This update comes after an external review of Uber's privacy program, prompted by a series of issues and PR catastrophes involving customer privacy. If you recall, some Uber employees used the "God View" tracker embedded in the app to spy on the whereabouts of a Buzzfeed reporter and a high-profile venture capitalist last year. All its corporate employees (but not its drivers) reportedly had access to God View and could monitor a user's activities. Let's not forget the time an exec made a remark about hiring a team to dig up personal dirt on journalists that criticize the service, as well.
The new Privacy Statement will take effect on July 15th, so expect to see the app asking you for permission to switch on real-time tracking and to access your address book by then. If you're not exactly fond of these changes, don't worry: the company told TechCrunch that the app will work just fine even if you choose not to switch them on.
Each week our friends at Inhabitat recap the week's most interesting green developments and clean tech news for us -- it's the Week in Green.
California is giving away free solar panels to its poorest residents. Between now and 2016, the state will donate 1,600 free photovoltaic systems -- and each array will save a household $22,800 in energy costs over 30 years. Meanwhile in Southern California, director James Cameron gifted his wife a field of solar sunflowers to power her sustainable school. In other energy news, Tesla's battery-producing Gigafactory is starting to take shape in Nevada -- and this week we took a first look at the gigantic building thanks to an aerial drone.
Speaking of Tesla, the automaker has had a tough time opening stories in some states -- so it's taking its show on the road with a new pop-up store! The compact shop packs into a special shipping container that can be transported on a flatbed truck. Self-driving cars are popping up everywhere lately -- and Audi's latest autonomous vehicle is a stunner. At CES Asia, the automaker unveiled a souped-up self-driving R8 with killer looks and an all-electric powertrain. Even Uber is getting in on the action -- this past week, the company's autonomous driving test vehicle was spotted in Pittsburgh, so fleets of self-driving taxis may be right around the corner. And one Volvo owner experienced the chilling pitfalls of self-driving technology as his vehicle crashed into a crowd of people because he didn't pay for a feature that brakes for humans. Green vehicles also set several records this week -- a poop-powered bus broke a world speed record in the UK, and a Canadian inventor set the record for the world's farthest hoverboard flight.
Before heading out into the sun, you need to check out this latest article. It turns out that 80 percent of popular sunscreens don't protect your skin -- and they may actually be harmful to your health. We rounded up 34 of the worst offenders -- so check your sunscreen and avoid these brands at all costs. In other health and technology news, researchers have developed a new bionic lens could give you perfect vision for the rest of your life. The developer of the painless implant claims that it will allow patients to see three times better than 20/20.
Apparently, after all these years, Spotify still doesn't really get me. I've used the service since 2010. Technically I was a subscriber since before it hit US shores. And yet, Spotify clearly has no idea what kind of music I like. I say this because I recently traded in my carefully curated running playlist for Spotify's dynamically generated ones and, not to spoil the rest of the story, it really failed. But let's start at the beginning.
I got up nice and early Sunday morning, left my house and began the slow slog up hill past Silver Lake Park. When I started to hit my stride I pulled out my iPhone and found the new Running option in sidebar of the updated Spotify app. The first stop on my journey was the running specific Hip Hop and RB playlist. A pleasant female voice instructed me to start running and let me know that it was using the phone's sensors to detect my pace. Then, as promised, it spat out songs perfectly matched to the tempo of my run.
The first batch of tracks got me up the steep slope, but almost none of the artists were recognizable to me. And honestly, most were not particularly good; there was a reason I had never heard most of these songs before. The final nail in the playlist's coffin was Immortal Technique's The Cause of Death. Whether you're a fan of his or not, I think we can all agree that listening to the Harlem-based MC rap about how 9/11 was an inside job doesn't make for an enjoyable run.
The trouble is that, while Spotify supposedly takes my taste into account when building these playlists, you'd never know it. Neither the Upbeat Run or Mood Booster Run playlists fared any better. And, after suffering through Bleachers and Demi Lovato's Unbroken, I gave up. It seems that the combination of Spotify's beat matching algorithm and its human curators just couldn't make me happy.
There was one other place I might find running nirvana, however. Spotify has a selection of running specific original tracks. These aren't collections of songs, they're long pieces of instrumental music designed specifically for you to listen to and zone out while you keep those legs moving. There are six pieces to choose from: The Chase, Blissed Out, Lock the Flow, Seasons, Epic and Burn. Honestly, those first five aren't great. In fact they sound like they were pulled from a library of nondescript royalty-free music. But, like the playlist options, if you're just looking for something to help you keep pace, they do the job.
Burn is different. It's created by Dutch DJ and producer Tiësto, and it's pretty much perfection. I'm not normally a huge fan of Tiësto; he's the sort of artist that plays best in a club when you're pumped full of ecstasy... or so I thought. Burn, once it locks into your rhythm, ebbs and flows with the right amount of energy to keep you running for about 45 minutes, uninterrupted. In that way, it's not unlike LCD Soundsystem's 45:33. But where that song is about simply locking into a groove, Burn is constantly building and shifting to keep you moving and engaged. It feels like it constantly wants you to go faster. When it finally reaches a crescendo, however, it backs off to let you enjoy that runner's zen for a bit before pushing you again with filtered drum buildups. It's cheap shot after cheap shot, but it works beautifully for a nice long run.
