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Report: Google to open first flagship retail store in Chicago

Tech giant Google is reportedly planning its first brick-and-mortar retail shop.

The Chicago Tribune reported that, according to unnamed sources, the flagship store is expected to open in Chicago’s Fulton Market District, close to the company’s city headquarters.

Google has finalized the property lease, the Tribune reported, but the company has not yet confirmed plans for long-term shops.

>> Read more trending news 

“We don’t comment on rumor or speculation,” Google spokeswoman Kayla Conti told the Tribune.

The building will reportedly be 14,000 square feet of multiple two-story brick buildings.

Tech experts believe the retail shop would prominently feature the company’s growing bundle of electronic products, including smartphones, home security systems and more.

With the new store, Google would join other tech giants with flagship locations, such as Apple, Amazon and Microsoft.

But if Google cancels its plans, it wouldn’t be the first time. In 2015, Crain’s New York Business reported that the company abandoned plans to open a store in New York.

Police investigating after sex offender allegedly got phone numbers, texted children

Police in Michigan are warning parents after a sex offender was able to get the phone numbers of two children through unknown means.

Update 2:35 p.m. EDT Aug. 13: Police initially said the phone numbers were obtained through the online game Roblox. In an update Friday, authorities said investigators were unable to determine how the numbers were obtained.

In a statement, officials with Roblox said the entertainment platform “supports imaginative play in a safe, supportive environment.”

“We can assure you that we take safety on our platform seriously and have features and processes in place to protect our community from sharing personally identifiable information,”  the statement said. 

Among other measures, the company uses automated technology to monitor and “when appropriate filter” the communication between users. The company also has restrictions surrounding what users under 13 years old can share.

>> On WSOCTV.com: Mom alarmed about gaming site after 7-year-old's virtual character sexually assaulted

Original report: According to the Marshall Police Department's Facebook page and WWMT, a "concerned parent" contacted authorities after the children, who are 9 and 10, began receiving text messages "from an unknown subject." Police described the conversations as "non-offensive and short," WWMT reported.

>> On WSBTV.com: Are your kids safe? Predators reaching children through online games

"Officers researched the number that was contacting the children and discovered it belonged to a subject on parole and who is also on the Michigan Sex Offender Registry," the department posted Saturday. "The suspect was arrested by local parole agents for the offense."

>> See the post here

Police also issued the following warning:

>> Read more trending news 

"Popular online cell phone games such as 'Roblox' and 'Minecraft,' when played online in public mode, allow other players to obtain personal information from each other," the department wrote. "Parents are encouraged to monitor their children’s online use of games, who they are speaking with, and the dangers of speaking with unknown subjects."

Read more here or here.

3D gun blueprints: Release of printable firearm downloads blocked in Pennsylvania

You will not be able to download a printable gun in Pennsylvania.

>> Watch the news report here

>> Read more trending news 

Gov. Tom Wolf, Attorney General Josh Shapiro and Pennsylvania State Police were in federal court this weekend to prevent a Texas company from giving Pennsylvanians access to 3D printable gun downloads.

>> Previously on WPXI.com: DOJ will soon allow people to post blueprints, instructions on how to make 3D guns

The move also prevents the company from uploading any new 3D gun files.

Democrats in Washington, D.C., have been working on new legislation to restrict people from publishing gun-making blueprints online, which could be available as soon as Wednesday.

Instagram launches four-way video group chat

Instagram’s latest update is a four-way video group chat.

The company initially announced the news in May, and it is now rolling out the service to iOS and Android users. 

>> Read more trending news 

“Video chat gives you the experience of realtime video in a private space and helps you feel close and connected to friends when you can’t be together. Your friends are already on Instagram, and with video chat, you can seamlessly connect across iOS and Android and without a phone number,” the company said in a statement Tuesday

The new function allows up to four friends to join a group call through Instagram direct messaging. Users can minimize the window and browse the rest of the app without ending the call.

Users can also join a call already in progress and hit the mute button to avoid additional call invites. Blocked people cannot call you. 

To begin a call, users can select the direct button, located at the top right side of the Instagram home screen, open a chat and choose the video icon at the top right.

Amazon Alexa recorded private conversation, sent it to random contact, woman says

A Portland, Oregon, family contacted Amazon to investigate after they say a private conversation in their home was recorded by Amazon's Alexa – the voice-controlled smart speaker – and the recorded audio was sent to the phone of a random person in Seattle, who was in the family’s contact list.

>> Amazon announces kids-friendly version of Echo

"My husband and I would joke and say, 'I'd bet these devices are listening to what we're saying,'" said Danielle, who did not want KIRO-TV to use her last name.

