SEARCH

Tuesday
Oct092018

Google sprints in the 'smart home' race with Home Hub, unveils Pixel 3 phone

Jack Taylor/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Google debuted its upgraded smart phone, the Pixel 3, the new Pixelbook tablet and an even smarter Home Hub at its annual "Made by Google" event in New York on Tuesday.

The event echoed Apple events with a clean, white aesthetic and touted celebrity collaborations, along with an emphasis on its smartphone cameras. Several Google execs referenced competitor products, sometimes obviously, sometimes obliquely.

The Pixel 3 features a new Group Selfie Cam, which the company said captures "184 percent more of the scene than iPhone XS" and a portrait mode.

Google also announced a partnership with publisher Condé Nast to photograph seven magazine covers with the Pixel 3. It also announced a collaboration with Donald Glover, aka rapper Childish Gambino. The event ended with a short film by director Terrence Malick, which was shot on the new Pixel 3.

The new Google Home Hub uses the company's artificial intelligence-powered Google Assistant, built into a desk- or countertop display with a control panel.

We "did not put a camera so it’s comfortable to use in private spaces of your home like the bedroom,” Google’s Diya Jolly said.

The device features Home View, a dashboard for the spectrum of home devices, including appliances, DVRs, lights and thermostats. The device pairs with more than 200 million devices and more than 1,000 brands, Jolly said. Through the home app, or remote control, he said, "It can turn down the temperature in the bedroom and up in the living room."

Paired with Google’s Nest, the device provides a remote way to see someone ringing a doorbell.

When not in use, Google Home Hub acts as a digital photo frame that can automatically download photos and use machine learning to edit out blurry and random shots using Google Photos, Jolly said.

The Home Hub is priced at $149 and pre-orders start Tuesday at the Google store today.

In the arms race to capture the smart home market, the new Home Hub is of particular interest. The Home Hub comes shortly after the second generation Amazon Echo and the Facebook Portal, revealed one day earlier, is built to house an Amazon Alexa.

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Monday
Oct082018

Google+ to be killed after bug exposed up to 500,000 accounts

Chesnot/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Google said it's pulling the plug on its unpopular Google+ social network after admitting to a software bug that exposed the personal information of as many as 500,000 users.

The tech giant announced the news on the company blog, disclosing the compromised user-privacy issue for the first time, despite knowing about it for seven months.

"We discovered and immediately patched this bug in March 2018," Ben Smith, the company's vice president of engineering, wrote. The software flaw affected how the social network, created to rival Facebook but never seriously challenging it, interacted with third-party applications.

"We are shutting down Google+ for consumers," Smith added, admitting that the product was, at best, underwhelming. "While our engineering teams have put a lot of effort and dedication into building Google+ over the years, it has not achieved broad consumer or developer adoption. ... The consumer version of Google+ currently has low usage and engagement: 90 percent of Google+ user sessions are less than five seconds."

The company will wind down Google+ over 10 months, targeting an August 2019 shutdown.

The Wall Street Journal broke the news
of the software bug, reporting that Google chose to not disclose the problem "because of fears that doing so would draw regulatory scrutiny and cause reputational damage."

The WSJ reported that the exposure dates back to 2015, although the company didn't comment on how long information was exposed.

The information accessed a user's profile information, including the name, email address, occupation, gender and age, according to the blog post, which added: "The bug meant that apps also had access to Profile fields that were shared with the user, but not marked as public."

As many as 438 outside apps may have connected with the flawed software. The company stated in its post that there was no evidence "that any developer was aware of this bug, or ... that any Profile data was misused."

The company also debuted a number of new privacy controls, including limiting the apps that can access Gmail, call log, and text messaging data.

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Monday
Oct082018

Doctor Who gets her own Barbie doll inspired by first woman to play the iconic character

Mattel(LONDON) -- A Barbie celebrating actress Jodie Whittaker, the first woman ever to take the title role in the iconic series, "Doctor Who," is now for pre-sale on Mattel.com.

