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A Solution For Loneliness: Get Out and Volunteer, Research Suggests
Posted by News Fetcher on May 21 '19 at 06:11 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's time-to-get-out-and-about department:
"Loneliness is rampant, and it's killing us," writes Kasley Killam for Scientific American. "Anywhere from one quarter to one half of Americans feel lonely a lot of the time, which puts them at risk for developing a range of physical and mental illnesses, including heart disease, cancer, diabetes, and depression." Killam surfaces several studies that found volunteering to be an effective strategy to help combat this widespread health problem. From the report: In a recent survey of over 10,000 people in the UK, two-thirds reported that volunteering helped them feel less isolated. Similarly, a 2018 study of nearly 6,000 people across the US examined widows who, unsurprisingly, felt lonelier than married adults. After starting to volunteer for two or more hours per week, their average level of loneliness subsided to match that of married adults, even after controlling for demographics, baseline health, personality traits, and other social involvement. These benefits may be especially strong the older you are and the more often you volunteer.

< article continued at Slashdot's time-to-get-out-and-about department >

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Cable TV Customer Satisfaction Falls Even Further Behind Streaming Video
Posted by News Fetcher on May 21 '19 at 06:11 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's streaming-vs-cable department:
Netflix and other online video services have expanded their customer-satisfaction lead over cable and satellite TV, the American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI) found in its annual telecommunications report released today. Ars Technica reports: Streaming-video services averaged a score of 76 on the ACSI's 100-point scale, up from 75 last year. Meanwhile, the traditional subscription-TV industry's score remained unchanged at 62. "For the past six years, customer satisfaction with subscription TV has languished in the mid-to-low 60s, not recovering enough to effectively compete with streaming services," the ACSI report said. "In 2018, subscription sales declined 3 percent to $103.4 billion. Customer service remains poor, and cord cutting is accelerating. As video-streaming services gain traction, a growing number of households may never subscribe to pay TV in the first place."

Pay-TV and broadband -- two services that are generally offered in bundles by the same companies -- each posted an industry average of 62, which is again in "last place among all [46] industries tracked by the ACSI," the report said. Pay-TV's satisfaction score peaked at 68 in 2013 and has dropped steadily since. Streaming services rated significantly higher than cable and satellite in many categories, including the ease of understanding bills, mobile app quality and reliability, and call-center satisfaction. Comcast remained near the bottom of pay-TV rankings with a score of 57, while AT&T's U-verse led the ranking despite dropping from 70 to 69. Coincidentally, AT&T's streaming service -- DirecTV Now -- also fell from 70 to 69. But while the AT&T U-verse TV score of 69 was good enough to lead all cable and satellite TV providers, the DirecTV Now score of 69 was in second-to-last place among streaming providers. Netflix took the top spot in streaming satisfaction by raising its score from 78 to 79.

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Some New Chevrolet Models Temporarily Won't Move Until Teen Drivers Buckle Up
Posted by News Fetcher on May 21 '19 at 04:50 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's safety-first department:
Chevrolet is introducing a feature, specifically for teen drivers, that will temporarily block the auto from shifting into gear if their seat belt isn't buckled. A message will alert the driver to buckle up in order to shift into gear. After 20 seconds, the vehicle will operate normally. NPR reports: The feature, which Chevrolet says is an industry first, will come standard in the 2020 models of the Traverse SUV, Malibu sedan and Colorado pickup truck. It will be part of the "Teen Driver" package, which can also be used to set speed alerts and a maximum speed, among other controls, and give parents "report cards" tracking a teen's driving behavior. Chevrolet explains how it works: "To use Teen Driver mode, a parent can enable the feature by creating a PIN in the Settings menu that allows them to register their teen's key fob. The Teen Driver settings are turned on only when a registered key fob is used to start the vehicle."

