Apple

Hey Congress, never lump Big Tech CEOs together again

Remember back in the 20th century when Congress held “big business” antitrust hearings with the CEOs of Standard Oil, Ford, U.S. Steel, IBM, and AT&T all testifying at the same time? No? That’s probably because it never happened.  Despite the fact that all of those giant companies were accused of antitrust violations — and in…

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Remember back in the 20th century when Congress held “big business” antitrust hearings with the CEOs of Standard Oil, Ford, U.S. Steel, IBM, and AT&T all testifying at the same time? No? That’s probably because it never happened. 

Despite the fact that all of those giant companies were accused of antitrust violations — and in two of those cases, forcibly broken up by the justice system — you just wouldn’t ever stick them in the same room. Their industries are too obviously different. Representatives would have to read up on oil, autos, metallurgy, computers, and telecoms. Try to tackle them all at the same time, and you’d dilute the effect of scrutinizing each one.   

And yet the 21st century equivalent of such a muddled hearing did actually happen on Wednesday. The House Judiciary’s subcommittee on antitrust stuck the CEOs of Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Google together in the same room (well, the same WebEx virtual room) for around five hours. Evidence was presented that each one has acted like a monopoly, which they have… dominating retail, apps and hardware, the social media business, and search engines, respectively.

The subcommittee’s chairman, Democratic Rep. David Cicilline, introduced the four CEOs as “gatekeepers to the digital economy.” Which, in 2020, makes as much sense as calling them real estate barons because they all own vast server farms. They are, and also you’re missing the point. 

Digital is simply the water we all swim in now, especially now in a pandemic. These are four of the world’s largest and most influential companies, period. Their means of establishing monopoly power in their realms are diverse and complex (we wrote a neat cheat sheet here). They require individual scrutiny. 

The clueless lumping together of Big Tech was what allowed the committee’s unserious conservative members to turn much of a serious antitrust hearing into an irrelevant grievance session on “cancel culture.” It’s what allowed Republican Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner, the committee’s ranking member and clearly its least prepared, to confuse Facebook with Twitter. To be clear, there is

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Apple

Uneasy about your kid’s iPhone obsession? These apps can help.

Forget whatever you put on your holiday or birthday list when you were little — Gen Z kids will start asking for an iPhone as soon as they’ve mastered their parents’ touch screen. It doesn’t matter what age your kid is: Whether it’s their very first phone or their fifth, parents are going to worry about…

Forget whatever you put on your holiday or birthday list when you were little — Gen Z kids will start asking for an iPhone as soon as they’ve mastered their parents’ touch screen.

It doesn’t matter what age your kid is: Whether it’s their very first phone or their fifth, parents are going to worry about what’s behind that scrolling and tapping. Parental control apps have come to be a convenient compromise between kids who really don’t want to hand over their phone and parents who really don’t want to have to confiscate it. 

How do parental control apps work?

At their core, parental control software lets you monitor your child’s phone, tablet, or computer remotely. Corresponding apps are downloaded both on the parent’s device and on the child’s device. From there, parents can do anything from monitor internet searches and browsing history, block inappropriate or distracting apps, or limit screen time all together. It’s a less invasive and more respectful method than physically snooping through their phone or computer — and when kids know that their activity is being watched or managed, good habits might stick better.

Worries of kids turning into technology zombies certainly aren’t new, but 2020’s mass migration to virtual learning and more parents staying home pushed the issue: How can I *safely* plop my kid in front of a tablet for half an hour so that I can do something without interruptions? You’re pretty much in the clear as long as you choose a high-quality children’s show. Instead of hoping that they don’t figure out how to search on Netflix, parental control apps can disable everything but educational and age-appropriate content altogether. 

Apple’s Screen Time vs. third party parental control apps

A 2019 sweep of third-party parental control apps on the App Store severely curbed functionality on some of the most popular downloads. Around the same time, in response to accusations that its devices were too addictive, Apple unveiled Screen Time: An iOS-specific screen time tracker that parents could utilize to mitigate their child’s usage. Apple claimed that the competitors put individuals’ privacy at risk, though Apple does like to do things the Apple way — but we digress.