Spotify definitely has some work to do with its running feature. I never want to hear Demi Lovato again, and songs about government conspiracies aren't really motivating me to push myself. That being said, the technology part works quite well. I do wish that the running originals and playlists would sample your pace multiple times over the course of a run, rather than stick to a steady pace (I can't help but start to slow down around mile five). But the songs selected rarely failed to lock to my tempo. If the company can get more expertly crafted originals like Tiësto's Burn, it will have something truly special on its hands. For now, I'll be putting my running playlist on the shelf and sticking to Spotify, exclusively because of that track.
If you want to buy a Model S in Texas, you're going to have to jump through some hoops for at least the next couple of years. Bills that would let Tesla sell cars directly to customers aren't going to get a vote before the state's legislative session wraps up on June 1st, leaving the electric vehicle maker high and dry until the next session kicks off in 2017. This doesn't mean that you're completely out of luck if you want Tesla-made transportation in Austin (see above for proof), but you can't simply pick one up.
The setback isn't completely surprising given how fiercely dealership lobby groups fight to protect their business model, but Texas poses some additional challenges. A lot of the state's political clout rests in rural areas, where dealerships are more vital to the community in terms of both jobs and sponsorships. Representatives are more likely to support these local businesses than a California company trying to up-end the dealership model, even if it would help both competition and the environment.
[Image credit: the author, Flickr]
The US knows that it's not enough to protect its own networks against cyberattacks -- its allies have to be safe, too. Appropriately, it's agreeing to shield Japan from digital assaults against its military and critical systems. The move gives the island nation a big security boost (its online defense unit has a mere 90 people) and hopefully reduces the chances that less-than-sympathetic neighbors China and North Korea will compromise a strategically vital country. While it's doubtful that the pact will deter many hacking attempts, it could make any local cyberwarfare campaigns that much tougher.
[Image credit: AP Photo/Eugene Hoshiko]
When Apple trotted out its first update for the Watch, fitness mavens were alarmed at the suddenly inconsistent heart rate tracking. Did Cupertino break one of its wearable's signature features? Well, not quite. Apple has posted an updated support page that indicates the change in heart tracking was intentional. Instead of getting your beats per minute every 10 minutes regardless of what you're doing, its new default behavior is to check only when you're staying still. You can still make the Watch check on the move by using the heart rate Glance (above) or starting an activity in the Workout app, but the change risks creating gaps when you're strolling down the street.
It's not clear why Apple changed its device's monitoring habits. There's speculation that the company did this to improve the Watch's battery life, but it's not clear that this is the case -- it could be for the sake of accuracy, for example. We've reached out to Apple for an explanation, and we'll let you know if it has more to say.
With all our computers, phones and cameras, we create a lot of data. And while there are plenty of cloud-based options for storing all the information you generate, many people prefer something they can physically touch. A portable hard drive can give you plenty of control, while still making it possible to carry your data around in your bag. But which drives make it easy to transfer files to them in the first place? And which ones will survive the trips you take them on? We've taken a look at some of the better portable drives available now to find out which ones have the right stuff.
Best portable hard drives
Solar Impulse has already shown the potential for sun-based aviation in its attempt to fly around the world, but it just embarked on its most ambitious trip yet. Pilot Andre Borschberg has taken off from Nanjing, China on a cross-Pacific flight whose first leg ends in Kalaeloa, Hawaii -- 5,061 miles away. That's about 120 hours in the air, and should set records for both the longest single-seat flight ever as well as the first transpacific flight by a solar-powered aircraft. And did we mention that this leg is even more dangerous than previous parts of the journey? After a certain point, Borschberg's only choice in an emergency will be to bail over the Pacific and hope that his rescue goes smoothly.
There's still a long way to go after this. The next phase will see Solar Impulse travel "just" 2,917 miles to Phoenix, Arizona, and there are still four legs after that -- the last two of which may take nearly as long as the China-to-Hawaii run. It'll be worth the effort if Borschberg and fellow pilot Bertrand Piccard can raise awareness about renewable energy, but this eco-friendly globetrotting definitely isn't for the faint-hearted.
[Image credit: Johannes Eisele/AFP/Getty Images]
We hope you didn't lean too heavily on Google Calendar's text message alerts in order to keep your life organized. Google is warning that Calendar's SMS notifications will vanish for regular users (education, government and work are safe) after June 27th. The search firm argues that they're no longer needed in an era when smartphones give you a "richer, more reliable" heads-up. It's true that modern mobile devices render SMS a bit redundant. With that in mind, this isn't good news if you can't justify a smartphone on your budget, or prefer to keep most notifications off -- you may remain blissfully unaware of an event change until you reach a computer.