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Can Clubhouse Move Fast Without Breaking Things?

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From the start, there were signs that Clubhouse was speed-running the platform life cycle. Weeks after launching, it ran into claims that it was allowing harassment and hate speech to proliferate, including large rooms where speakers allegedly made anti-Semitic comments. The start-up scrambled to update its community guidelines and add basic blocking and reporting features, and its founders did the requisite Zuckerbergian apology tour. (“We unequivocally condemn Anti-Blackness, Anti-Semitism, and all other forms of racism, hate speech and abuse on Clubhouse,” read one company blog post in October.)

The company has also faced accusations of mishandling user data, including a Stanford report that found that the company may have routed some data through servers in China, possibly giving the Chinese government access to sensitive user information. (The company pledged to lock down user data and submit to an outside audit of its security practices.) And privacy advocates have balked at the app’s aggressive growth practices, which include asking users to upload their entire contact lists in order to send invitations to others.

“Major privacy & security concerns, lots of data extraction, use of dark patterns, growth without a clear business model. When will we learn?” Elizabeth M. Renieris, the director of the Notre Dame-IBM Tech Ethics Lab, wrote in a tweet this week that compared Clubhouse at this moment to the early days of Facebook.

To be fair, there are some important structural differences between Clubhouse and existing social networks. Unlike Facebook and Twitter, which revolve around central, algorithmically curated feeds, Clubhouse is organized more like Reddit — a cluster of topical rooms, moderated by users, with a central “hallway” where users can browse rooms in progress. Clubhouse rooms disappear after they’re over, and recording a room is against the rules (although it still happens), which means that “going viral,” in the traditional sense, isn’t really possible. Users have to be invited to a room’s “stage” to speak, and moderators can easily boot unruly or disruptive speakers, so there’s less risk of a civilized discussion’s being hijacked by trolls. And Clubhouse doesn’t have ads, which reduces the risk of profit-seeking mischief.

But there are still plenty of similarities. Like other social networks, Clubhouse has a number of “discovery” features and aggressive growth-hacking tactics meant to draw new users deeper into the app, including algorithmic recommendations and personalized push alerts, and a list of suggested users to follow. Those features, combined with Clubhouse’s ability to form private and semiprivate rooms with thousands of people in them, create some of the same bad incentives and opportunities for abuse that have hurt other platforms.

The app’s reputation for lax moderation has also attracted a number of people who have been barred by other social networks, including figures associated with QAnon, Stop the Steal and other extremist groups.

Clubhouse has also become a home for people who are disillusioned with social media censorship and critical of various gatekeepers. Attacking The New York Times, in particular, has become something of an obsession among Clubhouse addicts for reasons that would take another full column to explain. (A room called, in part, How to Destroy the NYT ran for many hours, drawing thousands of listeners.)



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Whole Foods will soon let customers pay for groceries with palm scan

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Whole Foods will soon let customers pay for groceries using its parent company’s palm-scanning technology.

Amazon said Wednesday its palm-scanning system — currently used in about a dozen of its brick and mortar stores — will debut at a Whole Foods in Seattle’s Capitol Hill neighborhood, the first of many planned rollouts at other locations.

The system uses Amazon One technology, which employs high-tech imaging and algorithms to create and detect a “unique palm signature” based on the ridges, lines and veins in each person’s hand.

Its high-tech sensors don’t require users to touch the scanning surface, like Apple’s fingerprint technology does.

Instead, palm-reading tech uses computer vision and depth geometry to process and identify the shape and size of each hand they scan before charging a credit card on file.

Amazon One will debut at a Whole Foods in Seattle's Capitol Hill neighborhood, with many rollouts at other locations planned for the future.
Amazon One will debut at a Whole Foods in Seattle’s Capitol Hill neighborhood, with many rollouts at other locations planned for the future.
Shannon Stapleton/Reuters

The company said that the palm-scanning tech will be offered as just one of many payment options at participating Whole Foods Stores and that it won’t impact store employees’ job responsibilities.

“At Whole Foods Market, we’re always looking for new and innovative ways to improve the shopping experience for our customers,” said Arun Rajan, senior vice president of technology and chief technology officer at Whole Foods Market.