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New Proposal Would Let Companies Further Screw You Over With Terms of Service
Posted by News Fetcher on May 21 '19 at 04:50 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's bad-to-worse department:
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Vice: A collection of unelected lawyers [from the American Law Institute] this week is quietly pushing a new proposal that could dramatically erode your legal rights, leaving you at the mercy of giant corporations eager to protect themselves from accountability. Occasionally, this coalition (including all the members of the Supreme Court) meets to create "restatements," effectively an abridged synopsis or reference guide for the latest established precedents and legal trends. While restatements themselves aren't legally binding, they're very influential and often help shape judicial opinions. Seven years ago, the ALI began pondering a new restatement governing consumer contracts -- and your legal rights as a consumer. Today, the ALI meets to vote on the approval of this latest restatement. But a long line of legal experts have been blasting the group's updated language governing consumer contracts.

Specifically, they noted that the updated draft language proclaims that consumers would not need to read a contract to be bound by its terms. The draft states as long as consumers received "reasonable notice" and had "reasonable opportunity to review" it, the contract would be legally binding. Under this model, consumers wouldn't need to even understand the contract to be bound by it, a problem given data suggests such agreements are often incomprehensible to the average user. The language was problematic enough to result in a letter this week by 23 state attorneys general, criticizing the ALI's proposal as a major threat to consumer rights. "To call boilerplate language that consumers never read (or if they did read, could not understand) a 'contract' simply has the effect of locking consumers in to terms that are likely to be stacked against them," John Bergmayer, Senior Counsel at consumer group Public Knowledge, said in an email.

< article continued at Slashdot's bad-to-worse department >

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Comcast Is Reportedly Developing a Device That Would Track Your Bathroom Habits
Posted by News Fetcher on May 21 '19 at 03:31 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's dystopian-devices department:
Comcast is reportedly working on a device designed to closely monitor a user's health. "The device will monitor people's basic health metrics using ambient sensors, with a focus on whether someone is making frequent trips to the bathroom or spending more time than usual in bed," reports CNBC. "Comcast is also building tools for detecting falls, which are common and potentially fatal for seniors." The Verge reports: Many products on the market today already have the motion sensors, cameras, and other hardware that allow for what Comcast seems to be envisioning -- but not even Amazon or Google have directly sought to keep such a close eye on their customers' personal health with their respective Echo and Home devices. Comcast itself already offers home security services, and the company's much-touted X1 voice remote for its Xfinity cable platform has helped Comcast make advancements in recognizing and processing voice commands.

According to CNBC, Comcast's device won't offer functionality like controlling smart home devices, nor will it have the ability to search for answers to a person's questions on the internet. But it will reportedly "have a personality like Alexa" and be able to place calls to emergency services. In an email to The Verge, a Comcast spokesperson said the company's upcoming device "is NOT a smart speaker" and "is purpose-built to be a sensor that detects motion." It's said that Comcast aims to offer the device and a companion health tracking service to "at-risk people, including seniors and people with disabilities." The company is also in discussions with hospitals about potentially "using the device to ensure that patients don't end up back in the hospital after they've been discharged."

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Microsoft Calls For Federal Regulation of the Tech Industry
Posted by News Fetcher on May 21 '19 at 03:31 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's self-regulation department:
In a blog post, Microsoft Corporate Vice President and Deputy General Counsel Julie Brill says the European Union's General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) has been very effective in changing the way that tech companies handle personal data, and feels the U.S. should enact something similar at the federal level. TechSpot reports: "[Companies] have adapted, putting new systems and processes in place to ensure that individuals understand what data is collected about them and can correct it if it is inaccurate and delete it or move it somewhere else if they choose," she wrote. Brill points out that the GDPR has inspired other countries to adopt similar regulations. She also pats her company on the back for being "the first company to provide the data control rights at the heart of GDPR to our customers around the globe, not just in Europe."

