News Bytes – September

A solution looking for a problem?
With facemasks seemingly becoming a part of the landscape for the foreseeable future in these pandemic times, it was always likely that high-tech companies would come up with products that reflect this. LG has jumped on this bandwagon with a mask which promises to provide clean air for its users. Effectively the mask contains a miniature air purifier driving fans that deliver air to the user’s mouth, speeding up or slowing down in sync with your breathing. The mask is powered by an 820 mAh rechargeable battery offering eight hours of use in low-power mode or two hours of use in a high-power mode. An app is available to let users know when filters need replacing. Unfortunately, not only does the mask look extremely heavy but it does not appear to offer any protection against coronavirus; LG’s publicity simply states that it will filter articles out of the air, not airborne viruses. Additionally, the point of mask wearing is to protect others against your own exhalations, not to protect you from others. Although LG’s mask is undoubtedly ingenious, it seems users would be better off with a simple paper medical mask.

Facebook Privacy Problems
Facebook, like many other online service providers, relies for its financing to a great extent on advertising that targets an appropriate market through the use of tracking software. The latest version of Apple’s operating system for iPhones, iOS 14, will challenge this position. When an iPhone user uses an app or visits a website, developers can access an IDFA, a random identifier created by the device. This identifier allows developers to follow users’ interests as they travel across the digital world and therefore target them with appropriate advertising. With iOS 14, an app will have to make users aware that it is collecting this information and ask them to give permission for it to be used. Facebook claims that this effectively will prevent the collection of IDFAs as most users will not voluntarily accept an app tracking them. This means that targeted advertising will become impossible and, Facebook says, will lead to a downturn in advertising revenue for many platforms. However, given the distrust of the way Facebook uses people’s data, many users may well welcome the opportunity to limit their access to it.