Whittaker, 36, was introduced in the sci-fi's season 11 premiere on Sunday -- one year after BBC America announced she'd be the 13th actor and the first female to play the role since the series began in 1963.

Also on Sunday, Barbie made the announcement that the Doctor Who Barbie doll would be available for purchase.

"Introducing the all-new #DoctorWho Barbie doll inspired by the iconic series’ Thirteenth Doctor," says the fashion doll's Twitter page. "With her signature suspenders, lace-up boots and sonic screwdriver, this #Barbie doll is ready to time travel into your collection!"

The doll, dressed in a rainbow-striped shirt paired, cropped trousers and a trench coat, is priced at $49.99 for pre-order on Mattel's website. It's available to ship on Nov. 9.

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Monday
Oct082018

Amazon fires employee for sharing customer email addresses

Amazon.com(NEW YORK) -- Amazon fired an employee for handing over customer email addresses to a third party seller on the site, the company confirmed on Monday.

On Friday the e-commerce giant said it had notified affected customers, adding that the seller had been blocked from Amazon.

"The individual responsible for this incident has been terminated from their position, and we are supporting law enforcement in their prosecution," an Amazon spokesperson wrote in an email to ABC News.

The company did not provide any details on the fired employee or third party seller.

Last month, The Wall Street Journal reported that Amazon was investigating leaks of customer data by employees in exchange for bribes from third party sellers. Amazon would not comment on whether this employee's behavior was part of that investigation.

Problems with third party sellers and a culture of fake reviews have been a growing problem for Amazon as it grows exponentially. The cottage industry of fake reviews has in turn spawned an industry that monitors fake reviews.

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Monday
Oct082018

Foreign language app marks Columbus Day by adding indigenous Navajo, Hawaiian languages

Duolingo.com(NEW YORK) -- A foreign language app with more than 300 million users is marking Columbus Day, which is alternatively recognized as Indigenous Peoples Day, by launching classes in two native languages.

The Duolingo app, which is free, has started offering classes in olelo Hawaii (Hawaiian) and Diné (Navajo) after years of campaigning by employees of the Pittsburgh-based company, which fields daily requests to add to the dozens of languages taught on the app.

Navajo is the most popular indigenous language in North America, said Duolingo’s lead community specialist Myra Awodey, who pushed for the addition of this Native American tongue and expressed concern about the death of languages that aren't used.

“I grew up bilingual,” speaking German and English, Awodey told ABC News. “When we lose a language, we lose access to an entire history of a kind of culture.”

Rosetta Stone, another language-teaching program, also has a Navajo course as part of its endangered language series.

There are 332,129 Americans who claim Navajo ancestry, according to the 2010 U.S. Census.

Around 600 languages have disappeared in the last 100 years, and as many as 90 percent of the world’s languages could become obsolete by the end of the century, according to the United Nations Permanent Forum of Indigenous Issues.

The app developed its course in Hawaiian after it was approached by networks of schools, organizations and programs focused on education in Hawaii.

“So many people in our community cherish olelo Hawaii, but not all of them have the time or resources to take classes,” said Poki'i Seto of the Kanaeokana network that promotes the teaching of the native Hawaiian language. "The Hawaiian language movement is carrying our olelo to places we never thought it would go. And that’s how it should be.”

Duolingo's new indigenous curricula aren’t full courses like for English or Spanish or German, but are starting as a sort of boot camps to expand later.

It’s expensive for apps to develop courses for smaller languages because the classes must use recordings of real people speaking the language. Each course needs about 30,000 utterances.

In contrast, courses for more common tongues such as English, Spanish or German can use computerized voices.

As of Saturday on the Duolingo site, there were 211 active learners in the beta version learning Hawaiian and 85 active learners in beta learning Navajo. In contrast, there are 508,000 active learners of High Valyrian from Game of Thrones and 308,000 active users learning Klingon.