However, such self-regulation is not good enough. While some states such as California and Illinois have strong data protection laws in place, Brill feels the US needs something similar to the GDPR at the federal level. "No matter how much work companies like Microsoft do to help organizations secure sensitive data and empower individuals to manage their own data, preserving a strong right to privacy will always fundamentally be a matter of law that falls to governments," Brill states. "Despite the high level of interest in exercising control over personal data from U.S. consumers, the United States has yet to join the EU and other nations around the world in passing national legislation that accounts for how people use technology in their lives today." Brill suggests the federal government should enact regulation that models the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA), which goes into effect next year.

< article continued at Slashdot's self-regulation department >

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Google Says Some G Suite User Passwords Were Stored In Plaintext Since 2005
Posted by News Fetcher on May 21 '19 at 02:11 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's serious-security-scares department:
Google says a small number of its enterprise customers mistakenly had their passwords stored on its systems in plaintext. The exact number was not disclosed. "We recently notified a subset of our enterprise G Suite customers that some passwords were stored in our encrypted internal systems unhashed," said Google vice president of engineering Suzanne Frey.

Slashdot reader pegdhcp appears to be one of the users impacted by this security lapse: I am sharing a message that I received from G Suite, redacted. They are having some serious problem... If you missed the message or somehow tend to ignore sometimes extremely frequent and unnecessary G Suite messages like I do, this one can be important depending on your settings.
[You can read the full email message (with redactions) below:]

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Microsoft Announces Xbox Content Moderation To Cut Back on Toxic Comments
Posted by News Fetcher on May 21 '19 at 02:11 PM
By msmash from Slashdot's marching-forward department:
As Facebook, YouTube, Twitter and other social platforms come under fire for enabling hateful speech, Microsoft is stepping up to thwart toxic comments among its 63 million Xbox live users. From a report: Microsoft needs to make sure Xbox players don't hear or see content that might turn off users, or scare younger players away. Microsoft is making these moves after the ascent of the Gamergate controversy, which led to people harassing and making threats against women. The changes follow Microsoft's recent update to its Xbox "community standards" for gameplay, which pointed out several practices that aren't acceptable. Now it's taking that a step further with moderation tools.

"This summer, we are empowering our official Club community managers with proactive content moderation features that will help create safe spaces for fans to discuss their favorite games," Microsoft's executive vice president of gaming, Phil Spencer, said Monday. "We plan to roll out new content moderation experiences to everyone on Xbox Live by the end of 2019." Xbox Live has 63 million monthly active users, and the service includes groups where people can post content and submit comments, along with chat rooms. "Our industry must now answer the fierce urgency to play with our fierce urgency for safety," he added.

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Apple Updates Top-End MacBook Pros With Tweaked Keyboard and Faster Processors
Posted by News Fetcher on May 21 '19 at 12:51 PM
By msmash from Slashdot's new-laptop-lineup department:
Apple is refreshing its top laptops again by announcing newly updated specs for its 15-inch and 13-inch MacBook Pro models. It's bringing faster Intel processors and some slight changes to the much-maligned keyboard that Apple says should reduce issues. From a report: The biggest changes are coming to the 15-inch model, which is getting Intel's 9th Gen Core processors. The base model now starts with a 2.6GHz, 6-core i7 processor, which can turbo boost up to 4.5GHz. The next-step-up model is getting a 2.3GHz, 8-core i9 processor -- the first ever on a MacBook -- which can turbo boost up to 4.8GHz.

And for those of you who want the most power possible, Apple will also offer a custom top configuration of an even more powerful 8-core i9 chip with a 2.4GHz base speed, which can boost all the way up to 5.0GHz for what Apple calls "the fastest Mac notebook ever." The 13-inch Touch Bar models are getting similar (albeit less exciting) processor refreshes: the base model now comes with a 2.4GHz 8th Gen quad-core i5 processor that can boost to 4.1GHz.

