ICYMI: Last Week on the Web | Feb 1 2019

It’s only been the traditional seven days long, and yet this week has managed to pack in a heck of a lot of tech news.

We look at the stories that have caught our eye this week, from Samsung’s accidental leak of its folding phone, to robots bothering you with unwanted phone calls.

We’ve also found out some of the most popular Superbowl foods by state, so if you want to know who’s sitting down with a bowl of lentil soup to watch the game, read on.

Samsung Accidentally Reveal Folding Phone

We can’t wait to see Samsung’s new folding phone, after the company teased it last year with a 30 second look on stage at its developers conference. Yes, it was bulky, but we were assured that it was a prototype and not the finished product. However, thanks to the company’s Vietnam division, we may have seen a glimpse of the real deal.

It appears that someone may have jumped the gun ahead of Samsung’s February 20th event, where the folding phone and S10 will be officially launched, with the accidental early reveal of an advert. The commercial is a future-gazing look at Samsung’s products, and includes a shot of a woman using a folding phone. If it is the real article, it’s come a long way since that initial reveal.

Incredibly slim and with much thinner bezels than the version we saw last year, the folding phone looks to be a real head-turner. It’s not long until the reveal proper, but we appreciate the early sneak peak.

Americans Are Getting Billions of Nuisance Calls from Robots

In the Terminator franchise, robots turn against their human masters, destroying them with armies of metal killing machines. It seems our own future is even more terrifying than what Skynet had planned – we’re being constantly pestered by automated calls. According to research by spam-monitoring service, Hiya, Americans received 26.3 billion robo-calls in 2018, up from 18 billion the previous year.

According to the firm, it’s become so bad that many of us are simply choosing to not answer the phone at all, with unrecognised numbers most likely to be ignored by recipients.

Providers like T-Mobile, AT&T, Verizon and Sprint are all working on their own systems for dealing with automated and unwanted calls, including caller-ID spoofing- a technique used by scammers to make it appear as though the call is coming from a local number.

Texas Teen Thief Uses Jump Scooter in Botched Getaway

When 19-year old Luca Mangiarano decided to rob a BBVA Compass bank, it would be fair to say that he didn’t have all of his ducks in a row. After demanding money from the teller with a note, he decided not to jump into a waiting getaway car, but instead to hop on an Uber-owned, Jump electric scooter.

Although he did manage to flee the scene (presumably at low speed), he had overlooked one key detail: In order to rent a Jump scooter, you need to register your details with Jump. That’s name, payment details, and yes, address.

After having watched security footage of the incident and recognizing his unusual mode of transport, police contacted Jump, which handed over his details. Armed with this information, and data from his cell phone that proved he was in the area, the police promptly arrested Mangiarano. While locals tend to have a love/hate relationship with public-use scooters, this is probably one case where they were firmly #TeamJump.

Liverpool FC CEO Worried About Fortnite

mo salah vs fortnite

Last month, Netflix told its investors that one of its biggest competitors was online game Fortnite. Following suite this month is the CEO of Liverpool FC, Peter Moore, who has told Variety magazine that soccer needs to modernize to appeal to a new generation.

“90 minutes is a long time for a millennial male to sit down on a couch. When I look at viewing and attendance figures of millennial males, I’m concerned as a chief executive of a football club that relies on the next generation of fans coming through.”- Liverpool FC CEO, Peter Moore

Moore is no stranger to video games. Before joining Liverpool FC, he held top jobs at EA, Sega and Xbox, so his comments are somewhat informed. However, some would argue that the biggest barrier to the next generation of soccer fans isn’t the time a match takes, but the fact that broadcast rights are sold to the highest bidders for expensive subscription channels. By comparison, Fortnite is free and accessible to all.

Mystery Band Racks up Thousands of Spotify Plays

Most bands would kill for exposure on Spotify, but for one group, such was the lust for fame (or royalties) that it wormed its way into the playlists of thousands of unwitting listeners.

Users started to comment on Twitter that band Bergenulo Five has been showing up randomly in their playlists. A closer look at the artist prompted more questions. They have two albums on Spotify, both lacking artwork, and don’t appear to have any online presence anywhere outside of Spotify. Despite this, they’ve racked up 60,000 listens.

Spotify removed the band from the service, and commented that it had detected ‘abnormal streaming activity’ generated by the artist. This doesn’t explain how they were able to sneak into people’s playlists in the first place, although one media analyst  suggested that hackers may have used access tokens to hijack people’s playlists and generate revenue. The band could have potentially made $600 via the plays.

British Police Using Facial Recognition, Again

We've just spoken to a man (a youth worker) stopped by police #FacialRecognition today for "looking like someone". Made to prove his identity then told he could put in a complaint.

