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Li-fi: Data through illumination

Soon, you’ll be able to go onlight instead of online. Li-fi is coming and it might be the death of Wi-fi. In fact, we already have the technology to transmit data, even hi-def video, through light beams. It’s just a question of making it available to devices.

So how does it work? Simple! The new LEDs flicker and transmit the series of ones and zeros. When the LED is on, it’s transmitting a digital 1. Off = digital 0. And the flickering happens so quickly, we mere mortals can’t detect it.

Now, you might say to yourself, who wants to keep lights on in the house in the middle of the day just to watch a YouTube video? Well, they claim that with his technology, one can dim down the lights to the point where the average person can’t even detect that they’re on, while still transmitting data. Check out the video below to hear Harald Haas from the University of Edinburgh describing how it works in more detail. I recommend skipping ahead to about 5 minutes in.

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You Can Finally Mute Users on Instagram
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Since launching as a photo editing and sharing app in 2010, Instagram has grown into the third most popular social media platform behind YouTube and Facebook. That means the list of people you follow likely includes friends you like as well as exes, distant family members, and former high school classmates whose constant updates you could do without. Now BuzzFeed reports that Instagram just made it a lot easier to trim your feed of unwanted content without the user’s knowledge.

To mute someone without unfollowing them altogether, tap the ellipsis to the right of their username next time you see one their posts. Next, select “Mute” from the list of options that pops up. From there you can choose to just mute their regular posts or block their posts and Instagram Stories from showing up on your end. There’s no way for the user to know you muted them (at least not yet), and you can visit their profile to unmute them any time.

Instagram had already made it possible to mute someone’s Stories by tapping and holding their profile icon, but this is the first time users have the option to hide all posts from a person as well. Prior to the update, users either had to put up with obnoxious oversharing or hit the unfollow button and risk their friend (or acquaintance, family member, etc.) noticing their follower count dropped.

Interested in curating your other online feeds? If politics is your biggest social media peeve, here are some ways to see less of it.

[h/t BuzzFeed]

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Voice-Activated Assistants Can Hear Messages Hidden in Songs and Commercials
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The voice-activated assistant boom has inspired fears of tech companies playing Big Brother and eavesdropping on consumers' most intimate conversations. New research reported by The New York Times suggests that a bigger threat may be third parties sending messages to Alexa and Siri that their owners can't hear.

In 2016, researchers from the University of California, Berkeley and Georgetown University demonstrated that hijacking someone else's smart device to activate airplane mode or open a webpage without their knowledge was as easy as hiding the command in white noise. Some of those same researchers from Berkeley further explored this vulnerability in a new study. They found that voice assistants can hear commands concealed in regular recorded audio. Many voice assistants can be programmed to make online purchases, unlock doors, and make digital payments—all commands that hackers could potentially use for their own gain.

Even with all their privacy concerns, voice-activated assistants continue to gain popularity. Over 20 million homes use devices like Amazon Echo and Google Home to do things like make calls, search the web, and control appliances hands-free. But without the proper security measures in place, features that are convenient in one moment can quickly turn disastrous. One way to protect yourself is by password-protecting sensitive commands like online shopping, or disabling them all together. And remember that connecting your whole life to Alexa, including your accounts, passwords, and contacts, leaves you vulnerable to a single attack.

You can set up every privacy protection imaginable, but in the end there's not much you can do to hide your information from the corporation that owns your home assistant. As long as it's on, it's always listening and recording every noise it hears. Remember to delete your saved recordings on a regular basis. You can also switch off the microphone whenever you want your personal conversations to stay private and to delete your recordings regularly.

[h/t The New York Times]

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