Starting next summer, every smartphone sold in California must have an anti-theft device. But many users don't have to wait to safeguard their phones.

By MSN Money Partner Wed 12:15 PM

Woman using smartphone in San Francisco © AP Photo/Ben MargotBy Kara Brandeisky, Money


Smartphone theft just got a whole lot less lucrative. This week, California Governor Jerry Brown signed a bill requiring that all smartphones sold in the state include a "kill switch," software that makes it impossible for thieves to use stolen phones.


Money on MSN MoneyHere's something you may not know: Your phone could already have such a switch. Both Apple (AAPL) iPhones and Samsung (SSNLF) phones have new software that "locks" the device so that unauthorized users are unable to activate it. According to the San Francisco Police Department, the city saw a 38 percent drop in iPhone thefts in the six months after Apple released its kill switch.


In June, Google (GOOG) and Microsoft (MSFT) promised to offer kill switch technology in their next operating systems, and for now, both offer other apps to help you protect a lost phone. (Microsoft owns and publishes MSN Money.)


The California bill requires that tech companies make the kill switch feature standard on all phones starting July 1, 2015. In the meantime, you can enable your phone's available security features by turning on the right settings. Here's how.

 

The ride-sharing startup continues its push into the mainstream by partnering with service industry stalwarts.

By MSN Money Partner Aug 21, 2014 3:24PM

Uber taxi app on a smartphone © REX/Jeff BlacklerBy Justin Bachman, Bloomberg BusinessWeek


The day after ride-sharing startup Uber declared its ambition to be "as reliable as running water, everywhere for everyone," it took a big step toward mainstream ubiquity.


TBloomberg BusinessWeek on MSN Moneyhe startup with the dizzying $17 billion valuation has opened its software platform to almost a dozen partner companies with mobile apps, including Starbucks (SBUX), United Airlines (UAL) and Hyatt Hotels (H).


That means that when you book a table for two using OpenTable (PCLN), you can also reserve a car to take you to the restaurant; you can use United's app to find an Uber to or from the airport. An OpenTable spokeswoman, Tiffany Fox, calls the link to Uber "a value-add for customers" traveling to and from restaurants.

 

Like a mechanical flash mob, the group of about a thousand tiny robots can work together -- like bees or army ants -- in vast numbers without guidance.

By MSN Money Partner Aug 15, 2014 3:10PM

One of the tiny Kilobot robots that make up the swarm. © Michael Rubenstein/Harvard University
By Robert Lee Hotz, The Wall Street Journal


Harvard University scientists have devised a swarm of 1,024 tiny robots that can work together without any guiding central intelligence.


The Wall St. Journal on MSN MoneyLike a mechanical flash mob, these robots can assemble themselves into five-pointed stars, letters of the alphabet and other complex designs. The researchers at Harvard's Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering in Cambridge, Massachusetts, reported their work Thursday in Science.


"No one had really built a swarm of this size before, where everyone works together to achieve a goal," said robotics researcher Michael Rubenstein, who led the project.

 

The company's Aloft brand is testing a 3-foot-tall robotic assistant in a new pilot program.

By MSN Money Partner Aug 12, 2014 10:36AM

Botlr robot at Starwood Hotel / Courtesy of Justin Solomon
By Justin Solomon, CNBC


Look out, Rosie the Robot: Starwood Hotels' (HOT) Aloft brand has a taskmaster of its own.


His (or her?) name is A.L.O., pronounced "el-oh" -- the hotel chain's first Botlr (short for robotic butler).


CNBC on MSN MoneyStanding just under 3 feet tall, A.L.O. comes dressed in a vinyl-collared butler uniform and will soon be on call all day and night to fulfill requests from guests.


Forget your toothpaste? Need more towels? How about a late-night chocolate bar? All guests of the hotel have to do is call the front desk, where staff will load up the Botlr with requested items, punch in the guest's room number and send it off to make the delivery, navigating hallways and even call for the elevator using Wi-Fi.

 

Here are four cold, hard realities of the social network's privacy policies -- and what you can do about them.

By MSN Money Partner Aug 6, 2014 10:20AM

Using Facebook on iPhoneBy Geoffrey Fowler, The Wall Street Journal


Everyone loves to gripe about privacy on Facebook (FB). Like me, you may have even threatened to quit. But let's be honest -- we're not going to break up with a social network filled with people we care about.


The Wall St. Journal on MSN MoneyInstead, let's do something real: Get a grip on Facebook's 9,000-word privacy policy and take concrete steps to control our information.


I'm raising the issue because privacy on Facebook just took two steps forward and one step back. These relate to digital tracking, one of the creepiest and most confusing aspects of the social network.


Facebook is following you. It now can use what you do outside its network -- when you surf the Web and use other apps on your smartphone -- to target ads at you. Facebook says it needs the extra data to make its ads better.


At the same time, the company is starting to be more transparent. In a first for any major Internet company, it's offering to explain exactly why you're getting every ad you see and to let you control what kind of ads you will see in the future. They don't make these options very easy to find, however.

 

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