The restrictions have all but killed apps like OurPact, Famisafe, and Qustodio (hence the onslaught of one-star reviews from the past year). Many are still available to download but aren’t as holistic as they are on Android.

Kaspersky Lab, which has a feature that lets you know if stalkerware has found its way to your phone, also isn’t available on iOS — but that’s because it’s already harder for hackers to install such malware on iPhones. This is the same reason that many parents choose a Chromebook as their kid’s laptop.

The controls baked into iOS will suffice for a lot of people. They can set screen time limits, block certain apps and websites, or restrict new downloads or things with an explicit content rating altogether. But Screen Time becomes useless pretty quickly if the parent or child has an Android, if the parent and child share a device, or if kids crack the code on how to get around limits that have been set — that happened almost immediately.

Which parental control apps work best on iPhones?

Families with multiple kids, people sharing one device, or a hectic schedule that would benefit from geofencing — a GPS feature that blocks certain apps when your kid is within a certain geographical area or alerts you when your kid leaves a certain geographical area, like school or sports practice — might just need a little more oomph.

Fortunately, whether they somehow flew under the radar of Apple’s cutbacks or debuted in the App Store later and weren’t affected, there are still a handful of solid parental control apps to choose from. Most cover the basics: setting time limits or recurring schedules, sending activity reports of which apps are used the most, blocking or deleting sketchy or distracting apps. A few offer more hardcore measures like geofencing or call, text, and contact monitoring.

Use parental controls as a safety tool, not a spying tool

Some parents suggest downloading one of these apps on your kid’s phone without telling them. Here’s our take: Don’t do that. We’d be remiss to omit the possibility of loopholes for kids to look for if they know the app is there, but monitoring their activity behind their back feels like rebellion or resentment waiting to happen. Depending on how much of the content on your child’s device that an app can see, it could quickly become a breach of privacy.

Instead, try to agree on a screen time routine and a list of apps and websites that are appropriate. Letting them in on the process can build trust rather than diminish it. Plus, their understanding of why TikTok and Instagram are blocked during homework hours or at bedtime can help them learn a solid set of cyber safety habits.

Here are the best parental control apps for iPhone in 2020:

Your best bet

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Image: mashable photo composite

The Good

Top-notch web filtering • Social media and TikTok feed filtering • Friendly and easy to understand on the child’s end • App guides you through the installation process • 30-day log of location history, web history, and screen time

The Bad

No call or text monitoring • Screen time limits must be set on a daily basis • Steep pricing plans limited to five or 20 devices

The Bottom Line

A newly-rebranded app that looks great, provides a ton of detail, and is approachable on the kid’s end.

1. Net Nanny

Feel better about your kid’s TikTok obsession with NetNanny’s social media feed filters and live web monitoring.

  • Five devices: $54.99/year
  • 20 devices: $89.99/year
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When duking it out in more general par

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Apple

Crypto wallet MetaMask finally launches on iOS and Android, and it supports Apple Pay

If you’ve interacted with cryptocurrencies in the past couple of years, there’s a good chance you’ve used MetaMask. It’s a cryptocurrency wallet in the form of a browser extension that supports Ethereum and its ecosystem, making it easy to connect with a decentralized app (dApp) that resides on a website.  But even though it’s been…

If you’ve interacted with cryptocurrencies in the past couple of years, there’s a good chance you’ve used MetaMask. It’s a cryptocurrency wallet in the form of a browser extension that supports Ethereum and its ecosystem, making it easy to connect with a decentralized app (dApp) that resides on a website. 

But even though it’s been an essential tool for crypto users for years, MetaMask wasn’t widely available on mobile — until now. On Wednesday, ConsenSys announced the availability of MetaMask Mobile on iOS and Android. 

The app is a bit different from the desktop version of MetaMask. For one, it’s not a browser extension. On mobile, MetaMask is a native cryptocurrency wallet, with the ability to interact with various dApps, either through a list of fe

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Apple

The algorithms defining sexuality suck. Here’s how to make them better.

