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April 18 2017 2:37 PM

Theranos Will Refund 175,000 People in Arizona Who Took Its Blood Tests

This post originally appeared in Business Insider.

Anyone who paid to take one of Theranos's blood tests in Arizona will be receiving a refund from the company, Arizona's attorney general said on Tuesday. In total, Theranos will pay the state $4.65 million to refund the tests, and will also pay $225,000 to cover civil penalties and attorneys' fees.

"Between 2013 and 2016, Theranos sold approximately 1.5 million blood tests to more than 175,000 Arizonans," the attorney general said in a news release. "Each customer will now be reimbursed the full amount the customer paid for testing regardless of whether the results were voided or corrected."

 

April 12 2017 6:23 PM

Snapchat Is Letting Advertisers Track Users by the Stores They Visit

This post originally appeared in Business Insider.

Snap Inc. executives frequently tout Snapchat as the best place for advertisers to win over its youthful, primarily millennial user base. Now the company is letting advertisers track those users based on the stores they visit.

A new tool called Snap to Store will let advertisers track where Snapchat's 158 million daily users go in the real world on an anonymized basis. Marketers will be able to correlate ad campaigns in the app with actual foot traffic. The tool is available to any advertiser with physical stores in the U.S. that meets an undisclosed minimum spend amount, a Snap spokesperson told Business Insider on Wednesday.

April 6 2017 12:35 PM

Amazon Is Using a “Simulated Dog” to Test Its Delivery Drones

This post originally appeared in Business Insider.

Amazon is using a "simulated dog" to test its delivery drones, according to IBTimes.

The e-commerce giant wants to use drones to deliver parcels to customers in less than 30 minutes but it clearly has some concerns about how dogs might interfere. At least one simulated dog is being used to "help Amazon see how UAVs [unmanned aerial vehicles] would respond to a canine trying to protect its territory," according to IBTimes.

Little is known about the simulated dog that Amazon is using and Amazon did not immediately respond to Business Insider's request for comment. It's also not clear if Amazon created the dog itself or whether it turned to a supplier. The exact number of simulated dogs that Amazon has in its possession is also unknown.

April 5 2017 1:16 PM

A Maker of Smart Garage Openers Responded to a Bad Amazon Review by Remotely Disabling the Customer's Device

This post originally appeared in Business Insider.

There's a new, dystopian risk to using internet-connected gadgets: If you complain, the company that made it might remotely kill your product.

This is what happened to one customer who bought Garadget—an internet-connected garage door opener. It lets you remotely lock or unlock your garage with an app, or see if it's open. But after they complained about it online and left a negative review, he got an unpleasant surprise—Garadget had bricked their device. (We first heard the news via Ars Technica.)

The customer had left a comment on the support forum complaining about technical issues, "wondering what kind of piece of shit I just purchased here." They then followed it up with a negative Amazon review, saying: "Junk - DO NOT WASTE YOUR MONEY - iPhone app is a piece of junk, crashes constantly, start-up company that obviously has not performed proper quality assurance tests on their products."

Well, Garadget did not like that one bit.

The company disabled the disgruntled customer's device by denying it access to its servers—and announced it had done as such on its forum (emphasis ours):

Martin,

The abusive language here and in your negative Amazon review, submitted minutes after experiencing a technical difficulty, only demonstrates your poor impulse control. I'm happy to provide the technical support to the customers on my Saturday night but I'm not going to tolerate any tantrums.

At this time your only option is return Garadget to Amazon for refund. Your unit ID 2f0036... will be denied server connection.

Garadget defended itself in a subsequent post, saying it took action to "distance from the toxic individual":

Ok, calm down everybody. Save your pitchforks and torches for your elected representatives. This only lacks the death threats now.

The firing of the customer was never about the Amazon review, just wanted to distance from the toxic individual ASAP. Admittedly not a slickest PR move on my part. Access restored, note taken.

PS: Anybody has Streisand's phone number?

But the company has come under heavy criticism on the support forum—and elsewhere online—as a result of the action. "I don't own your product, so I can say this without fear of retribution: What a terrible way to do business. I'll leave an Amazon review, too, just because I can," one poster wrote. "P.S. Please don't change my locks while I'm at work."

170405_BI_Garadget

Garadget

"Ironically it seems you have much poorer 'impulse control' and are much more prone to 'tantrums'," said another. "Maybe you should stop working in customer support. Doesn't seem like you're much good at it."

Garadget did not immediately respond to Business Insider's request for comment, though Grisek told Ars Technica that "there isn't much more to add."

The whole incident raises a broader issue with the "internet of things": If your devices rely on someone else's servers to run, and they can be remotely disabled at any time, do you really own them?

In 2016, smart-home company Nest decided to discontinue a line of products built by Revolv, a company it acquired—bricking customers' devices. The decision sparked outrage from customers, and raised questions about consumer rights in the internet age.

"When software and hardware are intertwined, does a warranty mean you stop supporting the hardware or does it mean that the manufacturer can intentionally disable it without consequence?" one disgruntled Revolv customer wrote. "[Then-Nest CEO] Tony Fadell seems to believe the latter. Tony believes he has the right to reach into your home and pull the plug on your Nest products."