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Saturday
Oct062018

Banksy pranks auction, shreds $1.4M painting moments after sale

iStock/Thinkstock(LONDON) -- A million-dollar piece of artwork by mysterious street artist Banksy was left in shreds before an aghast audience seconds after it was auctioned off for a record $1.4 million on Friday. The British artist, whose identity is still unknown after decades of speculation, timed his painting, Girl With Balloon, to self-destruct via a shredder hidden in the artwork's frame.

The painting was auctioned off Friday night at Sotheby's in London.

Girl With Balloon sold for 1,042,000 pounds, or about $1,367,104 -- tying a record for the priciest piece of art ever sold by Banksy, according to the auction house. Keep It Spotless, a defaced work by Damien Hirst, set the previous record in February 2008.

Sotheby's admitted it was pranked by the unknown artist, and took it all in stride.

“It appears we just got Banksy-ed,” said Alex Branczik, a senior director at Sotheby's, said in a statement.  

The artist himself posted a photo of the shredded work on his Instagram with the caption, "Going, going, gone..."

After the crowd's initial shock, they whipped out their cameras to take pictures of the moment.

Video shot by an attendee showed two Sotheby's workers removing the painting, partially shredded and hanging from the frame, from the wall and whisking it away.

Banksy first gained prominence for his stencil work on walls in the late 1990s and began holding exhibitions in the early 2000s in the U.K. and the United States.

The documentary Exit Through the Gift Shop, released in 2010, garnered him further attention worldwide and an Oscar nomination. The film did not win, dashing onlookers' hopes at a reveal of the artist.

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Friday
Oct052018

Credit Karma CEO wants to take the 'dread' out of personal finance

Credit Karma(NEW YORK) -- Not everything in FinTech (financial tech) is as sexy as cryptocurrency. But it can mean more than using Venmo to pay back your friends for your share of the bar tab. That's Credit Karma CEO Ken Lin's take, anyway.

Credit Karma provides credit reports, disputes credit report errors, offers financial management tools and monitors unclaimed money databases -- for free. The company recently expanded into tax preparation and identity theft monitoring. It makes money from commissions from partner banks and financial service companies. It has at least $193.5 million in total equity investments from Google Capital, Tiger Global Management, Susquehanna Growth Equity, Founders Fund and SV Angel.

Credit Karma launched in 2006, right before the financial crisis, which could have been really bad or really good timing. It uses artificial intelligence and algorithms to compare financial products. A National Association of Retirement Plan Participants study in 2016 revealed that only 8 percent of respondents had faith in traditional financial institutions.

As part of ABC News' "C-Suite Insider" series, Lin talked about personal finance, building good credit and the best thing he redeemed with credit card points.

"Consumer are problems are not about how to buy more stuff," he told ABC News on the sidelines of the Ascent conference in New York City this week.

There are two problems right now for consumers, he explained. Sixty percent of credit card applications are declined and credit card users are laying out extra cash because of interest rate charges. He said that on average, the 80 million Credit Karma users save 200 to 500 basis points per loan, depending on individual credit scores.

You said that 80 percent of people overpay for auto loans, to the tune of $37 billion?

Eighty percent of consumers don't shop for auto loans. They go to the dealership, they find the car they want, they go into the finance office and say, 'I want this Ford Mustang and I can pay $500 a month.' Almost inevitably, the loan officer comes back and says, 'I have the perfect loan for you at $495.' Most consumers don't think about the interest rate, they think about the monthly aspect. This is where financial literacy matters a lot. The difference between $495 and $395 is all interest rate oriented.

Let's talk about mortgages and refinancing. Could the same thing be said about that?


It's not the same as auto but a meaningful amount of consumers don't shop for mortgage rates, which is mind boggling to me. It's the biggest purchase a typical consumer is going to make. I think it becomes very emotional. You fall in love with a home -- I've done it myself multiple times -- 'I really want that one' -- and it doesn't really matter, the mortgage is just the way to get to it.