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Microsoft Kicks Off the Rollout of the Windows 10 May Update 1903
Posted by News Fetcher on May 21 '19 at 12:51 PM
By msmash from Slashdot's for-the-record department:
It's technically "late May." So it's not too surprising that Microsoft's promised late May rollout of the Windows 10 May 2019 Update (also known as 1903) is kicking off today, May 21. From a report: As of today, mainstream consumer and business users who want to manually download and install the May feature update may do so. The May 2019 Update/1903 is available on WSUS, Windows Update for Business as of today. Users who aren't already on Windows 10 1809 (either because they weren't "offered" it or didn't proactively grab it) will be able to just skip over 1809 and go straight to 1903, since Windows 10 feature updates are cumulative.

There are a quite a number of new features in the May 2019 Update/1903. Microsoft is providing users -- including Home users -- with more control over how and when Windows 10 feature updates will install with this release. Microsoft is adding the ability for Home users to pause updates for up to 35 days.

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Self-Driving Trucks Begin Mail Delivery Test For US Postal Service
Posted by News Fetcher on May 21 '19 at 12:51 PM
By msmash from Slashdot's marching-forward department:
The U.S. Postal Service today started a two-week test transporting mail across three Southwestern states using self-driving trucks, a step forward in the effort to commercialize autonomous vehicle technology for hauling freight. From a report: San Diego-based startup TuSimple said its self-driving trucks will begin hauling mail between USPS facilities in Phoenix and Dallas to see how the nascent technology might improve delivery times and costs. A safety driver will sit behind the wheel to intervene if necessary and an engineer will ride in the passenger seat. If successful, it would mark an achievement for the autonomous driving industry and a possible solution to the driver shortage and regulatory constraints faced by freight haulers across the country. The pilot program involves five round trips, each totaling more than 2,100 miles (3,380 km) or around 45 hours of driving. It is unclear whether self-driving mail delivery will continue after the two-week pilot.

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First Official Version of Tor Browser for Android Released on Play Store
Posted by News Fetcher on May 21 '19 at 11:31 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's interesting-tools department:
The Tor Project today made the first stable version of its privacy-focused browser available on the Google Play Store. From a report: This new mobile browser integrates the Tor protocol stack into a standalone browser and replaces Orfox as the main way to navigate the Tor network from an Android device. Tor Project developers have been working on this browser for eight months now, since September 2018, when they first released an alpha version for public testing. "We made it a priority to reach the rising number of users who only browse the web with a mobile device," said Isabela Bagueros, Executive Director of the Tor Project. "These users often face heavy surveillance and censorship online, so it is critical for us to reach them. We made sure there are no proxy bypasses, that first-party isolation is enabled to protect you from cross-site tracking, and that most of the fingerprinting defenses are working," the Tor team added.

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TikTok Maker Set To Take on Spotify With Free New Music Streaming App
Posted by News Fetcher on May 21 '19 at 10:11 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's up-next department:
Does the overcrowded and cut-throat music streaming business have room for an additional player? The world's most valuable startup certainly thinks so. From a report: Chinese conglomerate ByteDance, valued at more than $75 billion, is working on a music streaming service, two sources familiar with the matter told TechCrunch. The company, which operates popular app TikTok, has held discussions with music labels in recent months to launch the app as soon as the end of this quarter, one of the sources said. The app will offer both a premium and an ad-supported free tier, one of the sources said. Bloomberg, which first wrote about the premium app, reported that ByteDance is targeting emerging markets with its new music app. Further reading: Chinese Video Sensation TikTok Surpassed Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat and YouTube in Downloads in October 2018.