Nest subsequently offered compensation to affected customers to make amends. But what's happening with Garadget shows the issues around internet-connected devices is only just getting started.

April 3 2017 4:48 PM

Facebook Is Testing a Second News Feed for People Who Want News but No Baby Photos

This post originally appeared in Business Insider.

Don't be surprised when you eventually see a new rocketship tab in your Facebook app.

The tab is essentially a second News Feed, except without any posts or baby pictures from your friends. Instead, Facebook is using the tab to only show recommended videos and articles based on what you already like and watch in your main News Feed.

Facebook has been quietly testing the new tab in different parts of the world for the past several weeks, a company spokesperson told Business Insider. “We are testing a complementary feed of popular articles, videos, and photos, customized for each person based on content that might be interesting to them," the spokesperson said. "We've heard from people that they want an easy way to explore new content they haven't connected with yet.”

Facebook frequently tests changes to its apps that are never rolled out to all of its 1.8 billion users. But now that more people, including those in the US, are starting to see the rocketship tab, Facebook appears close to making the feature available to everyone.

Creating a second News Feed could help Facebook overcome a looming threat to its ad business. The company has warned that it's nearing the limit of ads it can stuff into the News Feed, and this new tab could let it show more ads in videos and between stories.

March 28 2017 3:59 PM

In On-Brand Move, Samsung Store Literally Catches Fire

This post originally appeared in Business Insider.

A Samsung store in Singapore caught fire on Tuesday morning, just a day before the company is set to announce its new flagship smartphone, the Galaxy S8.

According to Channel News Asia, Samsung confirmed there was a fire at the store's location in the AMK Hub shopping center, and it was quickly extinguished by water sprinklers. There were no reported injuries, and several surrounding stores had to be temporarily closed down, according to the report.

The cause of the fire has yet to be determined, but it supposedly involved "contents measuring 1m by 2m" in the store's storeroom, according to Channel News Asia.

March 27 2017 2:06 PM

Shoppers Appear to Be Ditching Whole Foods for the Organic Food at ... Kroger?

This post originally appeared in Business Insider.

Whole Foods is losing millions of customers to what was once an unthinkable threat: Kroger.

The organic-food chain has lost as many as 14 million customers in the past six quarters, according to Barclays analyst Karen Short. Most of those customers are instead going to Kroger and probably won't ever go back to Whole Foods, Short said in a recent research note. "The magnitude of the traffic declines ... is staggering," Short said. "As most retailers know—once traffic has been lost, those patterns rarely reversed."

March 21 2017 11:15 AM

Hackers Reportedly Tried to Steal Self-Driving Car Secrets From Chinese Web Company Baidu

This post originally appeared in Business Insider.

A group of hackers attempted to steal self-driving car technology from Baidu, a Chinese web services company that has been actively pursuing self-driving cars, Bloomberg first reported.

Details on the hacking attempt are scarce, but Baidu has beefed up its cybersecurity team following the threat. Ma Jie, Baidu's head of cybersecurity, told Bloomberg that the company is supporting a group of "white hat" student hackers from Tsinghua University and has also teamed up with rivals Tencent and Alibaba to limit the likelihood of another attack.

March 16 2017 6:18 PM

Google Home Is Playing Ads, But Google Says They Aren't Really Ads

This post originally appeared in Business Insider.

As Google moves toward screen-free computing powered by digital assistants and artificial intelligence, one of the big questions the company faces is how it'll translate its lucrative advertising to those platforms.

Now we're starting to get an idea.

Some users of the new Google Home connected speaker have noticed audio ads for Disney's upcoming "Beauty and the Beast" remake.

March 16 2017 12:38 PM

Spotify May Block Users From Listening to Top Hits Unless They Pay to Subscribe

This post originally appeared in Business Insider.

People who use Spotify without paying may be blocked from listening to some of the hottest new music on the platform, according to a new report from The Financial Times.

The music streaming service is reportedly nearing a new deal with the major music labels. And one part of that deal would—on a temporary basis—make some of the top releases on the platform available only to users who have paid for subscriptions. So the next Frank Ocean album, say, might become available on Spotify—but unless you've paid for a subscription, you'll have to wait a while before you can actually listen to it.

These negotiations with labels are essential to Spotify's future plans. The Swedish company plans to go public, but first it needs certainty about the terms on which it uses the major labels' music on its platform. Spotify has been long resistant to the idea of restricting some of its music to just its paid subscribers. But according to the FT, it has received a concession in return—it will pay less to the labels in royalty fees on each song.

Taylor Swift refused to put her new album on the platform in 2015 because the company would not restrict it to premium-only users, an incident that sparked heated debate over how music should be valued and whether ad-supported music streaming services pay artists properly. Competitors, like Apple Music, do not offer a free tier at all—though it does provide temporary free trials to potential subscribers.

The negotiations, with Universal, Sony, and Warner, could reportedly be completed within weeks.

Spotify currently has more than 50 million paid subscribers, according to its site, and over 100 million overall. There are more than 30 million songs on the platform.

A spokesperson declined to comment to Business Insider.

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