I think the fundamental problem is the process is really arduous. You think about the credit that you need. You need to provide your W-2s, you generally speaking need to show you tax returns, you generally need to show your bank statements to show that you have the funds for the down payment. You need all this documentation. As a result you get lazy.

If someone told me I could save $100 a month but I had to refinance my mortgage -- I probably wouldn't do it. If you think about it, if I have a 30-year mortgage, that's $36,000 in savings. But I wouldn't do it because I don't want to go through that again. It's emotional and it's a lot of work!

That's the opportunity for Credit Karma -- we can simplify that process. We can say, you know what, we actually did your taxes last year ... we have your credit reports so we don't have to worry about whether you're going to be credit-qualified, and with two or three clicks we can refinance that mortgage so you can save $100 a month and you're not dreading it."

Can you actually do that?

Well that's what we envision in autonomous financing where all these things come together. Over time we can build all those data assets and build those relationships with various banks and lenders to make that happen.

Over one million people filed their taxes with us last year. The idea is that we have all that data in one place.

What about wrong credit reports? That happens quite frequently.


We have a product called direct dispute. With about three clicks on your phone we can dispute it in real time with the [credit] bureaus. That product has reduced about $10 billion in erroneous debt in about three years. That's just our customer base and not everyone does it.

If you have all of our financial information, how safe is it? We're coming off a 10-year period in which people literally reverted to putting money under their mattresses.

Most people need help understanding their finances. If you go to your doctor and need medical advice, he kind of needs to know your medical history to give you advice. In a similar way, if you're looking for financial advice you kind of need to know how you're spending your money, how you're using your money.

In terms of security we realize how valuable and sensitive this information is. We spend a lot of time and effort guarding it. We don't rent, share or sell this information. That said, we don't create any incremental information. It's already out there. The bureaus already have it. Your VIN [Vehicle Identification Number] and make and model is already with the DMV. Your income and your tax statements are already with your bank you're working with. In some ways it's already there. It's a trade-off but we do everything we can to protect the information in a thoughtful way.

Our ID monitoring and theft monitoring is pretty powerful. We launched that last year. I was in a meeting and one of our security engineers literally slacked me one of my passwords. He got it off the dark web -- it was one of our beta products. It was my LinkedIn password. And I knew that LinkedIn had been breached but it's more tangible when your LinkedIn password is in front of you and someone sends it to you.

So being an evangelist about financial literacy, what's your best piece of personal finance advice?

I'm a huge fan of credit cards. Not because I'm from the industry, but I think if you're objectively looking at it, credit cards are an amazing tool because they provide insurance on the things that you buy, they provide rewards, so you're basically getting a 2 percent discount on everything you buy. The key is being smart about it. Which means never paying interest, paying off your monthly balance each and every month, never overextending. If you do that, you actually build an amazing credit score.

What's the craziest or most expensive thing you've ever cashed in credit card points for?

That's easy. I have traveled around the world [with my wife] first class on points. It was awesome. San Francisco, London, Paris, Bangkok, Tokyo, San Francisco.

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Thursday
Oct042018

NYPD investigator’s conduct under review in Harvey Weinstein sexual assault case

Kevin Hagen/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- The New York Police Department and the Manhattan District Attorney’s office are reviewing the conduct of a lead police investigator in the Harvey Weinstein sex assault case, sources briefed on the matter confirmed to ABC News.

At issue is an accusation that the investigator might have improperly “coached” a witness in the case and whether information about that witness’ statement was properly disclosed to prosecutors and Weinstein’s attorneys.

Weinstein’s defense team could use the issue to call into the question the validity of the case against the disgraced movie mogul.

The NYPD issued a statement Thursday standing by the integrity of the investigation.

“The NYPD, working with its partner the New York District Attorney, is fully confident in the overall case it has pursued against Mr. Weinstein,” according to the statement. “The evidence shows that the criminal case against him is strong. The NYPD will continue to assist the prosecution any way it can to ensure justice is achieved for these brave survivors.”

The district attorney’s office and Weinstein’s attorneys have been barred by the court from publicly discussing this issue but ABC News has learned that a hearing has been scheduled for next week.