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Apple Tweaks Its Troubled MacBook Keyboard Design Yet Again, Expands Repair Program
Posted by News Fetcher on May 21 '19 at 10:11 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's how-about-that department:
Apple is announcing an update to its keyboard repair program today. All MacBooks with the so-called "butterfly mechanism" (that's pretty much all modern MacBooks) will now be fully eligible for Apple's Keyboard Service Program. From a report: The expansion means that a few newer models that weren't previously covered will be able to get repairs. Unfortunately, Apple is not extending how long that program lasts -- it's still "4 years after the first retail sale of the unit." Apple is also announcing that it has created yet another iteration of its butterfly keyboard, which will ship on the new MacBook Pros. It also promises that it will speed up keyboard repair times. You will not be able to just take your MacBook in to have its keyboard replaced if you don't trust it, of course; it will need to exhibit issues for Apple to fix it. Apple has been put through the wringer over the reliability of its butterfly keyboards for the past few years, and rightly so. Although the company stressed again in a call today that the "vast majority" of customers don't have a problem, all too many of them have had issues with stuck keys that could cause double letters or no letters at all.

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Firefox 67 Arrives With New Performance and Privacy Features, Voice Search Widget on Android
Posted by News Fetcher on May 21 '19 at 08:51 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's browser-updates department:
Mozilla today launched Firefox 67 for Windows, Mac, Linux, and Android. From a report: The 10th release since Mozilla's big Firefox Quantum launch in November 2017 doubles down on performance and privacy. Firefox 67 includes deprioritizing least commonly used features, suspending unused tabs, faster startup, blocking of cryptomining and fingerprinting, Private Browsing improvements, voice input in the Android search widget, and more. [...] Firefox 67 is better at performing tasks at the optimal time, resulting in faster "painting" of the page. Specifically, the browser deprioritizes least commonly used features and delays set Timeout to prioritize scripts for things you need. Mozilla says Instagram, Amazon, and Google searches now execute between 40% and 80% faster. Firefox also now scans for alternative style sheets after page load and doesn't load the auto-fill module unless there is a form to complete. Next, Firefox 67 detects if your computer's memory is running low (under 400MB) and suspends unused tabs. If you do click on a tab that you haven't used or looked at in a while, it will reload where you left off. Finally, Firefox 67 promises faster startup for users that customized their browser with an add-on.

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Behind the Naming of ZombieLoad and Other Intel Spectre-Like Flaws
Posted by News Fetcher on May 21 '19 at 08:51 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's what's-in-a-name department:
secwatcher writes: There was a lot more to the name game behind choosing titles for ZombieLoad, Spectre and Meltdown than picking cool and edgy attack titles. If you have ever wondered why they were named what they were, Threatpost tracked down one of the researchers behind the naming convention (and discovery) and found out. Much like the funky titles of advanced persistent threat groups, these speculative execution attacks, which impact Intel CPUs, are often named to reflect the impact behind the vulnerabilities, their attributes and how the attack processes work. "We always try to come up with names that somehow resemble the nature of the attack," Daniel Gruss, a security researcher from the Graz University of Technology and one of the founders of the ZombieLoad flaw, told Threatpost in a recent podcast interview. When it comes to ZombieLoad, "the nature of the attack is also something which fits the name very well," said Gruss. That's because the attack relies on the processor sending multiple load requests out to load data (instead of loading data once), as a result of the chip carrying out processes that will work in the most optimistic, opportunistic way, said Gruss.

Spectre and Meltdown, for their part, have their own history behind their names. The idea for naming Spectre after a ghost -- also known by its logo, of a malevolent-looking ghost with a stick in its hand -- came from from Paul Kocher, one of the collaborating researchers who discovered the flaw. "The reasoning behind the name was that Spectre is ... it's not a nice spectre," Gruss told Threatpost. Meltdown, meanwhile, was so named because the vulnerability "melts security boundaries which are normally enforced by the hardware." But beyond that, unlike Spectre, the attack can be fixed and won't haunt users for years to come, said Gruss.