"It was embarrassing in front of everyone. There must be better ways than this"#ResistFacialRec pic.twitter.com/QHGtpbaqdh

— Liberty (@libertyhq) January 31, 2019

Last year we reported on a mysterious van appearing in London, England, which was trialing facial recognition software to pick out potential criminals who had evaded the law. It was pegged as a trial, and only lasted a couple of days.

Twitter users have now reported seeing the van again, so it looks like the trials are continuing. The system uses software to analyse crowds and pick out any individuals that are wanted for arrest.

Londoners are used to being observed – with the average person in the capital being spotted around 300 times a day on camera. However, with trials of facial recognition seemingly increasing, the Metropolitan Police could soon be upping its surveillance measures.

Google Tracks Your Superbowl Snacks

Any true American knows the best thing about the superbowl isn’t the football, the atmosphere or the halftime show – it’s the snacks. When the Rams meet the Patriots this weekend, plates and bellies across the country will be filled.

If you’re wondering what the most popular snacks for the event are by state (and we know it’s been keeping you up at night), then Google has provided the answer. By tracking unique recipe searches by region ahead of the big day, we know what everyone will be sitting down to eat during the game, and it’s definitely diverse.  From paella to lentil soup, pigs in a blanket to vegan cheesy bacon spinach dip, it looks like the super bowl will be a good day for manufacturers of antacids, if no one else.

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Study Finds Tech is Number One Industry for Workplace Drinking

Workplaces and alcohol have a long and tipsy history together, from 60s-era Mad Men culture to a co-working space hot-button topic today. It’s no secret that the tech industry is pretty drink-friendly, with a beer fridge often nestled between the ping-pong table and a snack bar on the list of attractive workplace perks.

But, in recent years, we’ve started side-eyeing tech’s drinking habits. The #MeToo movement has impacted drinking policies at major companies – most prominently, WeWork dropped its unlimited beer tap option last October following sexual assault allegations at WeWork events.

Now, a new study has pulled tech drinking culture back into the spotlight. The tech world, the study found, is the single industry most likely to allow or sponsor alcohol consumption in the workplace.

Tech’s Drinking Culture

In a survey with more than 1,000 respondents, Niznik Behavioral Health found that the tech industry took home the prize for the most drinking-friendly workplaces. The marketing and advertising industry came in third, and the construction industry came in second

Specifically, a little over half (53%) of the tech industry was found by the study to include alcohol at the team bonding events. A further 35% of tech firms offer company-sponsored happy hours.

Moreover, about half (49%) of the employees across all industries (not just tech) thought that drinking with a coworker or their boss would improve their relationship. However, moderation is still in order – most said that two drinks was the right amount.

The Downsides

Granted, it makes sense that a little light drinking can improve team bonding. But, there are plenty of potential downsides, and the negative impact of too much drinking was highlighted by the study:

“Heavy drinking can lead to regrettable disclosures, and work events were no exception to this trend. Respondents were most likely to report revealing secrets to colleagues after drinking at a work event or complaining about work issues in a way they later regretted. Another 9 percent simply said they embarrassed themselves by becoming clearly intoxicated. In such cases, some would propose a proactive approach: Rather than waiting for others to broach the subject, express your mortification and move on.”

Over-indulgence is an issue likely to crop up at any drinking event. However, it’s an expected downside, rather than an existential threat to the concept of workplace drinking itself.

A larger issue is the cultural pressure on those who won’t drink at all.

Abstainers Will Self-Exclude

Of the 35% of respondents who prefer not to drink at a work event, 22.3% said they would give an excuse just to avoid the work event entirely. That was the most common response, followed by drinking anyway (15.8%). A remarkable 11.5% of respondents said they would pretend to drink at such an event.

In other words, even moderate workplace drinking can have a concerning effect on the one thing it’s supposed to encourage: employee bonding.

Workplace drinking in tech

There are plenty of anecdotes to back this up online, from one tech employee’s account of the variety of experiences being “the sober one” (hey, at least hearing secrets beats dealing with vomit), to tech startups alleged to have excluded non-drinkers because they weren’t a “culture fit.”

Needless to say, you don’t want a full third of your workplace to feel uncomfortable at your party. If you’re committed to drinking, make sure that alcohol-free options are easily available and try to fight any stigma or pressure as best you can.

Some recommend including an equal amount of non-alcoholic to alcoholic drinks at every tech event (and advertising as much beforehand). This actually might be easier than you think. Plenty of alcohol producers have been adding an increasing amount of non-alcoholic options over the past few years.

