Weekly Round-Up: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

Image by Alexa from Pixabay

Today is Sunday, October 23rd: time for the weekly roundup of the good, the bad and the ugly tech news of the week!

The Good

‘Car feature’ subscriptions are not that common in the US (except for Tesla’s Full Self Driving) and are the practice of having to pay a monthly subscription fee in order to use a feature that is already installed in the car. In the UK and Korea, BMW is selling autos with heated seats installed, however in order to use this feature consumers must pay BMW a monthly subscription (even though they have already paid for the heated seats when they purchased the vehicle) . New Jersey legislators want to ban these  ‘Car Feature’ subscriptions. Hopefully other states (such as California) will follow New Jersey’s lead.

The Bad

Double Feature! It has not been a good week for Google.  First India fined Google $162 Million for anti-competitive practices with Android. Then the State of Texas is suing Google for collecting and using biometric data (voice patterns and facial features) belonging to millions of Texans without their permission. While the Texas suit does not disclose how much (if any) in monetary damages for the privacy violations they are seeking it is likely going to be a lot less the fine for being anti-completive. Case in point a couple weeks ago Google settled with The State of Arizona for $80 million for Android privacy violations.  It almost seems as if Texas doesn’t care that Google is collecting and using biometric data for advertising purposes, as long as Google seeks ‘permission’ first. Of course ‘permission’ could simply be inserting some obscure privacy clause way deep in the Terms of Use (which most people don’t read anyway). This is bad on a couple levels. First, Apple is just as guilty of the same “anti-competitive practices” India is accusing Google. However, Apple only have 3.5% (versus Google’s 95%) of the mobile phone market in India. Second, why are the penalties for being ant-competitive so much worse than those imposed for violating users’ privacy?

The Ugly

This also involves Google’s Android. However, it is the situation itself and not Google which has earned this week’s ‘The Ugly’ rating. Google has blocked and removed 16 apps from Google Play which were found to have been performing Ad (click) Fraud. These included QR Reader, Camera and Flashlight apps which unbeknownst to the users were running continually in the background draining their device’s battery and in some cases causing users to exceeded their data caps (resulting in surcharges or throttled speeds). These 16 “useless” apps also had over 20 million combined installs! Yes, those apps were useless as most Android devices from the past couple years have QR Reader and Flashlight functionality built-in natively into the OS. This eliminates the need for users to have to install an app for these features, yet they still do