Technology Now
The business and culture of our digital lives
5 tips for safe shopping on Black Friday and Cyber Monday

Shoppers descend on malls and Best Buys on Black Friday each year, hungry for outrageous markdowns and incredible deals. But beware. This is the last holiday shopping season before Americans will switch over to the chip-and-pin technology popular in Europe, ditching the old magnetic strip credit and debit cards.


Until then, the majority of American retailers will continue to use the magnetic strip system at their registers, leaving them susceptible to data breaches. Hackers can siphon credit card data from those systems and sell it on the black market.


After breaches at major retailers, such as Target and Home Depot, it may seem like online shopping during Black Friday and Cyber Monday is the safest bet. But a digital “swipe” of the credit card poses risks of its own.


“We expect a rampant amount of intrusion attempts,” said Yaron Samid, chief executive of the financial security app BillGuard. “You should assume that your data will be compromised going in.”


But these breaches don’t...

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Routing around the Great Firewall of China

China’s Internet users are at the mercy of government censors and the country’s so-called Great Firewall, which denies access to many sites that authorities don’t like. But one advocacy group hopes that exploiting a risky loophole will let them show uncensored information freely in mainland China.

Greatfire.org, a group that advocates for Chinese Internet freedom, claims it has made a number of blocked websites available this week including the BBC’s Chinese service and Boxun, a Chinese-language media service known for provocative stories.

“Few foreign media produce Chinese-language content for a Chinese audience,” a Greatfire co-founder said in a statement. “Firstly, I guess, because they don't have the resources to do that, but mainly because of the high likelihood that the content will get blocked.”

Greatfire's leaders refuse to divulge their identities for fear of retaliation by Chinese authorities. 

China’s sophisticated censorship apparatus renders many foreign news websites,...

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Sony settles with FTC on allegedly misleading PlayStation tweets

Sony's PlayStation Vita may not have been so game-changing after all.

Sony settled with the Federal Trade Commission on Tuesday over charges that it deceived customers in 2011 about the "game changing" advanced technology on the handheld gaming console.

The move marks the first time the commission has taken action against a company for allegedly misleading advertisements posted on Twitter, the FTC said.

The commission also targeted ad agency Deutsch LA for its role in the campaign. Among the charges, the FTC accused Deutsch LA of promoting the gadget without disclosing that the agency was the source of the tweets, leaving the impression that they were genuine customer endorsements.  

“As we enter the year’s biggest shopping period, companies need to be reminded that if they make product promises to consumers -- as Sony did with the 'game changing' features of its PS Vita -- they must deliver on those pledges,” Jessica Rich, director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection, said in a...

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Amazon slashes Fire Phone prices again

The cuts keep coming. Amazon has slashed the price of its struggling Fire smartphone again, to $199 for an unlocked 32-gigabyte version with no contract.

The $250 discount, good through Cyber Monday, comes as the Seattle-based company struggles with sales -- the Fire Phone has flopped since it began selling in July. In September, Amazon cut the price of a Fire without an AT&T contract from $649 to $449. The company also cut the price of the phone with a two-year contract from $199 to just 99 cents at that time. 

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FOR THE RECORD

An earlier version of this post said Amazon cut the price of an unlocked Fire without an AT

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Lyft drivers can now choose to accept riders only on specific routes

Ride-hailing service Lyft launched a new feature called Driver Destination on Tuesday that lets Lyft drivers input a route to a destination and only receive ride requests from passengers close to that route who are heading in the same direction.

The feature is different to Lyft Line, which is Lyft’s carpooling service that requires drivers to operate like a taxi, picking up and dropping off people wherever they need to go. Driver Destination lets drivers set a destination beforehand, so they can turn trips they were already going to make into Lyft rides.

The new feature was designed with commuters in mind, allowing drivers to make some extra cash on their drives to and from work.

Twitter: @traceylien

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Google puts money behind a spoon that stays steady in tremoring hands

Google’s latest venture could help people with essential tremors and Parkinson’s disease eat without spilling their food.

The Liftware Spoon, developed by health tech company Lift Labs, which Google acquired in September for an undisclosed sum, uses hundreds of algorithms to sense how a hand is shaking and makes adjustments to keep the spoon steady. In clinical trials, the spoon reduced shaking of the spoon bowl by an average of 76%.

“I have some patients who couldn't eat independently, they had to be fed, and now they can eat on their own,” said UC San Francisco Medical Center neurologist Dr. Jill Ostrem, who specializes in movement disorders like Parkinson’s disease and essential tremors. “It doesn't cure the disease — they still have a tremor — but it's a very positive change.”

Other devices have been developed for people with tremors, like rocker knives, weighted utensils and pen grips, but none has used technology in this way.

Lift Lab founder Anupam Pathak said he hopes to add...

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