According to a recent CB Insights report, the world’s largest brewer, AB InBev, has made seven acquisitions or investments in the space, and believes “low-alcohol and non-alcoholic business [will] represent 20% of global sales by 2025, up from 8% today.”

Workplace drinkingAre Dry Events the Answer?

Dropping the alcohol at a workplace event isn’t likely to upset too many people, with almost a third of the survey’s respondents saying that they’d even prefer a healthy alternative such as massages or exercise.

“Dry activities also appealed to a significant portion of people who liked to drink at work events,” the study found. “At least 30 percent of this group would trade drinking events for sponsored lunches, massages, fitness training, and permission to bring pets to work.”

Dry events may not quite replace drinking ones in the tech industry. But, there’s a sliding scale for how inappropriate workplace drinking can be.

Sponsored happy hours may feel fine, but team bonding exercises will make abstaining team members a little more uncomfortable if non-alcoholic beverages aren’t included. Drinking at after-work events can feel better than bringing beers directly into the nine-to-five itself, but the pressure to conform to a tech work culture can remain.

The bottom line: moderation is a must. And the tech industry’s status as the number one top drinking industry indicates that it might need a tad more moderation yet.

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LastPass Raises Prices on Premium Plan to $36

Industry-leading password manager LastPass has raised prices on its premium plan, taking it from $24 per year to $36 per year for new users.

The new price point puts LastPass more closely in line with rival services – including ones we’ve rated higher in our testing.

Existing LastPass users on the premium price tier won’t be affected by the price rise until they’re due for an annual renewal.

Why is LastPass Raising Prices?

LastPass goes in pretty bold in its official statement about the price rises, using the old “you can’t put a price on online security” angle (you can, incidentally, and it just went up).

“In today’s age of ever-changing security threats, the value of a best-in-class password manager cannot be overstated” – LastPass statement

So, is this good value? Yes. Though the price rise, which takes effect immediately, may feel unwelcome, $36 per year is arguably still a very fair price for the peace of mind that comes from using a password manager. In an age of online scams and huge data hacks that have revealed billions of compromised passwords, using a password manager is one of the smartest moves you can make.

In a recent push for online security awareness, Google stated that re-using the same password on multiple accounts is one of the most common mistakes that far too many of us are guilty of.

A password manager such as LastPass can end that bad habit. Password managers can generate secure, impossible-to-guess passwords, and remember them for you – entering them automatically when you log into a service.

But, now that LastPass has raised its prices, is it the best password manager to choose?

Should You Pick LastPass Premium Over Rivals?

When it comes to password managers, $36 is money well spent. But, is LastPass the brand worth spending on?

We’ve put some of the best password managers through extensive independent tests, including LastPass and rivals such as 1Password or Dashlane. Though any of them are preferable to trying to remember your own passwords, we found that LastPass is edged out by the other services when it comes to features.

The price rise makes things interesting. Where before, LastPass premium was a cheaper option than our top-rated 1Password, things are now neck-and-neck on annual costs.

Check out our full table of password manager test results, below:

Scroll horizontally to view full table on mobile devices

1Password Dashlane LastPass Sticky Password 1Password logo Dashlane logo Sticky Password logo Overall Score ★★★★★ ★★★★★ ★★★★☆ ★★★★☆ Local Storage Option ✓ ✓ x ✓ Two-Factor Authentication ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓ Failsafe Function ✓ ✓ ✓ x Password Generator Function ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓ Help Instructions ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓ Email Support ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓ Live Chat Support x ✓ x x Phone Support x x x x Ease of Setup ★★★★★ ★★★★★ ★★★★★ ★★★★★ Features ★★★★★ ★★★★★ ★★★★☆ ★★★★☆ Overall Performance ★★★★★ ★★★★★ ★★★★☆ ★★★★★ Help & Support ★★★☆☆ ★★★★☆ ★★★☆☆ ★★★☆☆ Value for Money ★★★★★ ★★★★☆ ★★★★☆ ★★★★☆ Cost per year $36 $60 $36 $30 Discounts Available See Deals See Deals See Deals See Deals LastPass Free vs Premium

Can you get all the benefits of a password manager without paying a dime, though? Almost, but not quite.

LastPass Free is an outstanding service, without doubt. You get most of the plus-points of using a password manager – automatically-generated secure passwords, instant login, and use across several devices – without any cost.

What you won’t get, however, is the added backup of the premium tier. This includes options to share passwords with nominated emergency contacts; improved customer support in case of problems; and additional secure storage for important documents, passport details and more.

In our opinion, if you’re after a password manager, you’re best off paying for a Premium service. The cost runs to just a few dollars per month. Even after LastPass’s price rise, it’s still a small price for peace of mind.

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