Mashable’s series Algorithms explores the mysterious lines of code that increasingly control our lives — and our futures. Ever since porn was credited as one of the most innovating forces behind early internet technology, we’ve become obsessed with the idea of tech enhancing our sex lives. We’re so horny for it that we’ve helped build…

Mashable’s series Algorithms explores the mysterious lines of code that increasingly control our lives — and our futures.


Ever since porn was credited as one of the most innovating forces behind early internet technology, we’ve become obsessed with the idea of tech enhancing our sex lives. We’re so horny for it that we’ve helped build a that’s expected to keep growing.

Sextech often sells people on the promise that algorithms can optimize users’ sexual experiences. But a vast majority of algorithms built explicitly for pleasure remain rudimentary at best and harmful at worst — including those used in s and .

That’s because a lot of sextech relies on a grossly reductive view of sexuality. Exhibit A: The all-male startup that claimed to invent an . Exhibit B: The fellatio machine which promises “the perfect blowjob” thanks to artificial intelligence fed porn video data.

Even the most advanced, well-intentioned sextech is held back by a lack of legitimate sex research, accurate data, and designer diversity. That’s on top of the biases built into algorithms, overstated tech capabilities, marketing gimmicks, and Silicon Valley capitalism. 

“The pleasure product industry is one of the few industries that has been relatively untouched by modern technology,” said Liz Klinger, co-creator of the , which tracks and generates charts of your vaginal contractions during arousal. The biggest trends of VR and remote control smart toys, she pointed out, use tech that’s decades old. “Existing companies just don’t understand how software, data, AI, or other technology can introduce new experiences or appeal to new, different demographics.”

The failures to integrate algorithms into sexual exploration and expression go beyond an outdated adult toy industry and bleed into all corners of the internet. As it stands now, the binaries encoded in algorithms seem almost diametrically opposed to the complex spectrum of human sexuality. 

But there are ways to change that.

The binaries encoded in algorithms can seem almost diametrically opposed to the complex spectrum of human sexuality. 

“Technologists write algorithms that are interacting with these very complicated social systems with no consideration or background in their complexities. But there’s already a lot of information out there on how to approach gender and sex that you just have to incorporate into your algorithm,” said , the founder of , a social media sharing platform that uses machine learning to create a safe space for women and LGBTQ folks to express themselves sexually. 

The algorithms policing sex on social media have such little nuance that they can’t even differentiate porn from sex ed, sexual health, or sex commentary. Sexism and homophobia are so entrenched in how platforms like Facebook and Instagram police sexuality that ads for women’s sex toys and HIV/AIDs prevention are banned while ads for condoms and erectile dysfunction pills are allowed. Those same biases plague algorithm-driven sextech devices, too, which often impose false and exclusionary ideals about what the “best” sex should feel like. Lack of scientific research and data around pleasure and sex, especially when it comes to people with vaginas, makes it almost impossible for sextech to deliver on its promises of sexual optimization.

It doesn’t have to be that way, though. Algorithms don’t need to default to constricting heteronormative male views on sexuality. Instead, a few companies are grounding their algorithms in more inclusive feminist approaches to sexuality in the hopes of countering these cultural biases. 

But it takes investment to try something new, which the majority of the sex and tech industries have so far been unwilling to pony up.

WATCH: This is how algorithms work

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“We’re seeing an increase in people using sextech to feel connected,” said , an activist for sex workers’ digital rights, vice president of , and a self-described thot leader. “But I always say, with sextech, we’re not teaching yoga or selling smoothies here. We’re dealing with something so intricate, so personal, so deeply rooted in all of us. We need to think carefully about the philosophies we’re putting into these algorithms and talk about their potential harms as much as their potential benefits.”

Once we start doing that, the sex-positive potential of algorithms are theoretically endless.

“There’s a lot that algorithms, software, and other technology can do to help improve pleasure and understanding of our own sexualities,” said Klinger. “For Lioness, some of the uses I’m seeing is utilizing real-world sex data to put different experiences of pleasure into context for our users.”