Every room in her family home was wired with the Amazon devices to control her home's heat, lights and security system.

But Danielle said that two weeks ago, the family's love for Alexa changed with an alarming phone call. "The person on the other line said, 'Unplug your Alexa devices right now,'" she said. "'You're being hacked.'"

>> Amazon working on home robot, report says

That person was one of her husband's employees, calling from Seattle.

"We unplugged all of them and he proceeded to tell us that he had received audio files of recordings from inside our house," she said. "At first, my husband was, like, 'No, you didn't!' And the (recipient of the message) said, 'You sat there talking about hardwood floors.' And we said, 'Oh gosh, you really did hear us.'"

Danielle listened to the conversation when it was sent back to her, and she couldn't believe someone 176 miles away heard it, too.

"I felt invaded," she said. "A total privacy invasion. Immediately, I said, 'I'm never plugging that device in again because I can't trust it.'"

>> Amazon’s Alexa’s random laugh is creeping users out

Danielle says she unplugged all the devices, and she repeatedly called Amazon. She says an Alexa engineer investigated.

"They said, 'Our engineers went through your logs, and they saw exactly what you told us; they saw exactly what you said happened, and we're sorry.' He apologized like 15 times in a matter of 30 minutes, and he said, 'We really appreciate you bringing this to our attention; this is something we need to fix!'"

But Danielle says the engineer did not provide specifics about why it happened or if it's a widespread issue.

"He told us that the device just guessed what we were saying," she said. Danielle said the device did not audibly advise her it was preparing to send the recording, something it’s programmed to do.

>> Read more trending news 

When KIRO-TV asked Amazon questions, the company sent this response:

“Amazon takes privacy very seriously. We investigated what happened and determined this was an extremely rare occurrence. We are taking steps to avoid this from happening in the future."

Amazon offered to “de-provision” Danielle’s Alexa communications so she could keep using its "Smart Home" features. But Danielle is hoping Amazon gives her a refund for her devices, which she said representatives have been unwilling to do. She says she’s curious to find out if anyone else has experienced the same issue.

"A husband and wife in the privacy of their home have conversations that they're not expecting to be sent to someone (in) their address book," she said.

'Royal wedding guest name' quiz could help scammers get your personal data

A seemingly innocent quiz that has been sweeping social media could help scammers get their hands on your personal data, experts say.

>> Royal Wedding: Meghan Markle, Prince Harry wed

"What's your royal wedding guest name?" the meme, which began circulating ahead of Saturday's royal wedding, asks.

>> Royal Wedding photos: The kiss, the ring and more highlights

One version reads as follows:

"In honor of the royal wedding, use your 'royal wedding guest name' this week. Start with either 'Lord' or 'Lady' – your first name is one of your grandparents' names. Your surname is the name of your first pet, then 'of' followed by the name of the street you grew up on."

>> PHOTOS: Meghan Markle’s wedding dress stuns at royal wedding

So what's the problem? According to WXIX and HuffPost, sharing your "royal name" could reveal the answers to your security questions.

>> PHOTOS: Prince Harry and Meghan Markle marry at Windsor Castle

"If they’re asking you what could be security-rated questions like ‘What’s your mother’s maiden name?' – things that you would get asked that would allow you to perhaps reset a password, login to a system through some alternative approach – they could be taking that information and be attempting to hack into systems with that," Dave Hatter, WXIX's technology expert, told the TV station.

>> PHOTOS: Oprah, Elton John among guests for royal wedding

A computer security expert identified as Snow echoed the sentiment in a message to HuffPost, saying the answers "could be used to gain access to accounts (social media, banking, work email, etc) with potential for identity theft."

Read more here or here.

5 hacks to keep your smartphone charged during a power outage

A smartphone can be a lifeline in a storm, but it's useless without power. Fortunately, there's never been more ways to keep a smartphone juiced up

>> Read more trending news

Here are some easy ways to keep your phone in the green if you lose power: 

1. Charge up every laptop in your home. If you lose power, turn a laptop on (but don't unlock the screen) and use your iPhone or Android cable to charge your phone via the USB ports. Most newer laptops can charge a smartphone multiple times. 

2. Keep your phone on "Low Power Mode." This setting will use far less juice. On an iPhone, go to "Settings," scroll down to "Battery" and turn on "Low Power Mode." On an Android, swipe down from the top menu and find the "Power Saving" icon. 

