How to download apps for your Fitbit

So you’re the owner of a brand-new Fitbit Versa or Ionic smartwatch. Congratulations!

If you’ve never used a smartwatch before, you may be (understandably) overwhelmed. If you swipe left from the home screen, you’ll see that there are dozens of different things to click on: Spotify, Wallet, Weather, and more.

But those apps are only a fraction of what Fitbit has to offer. There are hundreds of third-party apps available for your smartwatch, which you can use to really make it your own. Fitness enthusiasts, for example, can download any number of apps tailored to their workout needs: Strava for runners, MySwimPro for swimmers, Mindbody for yoga, or FitStar for personal training. Meanwhile, smart home enthusiasts can load Alexa, Nest, and IFTTT; shoppers can compile their store membership cards; and travelers can set up Uber, Find My Car, and more.

A couple of things to note before we get into the process of downloading apps to your Fitbit.

First, Fitbit apps aren’t as fully fledged as Android and iOS apps are. For example, they usually can’t access Wi-Fi. Instead, they communicate via Bluetooth with a proxy version of the app on your phone. (Some apps, such as Starbucks and Uber, will require you to create an account and log in on your phone before you can use them on your watch.)

As a result, Fitbit apps can’t update if your phone isn’t nearby, and their interfaces are fairly bare-bones. They can still be very functional and handy, but don’t expect a full-featured experience.

Second, you can’t download apps onto your Fitbit directly. Instead, you download them through the Fitbit app on your phone. This may seem like a hassle at first, but it’s easy once you’ve gotten the hang of it.

The first thing you’ll need to do is download the Fitbit app to your phone and pair it to your smartwatch. To do that:

  • Download the Fitbit app from the Apple App Store, Google Play Store, or Microsoft Store. You’ll be prompted to create a Fitbit account.
  • In the Fitbit app, tap your profile icon in the top left corner, and select “Set Up a Device.” Follow the prompts from there; you should be paired in just a few minutes.

How to add apps to your Fitbit

Once your device is paired to your phone, you’re ready to download apps. To do that:

  • Tap your profile icon in the top left corner of the app. Select your device.
  • Hit “Apps” > “All Apps.” This will put you in Fitbit’s app store where you can browse the offerings.
  • To install an app, tap its icon, and hit “Install.” You may need to agree to some permissions to proceed. (Quick caveat here: when Google purchased Fitbit last November, many users were spooked about the company’s potential uses of their personal health metrics. Google stated that it would not sell Fitbit customer data or use it to inform Google ads. However, if you’re concerned about privacy, it is worth reading through and considering the permissions each app is asking you for before you download.)
  • Once your phone confirms that the app has downloaded, swipe all the way to the left from your smartwatch’s home screen. You should see that the new app has appeared.

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How to delete Cortana recordings and protect your privacy

If you use a PC, Xbox, or other Microsoft device, chatting with Cortana can be an easy way to get things done while your hands are occupied.

But as with all voice assistants, beware of corporate snooping. In August, Motherboard discovered that Microsoft contractors listen to recordings of Cortana voice commands, sometimes from personal computers and browsers with little security.

Cortana recordings are now transcribed in “secure facilities,” according to Microsoft. But the transcription program is still in place, which means someone, somewhere still might be listening to everything you say to your voice assistant.

Don’t worry: if this creeps you out, you can delete your recordings. Here’s how.

The first step is to open a Windows PC and sign in to the same Microsoft account you’ve been using to chat with Cortana. Once you’ve done that:

  • Type “Settings” into the search bar next to the Start button. The Settings app will come up; click on it. You can also click the Start button and scroll down to the Settings icon.
  • Click on “Accounts” in the bottom-left corner
  • Click on the “Manage my Microsoft account” link under your username. You’ll be redirected to Microsoft’s website and signed in to your Microsoft account.

  • Click “Privacy” on the left side of the menu at the top of the page

  • You’ll be prompted to reenter your Microsoft password; do that. You may also be required to verify your identity with two-factor authentication if you’ve set that up.

  • You should now be back in the Privacy section of Microsoft’s website. Click on “My activity” in the menu under the banner.

  • Open the menu that says “Filter by data type” on the left side of the screen. Click “Voice,” which is the second option.

  • In the center of the screen, you’ll see a list of Cortana recordings associated with your Microsoft account. You can click on the play button to listen to each recording individually.
  • To delete all of your voice recordings, select “Clear activity” at the top right of the list. To delete individual recordings, click the “Clear” link at the bottom of each item (just next to the “View details” link).

Note: Doing this won’t prevent Cortana from sending your voice recordings to Microsoft. For that, you’ll need to disable online speech recognition.

How to stop Cortana from recording your voice

  • Go back into Settings. This time, scroll down to Cortana in the right-hand column.
  • Click “Permissions” in the menu on the left side
  • Click “Manage the information Cortana can access from this device.” Scroll down and select “Speech Privacy Settings.”

  • Toggle Online speech recognition off

Now, Cortana will only use device-based speech recognition, which is less accurate than its cloud-based recognition engine and has limited functionality. But Microsoft will no longer transcribe or collect any of your voice recordings.

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23andMe just laid off 100 employees

Home DNA-testing company 23andMe is laying off 100 employees, which is around 14 percent of its workforce. The layoffs primarily affect the operations team, according to a CNBC report that was published on Thursday.

The downsizing reflects a shrinking market for DNA kits. Illumina, which makes genetic-sequencing technologies and counts 23andMe among its customers, reported that sales were down across the industry in an earnings call last summer. Genome-sequencing company Veritas Genetics also nixed its US operation last year and laid off around 50 employees after struggling to raise capital.