The NYPD declined to comment further. The district attorney’s office and Weinstein’s defense team also declined to comment.

Weinstein has pleaded not guilty to six felony counts stemming from the accusations of three women.

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Wednesday
Oct032018

Senate approves measure giving airline passengers new rights

iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- The Senate passed a measure Wednesday that would give airline passengers new rights and should help make an often frustrating experience easier.

But the bill, which authorizes funding for the Federal Aviation Administration for the next five years, doesn't tackle those pesky airline baggage fees -- a big win for the airlines.

Here are some of the key provisions:

No bumping passengers who have already boarded


This is a direct result of the April 2017 incident when United Airlines passenger David Dao was bloodied and dragged off an aircraft after refusing to give up his seat on an overbooked flight. Shortly after the highly-publicized incident, domestic carriers put an end to the practice of asking already-seated passengers to give up their seats. This bill would make that policy change federal law.

No mid-flight cell phone calls

Just because the flight has Wi-Fi, doesn't mean passengers are allowed to make that business call. The bill would order the Department of Transportation to prohibit customers from making voice calls between takeoff and landing.

Accommodations for pregnant and breastfeeding mothers


Gate agents have long allowed pregnant women to board early along with families with small children, but this bill orders DOT to make that the law. In addition, it requires large and medium-sized airports to provide clean, accessible private rooms for nursing mothers. Changing tables will also have to be in both men's and women's bathrooms. The Department of Transportation will provide grants to help airport make the changes.

Go ahead, check that stroller at the gate

The bill explicitly prohibits airlines from denying passengers the ability to check their stroller at the gate as long as the child using the stroller is on the same flight, except when the stroller's size or weight "poses a safety or security risk."

It is illegal to put an animal in the overhead

After a puppy named Kokito died on a flight from Houston to New York when an attendant ordered the carrier into the overhead bin, it is now illegal to do so. United Airlines accepted full responsibility for what the flight attendant said was a misunderstanding.

Orders seat size minimums

The measure, which now goes to the president for his signature, orders the FAA to establish minimum seat standards in pitch (the distance between rows of seats) and width within of year of the president's signature. Consumer advocates have long argued that shrinking seats create a safety issue, but the FAA presented evidence that evacuating passengers end up waiting in the aisle anyway and current seat sizes have no effect on whether a plane can be emptied in 90 seconds as regulations require.

It's unclear what the dimensions of seat sizes will be, but the bill orders regulators to consider what is "necessary for the safety of passengers," not what is comfortable. With the FAA already having decided current sizes are safe, it's unlikely to have any impact. Tall passengers will likely keep complaining.

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Wednesday
Oct032018

No link between unhappy passengers and airline profits, study says

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Every year it seems like there's more to complain about when flying. Higher baggage fees. Shrinking seat sizes. Lack of free food. But do these grievances impact the financial performance of the carrier?

No, according to a new study from the University of Nevada, Reno.

"We have found no link in customer satisfaction and financial performance,” according to Jeffrey Wong, a professor of accounting at the University of Nevada, Reno. “Airlines don’t seem to place a priority on customer service despite the fact that they advertise to the contrary. And yet, some airlines are still profitable.”

In 2017, U.S. carriers saw an after-tax net profit of $15.5 billion, up from $14 billion in 2016 but down from a record $24.8 billion in 2015.

Wong and other researchers found that load factor has improved, meaning flights are full and airlines aren't wasting expenses on unnecessarily large aircraft. This has allowed "for airline profitability to skyrocket in some cases," according to the study.

Since last year, the rate of filled seats on domestic flights has increased to 85 percent from 77 percent a decade ago, according to Department of Transportation data.

Wong said airlines carefully choose the services they provide to customers.

“In the end, their profitability does not appear to be dependent upon customer service, based on our analysis,” Wong said. “Given that the airline industry offers a service with few alternatives, the findings of our research may not be surprising.”

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.







ABC News Radio