all of the charges in the new plans work, including an additional $10 per tablet and shared data packs of up to 60 GB.

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Verizon to begin throttling certain unlimited 4G LTE customers

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Verizon has been throttling unlimited 3G data subscribers for years now, but never 4G LTE users. Until today, when they announced this morning that beginning October 1st, the top 5% of 4G LTE data users who coincidentally meet a series of other factors will get throttled. According to DroidLifea recent report showed that over 20% of Verizon data users were still on an unlimited data plan, so it’s no surprise that Verizon would want to push these users to a tiered data plan.

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Android’s stock data-wipe tool doesn’t fully delete your personal files, can allow easy recovery

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Before selling a used smartphone, most users take the time to erase personal data contained on the devices to prevent anything from falling into the hands of strangers. Most smartphones come with an option for doing this built right into the operating system, but a newly-discovered flaw in how Android handles the process could allow anyone to recover your personal information, including text messages, social media data, and a lot more.

How much more, exactly? According to researchers at security software maker Avast who purchased 20 smartphones from eBay, they were able to recover over 40,000 photos, 750 emails and text messages, and even a completed loan application. A few hundred contact entries were also pulled from the phones, and the original owners of four of the devices were found using the recovered information. That’s not even the worst part…

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Amazon’s upcoming smartphone revealed in photo, reportedly coming in June

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Following various leaks and rumors, BGR has obtained a photo of Amazon’s upcoming smartphone. While the device itself is still a month or more away from being officially unveiled, the above image is the first to show off the device without a protective case obscuring the design.

The device itself is similar in appearance to the Nexus 4, which received praise for its understated design. As Amazon’s phone will likely compete on price, it isn’t a surprise that its materials will shy away from the flashy metallic materials of devices like the iPhone or the HTC One M8. Read more

AT&T announces new family plan tier with unlimited talk/text, 10GB of data

Screen Shot 2014-02-01 at 2.08.50 PMAT&T has just announced a new tier for its family plan customers that ups the amount of data offered. The carrier is now offering a family plan that includes unlimited talk and text, as well as 10GB of data. The 10GB of data is available to anyone that is apart of the family plan.

Here’s an example: Today, Verizon charges $260 monthly for a comparable plan that’s now $160 from AT&T. A family with four smartphones with unlimited talk and text, and a shared 10GB bucket of data, could switch to AT&T from Verizon and save $100 a month.  Current AT&T customers can save big with these new plans, too, when they choose a 10GB or larger bucket of data. For example, a family or small business with four smartphones could move to this new plan and save between $40 and $100 per month, depending on their current plan.

This new plan starts at $130 a month for 2 lines and increases in $15 iterations for each additional line.

Back in December, AT&T launched new ‘Mobile Share Value Plans‘ that offered pretty steep discounts to customers to compete with T-Mobile’s Uncarrier offerings. AT&T also began offering $100 credits to new customers, as a preemptive jab at T-Mobile, as well.

T-Mobile unveils global data coverage in 100 countries at no extra charge

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T-Mobile unveiled a new offering that will provide global data coverage allowing users to access their data plan in over 100 countries at no extra charge (via Engadget). CEO John Legere has been hinting at the announcement on his Twitter account in recent days: “Today is the day! The day we change the way the world uses their phones!”

This new plan will allow Simple Choice customers to get unlimited 2G data and texting in supported Simple Global countries. Voice calls on the plan cost $.20 per minute for in-country calls. There are no extra fees for this service, as it is included in all Simple Choice plans automatically.

The “un-carrier” also announced a few other changes to its plans, including a new international talk and text option from the US to all other Simple Global countries. That will cost an additional $10/month and include $.20/minute voice calls and unlimited texting. Adding this option to your plan will also enable unlimited calling to landlines in over 70 Simple Global countries for free.

Finally, T-Mobile announced that its 4G LTE network is available nationwide and reaches over 200 million potential customers.

UK regulator orders Google to delete Street view data to avoid criminal charges

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Google’s run-ins with the law in Europe have not gone unnoticed. Earlier this week, the company was ordered to fix its privacy issues in France to avoid facing fines, and now a UK regulator is ordering the company to delete all remaining Street View data within 35 days to avoid facing criminal charges, the ICO reports. Should Google find any further data, then it must inform the ICO immediately.

Today’s enforcement notice strengthens the action already taken by our office, placing a legal requirement on Google to delete the remaining payload data identified last year within the next 35 days and immediately inform the ICO if any further disks are found. Failure to abide by the notice will be considered as contempt of court, which is a criminal offense.

Back in 2010, Google had reached an agreement with the IOC over the WiFi data its Street View cars had accidentally collected. Earlier this year, however, Google stated that had not deleted all the data the first time around, which the IOC was not pleased with. Should Google fail to delete the remaining data within the given time period, it will be hit with a criminal offense.  Read more

Google investing $390 million to expand European data center in Belgium

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Google isn’t slowing down investing in new data center operations around the world. Back in January we heard that it is expanding its Berkley County data center in South Carolina with an additional $600 million investment bringing the project up to $1.2 billion total. Today, Associated Press reports that Google is set to invest $390 million in a new expansion of its European data center in Belgium.

Internet search giant Google says it is investing 300 million euros ($390 million) to expand its continental European data center. Google Inc. said Wednesday it will upgrade the facility in Belgium to meet growing demand for its online services

Back in October of last year Google opened its data center doors to all with a new project dubbed “Where the internet lives” that gives anyone a unique behind the scenes look at its facilities responsible for handling 20 billion web pages indexed per day, 3 billion daily searches, and free mail to 425 million Gmail users.

Microsoft’s latest Scroogled ad warns against downloading apps on Google Play

If you don’t know by now, since early February Microsoft has been running its “Scroogled” smear campaign spending 7 figures on a series of print and online ads attacking various Google services. The ads originally focused on Gmail and how Google displays ads based on the content of user’s emails, but Microsoft’s latest Scroogled ad (above) takes on another Google app– Google Play.

The ad is currently featured on the front page of Microsoft’s Scroogled website and features a warning that Google passes off personal information about users to app makers without consent from users:

When you buy an Android app from the Google app store, they give the app maker your full name, email address and the neighborhood where you live. This occurs without clear warning every single time you buy an app. If you can’t trust Google’s app store, how can you trust them for anything?

We expect Google will be issuing a response to Microsoft’s claims shortly. Another Scroogled ad claiming Google Play sends personal data to app makers below: Read more

Google updates Transparency Report with government requests for blog post removals and user data

As noted in a recent post on the Official Google Blog, Google recently made changes to the Transparency Report that launched a couple of years ago to report data on “government requests.” The interactive reports, which are available here, already included user data requests from courts and government agencies, real-time and historical traffic from various Google services worldwide, and removal requests from both governments and copyright owners. Google is adding data related to government requests today for user information and the removal of blogs posts and videos made from July 2011 to December 2011:

Today we’re releasing data showing government requests to remove blog posts or videos or hand over user information made from July to December 2011… Unfortunately, what we’ve seen over the past couple years has been troubling, and today is no different. When we started releasing this data in 2010, we also added annotations with some of the more interesting stories behind the numbers. We noticed that government agencies from different countries would sometimes ask us to remove political content that our users had posted on our services. We hoped this was an aberration. But now we know it’s not… For the six months of data we’re releasing today, we complied with an average of 65% of court orders, as opposed to 47% of more informal requests.

An example of some of the requests is outlined by Google’s Senior Policy Analyst Dorothy Chou:
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