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Tim Cook Says His Era Has Failed by Over-Debating Climate Change
Posted by News Fetcher on May 21 '19 at 07:31 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's word-of-wisdom department:
Tim Cook told graduates at Tulane University that his "generation has failed" them by fighting more than making change on issues including immigration, criminal justice and, pointedly, climate change. From a report: "We've been too focused on the fight and not enough on the progress," the Apple chief executive said Saturday at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans. "You don't need to look far to find an example of that failure." He was referring to the Superdome, which sheltered thousands from Hurricane Katrina in 2005. He then criticized, without naming, politicians who raise doubts about climate change or its cause, a group that includes President Donald Trump.

"I don't think we can talk about who we are as a people and what we owe to one another without talking about climate change," he said. Cook, 58, said the solution to climate change won't be found based on whose side wins or loses an election. "It's about who has won life's lottery and has the luxury of ignoring this issue and who stands to lose everything," he said. "I challenge you to look for those who have the most to lose and find the real, true empathy that comes from something shared," Cook said. "When you do that, the political noise dies down."

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Factory Workers Become Coders as Companies Automate
Posted by News Fetcher on May 21 '19 at 07:31 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's future-of-work department:
As automation changes the way factories operate, some U.S. companies are training workers in programming and robotics, letting machinists get a taste of coding. From a report: Competition from China was among the reasons Drew Greenblatt, chief executive of manufacturing firm Marlin Steel Wire Products, purchased $2 million worth of robots in the past 15 months. The Baltimore-based maker of wire baskets is training employees on operating the robots and using laser-cutting software. The company's machinists develop code so robots can make parts to specifications, replacing several workers who physically created parts. Other employees use collaborative software to interact with customers on real-time design changes, helping the company manufacture higher-quality steel products, charge more for them and create unique intellectual property, he said. Marlin Steel is on track to generate $8 million in revenue this year, up from about $5 million the previous year.

[...] Radwell International, a manufacturing and repair firm based in Willingboro, N.J., identified workers with an aptitude for learning and decent knowledge of processes and systems and trained them in skills such as programming on Visual Basic to build software tools to handle tasks like purchasing. Radwell IT staff who learned Python, a programming language used widely in artificial intelligence and data science, built an AI system to sort incoming parts. The system helps recognize parts based on rough contours, differentiating a circuit breaker from a motor. The staff is now developing a machine-vision-based AI system to recognize parts. Employees are also being trained on manufacturing techniques like 3-D printing to make replacement parts for customers.

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Huawei Considers Rivals To Google's Android After US Ban
Posted by News Fetcher on May 21 '19 at 06:11 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's plan-b department:
Huawei said it's working on its own operating system for its mobile handsets and will consider rivals to Google's Android, after the U.S. blacklisted the company, threatening its partnerships with chip, component and software suppliers. From a report: The Chinese telecom equipment giant said Tuesday it was in talks with the Alphabet about how to proceed after Google confirmed it would cut access to some of Huawei's operating system features for the company's new devices in response to the announcement. Should Google's system no longer be available, "then the alternative option will naturally come out -- either from Huawei or someone else," Abraham Liu, Huawei's representative to the European Union institutions, said at an event in Brussels on Tuesday. Liu said Huawei had been working on its own operating system but that he didn't have the details about when this would be ready. Huawei would do everything in its power to mitigate the impact of the U.S. decisions, Liu said.

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Report Finds Some Users Can't Opt Out of Facebook's Face Recognition
Posted by News Fetcher on May 21 '19 at 06:11 AM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's likely-widespread department:
An anonymous reader quotes a report from the Daily Dot: A consumer advocacy group has found that not all Facebook users have been given the ability to opt out of the company's facial recognition. According to Consumer Reports, despite Facebook rolling out a new privacy setting last year allowing users to choose whether the company can use such technology to detect them in photos, some users say they have never been granted the option. After analyzing the accounts of 31 users throughout the U.S., Consumer Reports discovered that 8 accounts, or roughly 25 percent, did not have the face recognition setting. Consumer Reports set up its own test accounts to determine whether the privacy setting would be available but found that around half a dozen did not have the ability to disable face recognition.

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