23andMe CEO Anne Wojcicki told CNBC that customers might be reluctant to pay for pricey genetic tests if they fear economic downturn. Wojcicki also suggested that rising consumer privacy concerns could be a reason for the downturn in sales.

Privacy has been a huge issue for genetics testing companies like 23andMe. In 2018, 23andMe and other ventures promised not to share data without consent. But advances in data analysis and growing databases have raised consumer worries over genetic privacy. Last December, the Pentagon advised military members to avoid DNA kits, citing unspecified security concerns that could risk military missions.

CNBC reports that the company recently hired a new security officer to focus on consumer privacy, and said they plan to redirect focus from their “clinical studies arm” to their direct-to-consumer and therapeutics side of the business.

Seattle is the first area in the US where residents can vote via smartphones

King County, where Seattle is located, announced on Wednesday that it’s implementing smartphone voting for an upcoming board of supervisors election.

King County’s 1.2 million residents can use their cellphones to vote in the election, which begins on January 22nd and continues until 8PM PT on February 11th.

The program is a collaboration between King County Elections; the county’s conservation district; mobile-voting nonprofit Tusk Philanthropies; the National Cybersecurity Center; and Democracy Live, a technology firm that develops electronic balloting.

“It will be easier than ever for voters to access their Conservation District ballot and cast their vote,” said Julie Wise, King County director of elections, in a statement. “Here at King County Elections, we are always looking for ways to improve access and engage our voters and this election could be a key step in moving toward electronic access and return for voters across the region.”

In an interview with NPR, Bradley Tusk, CEO and Founder of Tusk Philanthropies, emphasized the positive impact the technology could have on voter turnout. Per NPR, King County’s board of supervisors election has seen less than 1 percent of eligible voters turn out in past years.

But the expansion of smartphone voting has met strong resistance, especially in the wake of the 2016 presidential election, during which Russian hackers infiltrated state voter registration systems, accessed the private emails of Clinton campaign staff, and engaged in numerous other cybercrimes. While there’s no evidence that Russia altered any votes in 2016, cybersecurity experts have cited the incidents as evidence that foreign powers might target US elections down the road.

Of course, internet voting carries many of the same risks as other internet activity: links can be spoofed, devices can be compromised by malware, users can be impersonated, and systems can be DDoS’d.

In 2018, the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine warned against all forms of online voting, recommending that US elections stick to paper ballots for the foreseeable future. The US Senate Intelligence Committee warned against the practice as well in its heavily redacted report on Russian election interference, which was released last July.

The Democratic National Committee has also nixed proposals that would allow Iowa and Nevada to conduct virtual caucuses, citing security concerns.

Virtual voting isn’t a new idea. In 2010, the DC Board of Elections and Ethics created an internet-based election portal and invited security experts to probe it for vulnerabilities. The board scrapped the portal after a University of Michigan student breached it.

However, other counties have successfully implemented forms of smartphone voting. West Virginia allowed overseas voters to submit absentee ballots via a blockchain-based voting app called Voatz in the 2018 midterm election. Around 150 people voted that way, however, a small fraction of King County’s eligible electorate. Counties in Utah, Oregon, and Colorado have also tested mobile voting for small numbers of overseas voters.

Another key difference: West Virginia’s online ballots went through an app dedicated to secure voting, which verified each voter’s identity via facial or fingerprint recognition.

King County voters can submit through a mobile web portal, verifying their identities with their name, birthdate, and a signature. Democracy Live CEO Bryan Finney told NPR that officials in Washington will be able to verify signatures since the state votes entirely by mail. The elections office plans to count paper copies of all electronic ballots as well.

The board of supervisors election is one of many “pilots” that Tusk plans to implement over the next five years in counties around the US. There’s no indication yet of whether King County plans to expand the system to statewide or national elections.

Amazon’s first USB-C tablet is $50 off for the first time

If you’ve been waiting for a discount on Amazon’s Fire HD 10, your wait is over. The tablet has been discounted to $99, which is $50 off its original price of $149.99. We haven’t seen a lower price on this device, and at $149.99, it was already one of the least expensive tablets on the market.

If you’re familiar with the 2017 version of the Fire HD 10, you may not notice a ton of differences. But as The Verge’s Chaim Gartenberg noted in his review, Amazon has made a few noteworthy upgrades. Most significantly, the new device is finally compatible with USB-C, making it the only current Amazon product to use a modern universal charging standard.

In addition, you’ll get a new 2.0GHz octa-core processor (the predecessor had a quad-core chip), 32GB of storage that you can expand up to 512GB via microSD, and a second antenna to maintain a better Wi-Fi signal. The 10.1-inch 1080p display, while it doesn’t support 4K content, is still great for watching movies or browsing the web.

Photo by Niko Tavernise / Warner Bros.

That’s not the only deal to check out on Amazon today. The company is also continuing its “buy two, get one free” Blu-ray and video game promotion. If you purchase two video games or Blu-ray movies, you’ll get a third at no cost.

You can choose between a number of acclaimed movie selections, including Joker, Us, and Once Upon a Time in Hollywood. On the game front, you’ll find a ton of titles for the PS4 and Xbox One, including Death Stranding, Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order, and Monster Hunter World: Iceborne Master Edition.

You don’t have to do anything elaborate to activate this discount; just add all three items to your cart, and you’ll get the least expensive one for free at checkout.