3. Use your car to charge your phone. Most newer cars have a USB port – or two. Even if your car is out of fuel, you can turn it on and charge it using the car battery. It's a last resort, but if you have a newer car battery, it will charge a phone multiple times easily.

4. Buy an external charger if you don't have one; most drug stores have them. Portable smartphone battery chargers are getting better and less expensive. Most drug store chains have them near the counter, but you will pay more for the convenience. But if you need one right now, that is a good place to look. 

Companies such as Anker and Aukey sell high-quality, high capacity chargers on Amazon. Consider buying one before the next storm. Some of the new one have capacities approaching 30,000 mAh, which is enough to charge an phone over five times. 

5. Still have power but want to charge a phone quickly without using a wall socket? Plug it into the USB port on your TV. Most newer TVs have one. 

John Legend is one of six new Google Assistant voices

Google announced that singer John Legend will be one of the new voices of Google Assistant.

The musician and songwriter, who has appeared in multiple Google ads, one with his model and cookbook author wife Chrissy Teigen, is one of six new voices for the digital device.

>> Read more trending news 

CNET reported that Google made the announcement Tuesday at its annual I/O developer conference in Mountain View, California.

The technology used for the voices on the Assistant was WaveNet, which allowed Legend’s voice to be used for different user responses in less recording time.

According to The Verge, Legend’s voice will be on the Assistant for Google Home and other Google devices, like phones and home speakers, later in the year.

Instagram quietly rolls out in-app payment feature for faster shopping

Shopping on Instagram is about to become a lot easier with the launch of its new native payments feature.

Instagram quietly began rolling out the feature this week for some users, giving them the option to register a debit or credit card, set up a security PIN and begin buying products without leaving the app at all.

>> Read more trending news 

Before the native payment option, users could tap the app’s Shoppable Tag to purchase products they are interested in, but they would be sent directly to the brand’s website.

TechCrunch first reported on the feature after a reader tipped the site off. An Instagram spokesperson confirmed native payments for booking restaurant reservations or salon appointments are now live for a limited set of business partners.

Related: Instagram is the worst social media network for your mental health, study says

In March 2017, Instagram announced it would “roll out the ability to book a service with a business directly from their profile,” but there was no mention of native payments. 

With the new option, brands popular on Instagram may find a new, successful business venue in the app’s native commerce feature. For users, this would also make the transaction more convenient. With payment details already stored, users can make quick purchases without leaving the app.

Related: Instagram is finally fixing its algorithm to show newer posts first

According to Instagram’s terms of service, the app is backed by Facebook Payments’ rules. But while Facebook has peer-to-peer payments via Messenger, it’s unclear whether the same would become available for Instagram. The option of adding a credit or debit card on file, however, is a “critical building block to that feature,” according to TechCrunch.

Related: What is a ‘Finsta?’ Teens and their secret Instagram accounts

“Instagram Payments could make impulse buys much quicker, enticing more businesses to get on board,” TechCrunch reported. “Even if Instagram takes no cut of the revenue, brands are likely to boost ad spend to get their shoppable posts seen by more people if the native payments mean more of them actually complete a purchase.”

The new feature is available for some but not all users in the U.S. It should start rolling out for all users over the next few weeks.

Amazon working on home robot, report says

Amazon.com Inc. may be gearing up for its next big project: a home robot.

>> On AJC.com: Amazon in 2018: 6 things you should know about the e-commerce giant

The rumor comes from a Bloomberg report published Monday in which sources familiar with the plan revealed that the company has started work on the domestic robot under the code name Vesta.

>> Read more trending news 

According to the sources, Vesta has apparently been in the works for years, but new job listings for Lab126, Amazon’s hardware research and development division, have sprung up this year.

Lab126 engineers previously built Amazon’s Kindle, Fire Phone and Echo.

“People briefed on the plan say the company hopes to begin seeding the robots in employees’ homes by the end of this year, and potentially with consumers as early as 2019,” Bloomberg reported, noting that the timeline may change.

>> On AJC.com: 6 most impressive benefits offered to Amazon employees

The Vesta robot prototypes reportedly have computer vision software and advanced cameras for navigation. Think of a “mobile Alexa, accompanying customers in parts of their home where they don’t have Echo devices,” Bloomberg analysts wrote.

An Amazon spokesperson told Bloomberg the company doesn’t comment on “rumors and speculation.” The AJC has reached out to Amazon for comment, as well. 

>> On AJC.com: Amazon tours Atlanta in its second headquarters search

Other companies have dabbled in domestic robots before, including iRobot and its Roomba vacuum and MobileRobots Inc.’s Jeeves home security robot.

Read the full report from Bloomberg.com.

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