Palm images used by Amazon One are encrypted and stored in a “highly secure” cloud, and customers can request to have their palm data deleted.

The company claims palm-scanning tech is more private than other biometric alternatives, such as facial recognition.

Amazon One builds on the “Just Walk Out” technology that Amazon uses in its Go stores, which detects the items shoppers pick up and charges them once they leave — without the need for a checkout line

Amazon is also planning to expand the cashier-less technology to Whole Foods, as reported by The Post.

Meanwhile, the tech could be good for its bottom line. The online behemoth aims to sell its palm-scanning tech to other companies like retailers, stadiums and office buildings.

Amazon One scanner
The scanner uses high-tech imaging and algorithms to create and detect a unique palm signature which is then encrypted and stored in a secured cloud.
Amazon

Last September, it said it was in “active discussions with several potential customers.” But it is unclear if it has progressed on any of those fronts.

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Apple’s new iPad Pros and TV remote don’t have U1 locators to help find them in your couch

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Apple has been quietly sticking special locator beacon chips into some of its new iPhones that’ll let you unlock your car and find lost items through walls — the latter thanks to the $29 AirTags announced today — but sadly, you won’t find that chip in the new M1-based iPad Pros or the long-awaited new Siri remote for the Apple TV.

Apple confirmed to us that the U1 locator chip, which uses pulses of ultra-wideband (UWB) radio to broadcast its precise location, won’t appear in the Siri remote. We’re waiting on final bulletproof confirmation about the iPad Pros, but it also doesn’t appear in their product page, spec sheet, or press release. Last year’s iP ad Pros didn’t include a U1 chip, either.

Is Apple expecting us to stick AirTags to our iPads and TV remotes to escape the jaws of the ever-ravenous couch? Unlikely, but the company has been pretty choosey about which devices get the chip so far. You can find it in the iPhone 11 and newer (but not the iPhone SE) and the Apple Watch Series 6 (but not the Apple Watch SE), but we’re pretty sure it hasn’t made its way to any iPads or MacBooks that have been announced since the chip’s introduction in September 2019.

Theoretically, Apple could build an ecosystem where any Apple device can easily find any other Apple device (not to mention UWB devices from Samsung, which is also deeply invested in the tech and has its own AirTag-like device as well). But for now, you’ll primarily just be using your phone to find AirTags, not other gadgets, except perhaps your future car.

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Your iPhone has a completely hidden app. Here’s how to find and use it

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Apple’s iPhone is full of hidden features and tricks we’re constantly discovering. For instance, did you know the Notes app has a hidden document scanner? Yeah, pretty cool. The latest hidden feature that’s been popping up on Twitter and blogs is another type of scanner, dedicated to QR codes, and it’s better than the one built into the camera app.

Indeed, you would already be able to filter QR codes utilizing the easy route in Control Center, or simply open the camera application and it will check a QR code. Also, you’re correct. Both of those strategies turn out great. However, the committed Code Scanner application accepts the position above and beyond by introducing a greater amount of the data I need to see about an examined code.

For instance, the camera application utilizes a little notice at the highest point of the screen to open a connection or show you data, though the devoted Code Scanner application makes it exceptionally clear what’s inside the QR code you just checked. Yet, here’s the rub: The Code Scanner application isn’t found on your home screen, nor is it found in iOS 14’s new App Library.

As should be obvious, the best way to discover the Code Scanner application is to utilize the iPhone’s Spotlight search include. Go to your iPhone’s home screen and swipe down in the center of the screen. An inquiry bar will show up at the highest point of your screen, alongside application and alternate route ideas underneath. Type either code or scanner. As you type, you’ll see the Code Scanner application symbol appear as an application idea. Tap to open it.

The flashlight icon at the bottom of the screen acts as a flash to illuminate a code if your phone is struggling to read it.

If you don’t have the QR scanner shortcut added to Control Center yet, here’s a post showing you how to customize Control Center to your liking. For more hidden features, check out our list for iOS 14. We also cover more general, but useful features in iOS 14.

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