Perhaps the greatest potential for algorithms in the sexual wellness field might lie beyond just explorations of pleasure. According to Emily Sauer — the creator of the that allows couples to customize penetration depth to avoid pain — algorithms could help remove the societal shame of openly discussing our sexual difficulties.

“We turn to sextech to feel less alone,” said Sauer. “We want to know how we relate to everyone else through the tech, the data, because nobody’s talking about these taboo things that make us uncomfortable.”

The promise land of algorithmically-driven sexual exploration is like playing with fire, though. Algorithms are as capable of destroying healthy relationships to sex as nourishing them.

Fixing the algorithms that police sexuality

Time and time again, algorithms have been shown to perpetuate the implicit biases of human beings around gender and race. The most influential algorithms informing sexual expression in our modern world are no exception. 

Leadership at social media companies like Facebook and Twitter tend to be mostly white, heterosexual, cis men. They’re also the ones who get to decide what their platforms — and the algorithms that monitor them — consider appropriate sexuality versus obscenity, or sexual exploitation versus sexual expression on the internet.

Unsurprisingly, those definitions of sexuality are revealing themselves to be very narrow and discriminatory. 

Sex-blocking algorithms have been found to disproportionately censor marginalized groups, especially LGBTQ folks, sex workers,

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Apple

Using your personal laptop for work? It’s time to upgrade to a MacBook Pro.

TL;DR: Select MacBook Pros are on sale at Best Buy for up to $250 off (as of July 29), and they all come with four free months each of Apple Music and Apple News+ on top of a six-month subscription to Trend Micro Internet Security. If you buy one of the 16-inch models, you’ll also…

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TL;DR: Select MacBook Pros are on sale at Best Buy for up to $250 off (as of July 29), and they all come with four free months each of Apple Music and Apple News+ on top of a six-month subscription to Trend Micro Internet Security. If you buy one of the 16-inch models, you’ll also get a year’s worth of Apple TV+ for free.


Still working from home? There’s a pretty decent (read: very, very good) chance that your personal laptop is doing double duty as your work computer — and you’re not alone. In a recent survey of about 2,000 U.S. workers who made the switch to WFH amid the coronavirus pandemic, 52 percent of correspondents reported using their own laptops for business purposes.

But crunching numbers all day on top of gaming, video editing, and/or fiddling around in the Adobe Suite can be a lot for one machine to handle; a lot of laptops aren’t build for that kind of heavy lifting. 

SEE ALSO: 8 of the best laptops for business: See why the MacBook Pro and Lenovo ThinkPad top our list

If you’re getting the sense that your existing laptop is struggling to handle its new dual workload, consider upgrading to a beefier device (especially if it’s looking like your company’s WFH policy will be extended indefinitely). Apple’s MacBook Pro is always a solid choice for power users, and Best Buy conveniently happens to be offering *huge* savings on a couple of newer models. 

On top of enjoying a discount of up to $250, you’ll get four free months each of Apple Music and Apple News+ (a $39.96 value apiece) plus a six-month subscription to Trend Micro Internet Security (worth $29.99) when you buy one of the following configurations. (Note: Those Apple freebies are only available for first-time subscribers — see each laptop’s product page for more details.) The 16-inch models also come with a free year’s worth of Apple TV+ (a $59.88 value), so whatever you do, don’t miss out:

MacBook Pro (13-inch) — save $200

Released in May, the latest iteration of the MacBook Pro features Apple’s snazzy Touch Bar, a Touch ID sensor, a brilliant Retina display with True Tone technology, a high-performance Intel Core i5 processor, the new Magic Keyboard (bye-bye, butterfly), and tons of storage space. 

For $1,599.99 — that’s 11% off its $1,799.99 MSRP — you can get the 512GB model in your choice of two finishes: space gray or silver.

Using your personal laptop for work? It's time to upgrade to a MacBook Pro.

Apple MacBook Pro (13-inch Display) with Touch Bar, Intel Core i5, 16GB Memory, and 512GB SSD — $1,599.99 See Details

For $200 more, you can get the same laptop with a whole terabyte of storage space. Hit the blue button below to grab one in either space gray or silver.

Using your personal laptop for work? It's time to upgrade to a MacBook Pro.

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