OPEN Government Data Act means all public data must be accessible by your iDevices

The OPEN Government Data Act means that all public data made available by the US government must be in a format accessible by smartphones, tablets and computers …

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This week’s best iTunes movie deals: Great Soundtracks from $7, 4K sale, $1 rental, more

It’s Tuesday and the iTunes movie storefront has been refreshed with a new batch of deals. This week we’re seeing deals on Movies with Great Soundtracks. There’s also the usual smattering of 4K offers and the $1 HD rental of the week. Head below for all of the best offers.

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US judge rules that feds can't force fingerprint or face phone unlocks


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Authorities can’t force people to unlock devices with their faces, fingers or irises, a magistrate judge from California has ruled. Forbes has uncovered a nine-page order denying the search warrant for an investigation looking into a Facebook extortion crime. While the judge admits that investigators were able to establish probable cause for the warrant, she called their request to unlock any phone on the premises with biometrics “overbroad.” The request wasn’t limited to a particular person or device, and authorities would’ve been able to get everyone in the house to open their devices.

Magistrate judge Kandis Westmore stressed that law enforcement doesn’t have the right to force people to unlock their phones even with a warrant, thereby declaring that biometrics are equal to passcodes. Courts commonly allow biometric unlocks, because judges don’t consider body parts “testimonial.” The reason being, people have to give up passwords and passcodes verbally and willingly, so they’re covered under the Fifth Amendment protections against self-incrimination. Westmore wrote in her ruling:

“If a person cannot be compelled to provide a passcode because it is a testimonial communication, a person cannot be compelled to provide one’s finger, thumb, iris, face, or other biometric feature to unlock that same device.

The undersigned finds that a biometric feature is analogous to the 20 nonverbal, physiological responses elicited during a polygraph test, which are used to determine guilt or innocence, and are considered testimonial.”

Westmore noted that “technology is outpacing the law” and that the government has other means to solve the case. In this particular instance, investigators can obtain Messenger communications from Facebook itself with a proper warrant under the Stored Communications Act. According to Forbes, Facebook had been willing to hand over messages to authorities for a significant number of previous cases, so there’s really no reason investigators can’t go that route. While Westmore’s decision is out of the norm and can still be overturned, EFF senior staff attorney Andrew Crocker said it’s worth noting that “courts are beginning to look at these issues on their own terms.”

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'Just Dance' is somehow being turned into a movie


Ubisoft

Considering the lack of characters, themes or a plot, you might wonder exactly how Ubisoft’s Just Dance could be made into a movie. But a Hollywood executive might see it differently: “Dancing movies make money. Video game movies make money. So a dance video game movie should make all the money!” Following that infallible logic, Sony’s Screen Gems has acquired the motion picture rights to Just Dance following a bidding war, Deadline has reported.

Just Dance has 120 million players of all ages across the franchise, and a good chunk of those use Sony’s PlayStation 4 platform. As such, the film is a good fit for Sony, which told Engadget during CES 2019 that it wants content that works across its gaming, 4K TV, mobile and movie platforms. Ubisoft Film and Television will co-produce the movie, which is currently in the script development process.

As hard as it might be to fathom, there are now two movies being made about dance-oriented video games, as Konami’s Dance Dance Revolution entered pre-production a few months ago. The good news is that given the relative lack of any kind of story in those games, they’ll employ a lot of Hollywood writers needed to transform them into three-plus hours of filmed entertainment.

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Steam surpasses 90 million users, 30,000 listed games

Why it matters: Despite more and more competitors challenging Valve’s iron grip on the PC gaming market, Steam is still growing at a steady rate. Thanks to numbers revealed by the company this week, we now have a few more concrete examples of that growth.

According to Valve, Steam has officially surpassed the 90 million monthly active user mark. The PC gaming client’s daily active user figure is similarly impressive, sitting at 47 million as of writing.

Of course, those numbers could be slightly misleading. Are “active” users anybody who has the Steam client running, or only users who take advantage of its various features, such as community discussions and the chat system?

Regardless, we’re not looking to take away from Valve’s accomplishments here. Through years of effort and — with a few exceptions — a consumer-focused approach to business, Steam has gone from being an obscure storefront to the go-to PC gaming platform for millions of users.

Impressive user numbers aside, Valve hit another milestone with Steam recently. The platform has surpassed 30,000 listed games; not including software or DLC for said games.

That number probably sounds pretty good at first, but in this case, quantity could be winning out over quality. Since the rise of Steam Direct, thousands of low-quality “asset flips” have arrived on the platform. These games are usually hastily thrown-together projects that consist of very little (if any) original code, artwork, or audio files.

Valve is likely hoping planned improvements to Steam’s game discovery algorithms will force low-effort titles such as this to the bottom of search results; killing them off without direct intervention.

At any rate, one thing is clear: Valve, and Steam as a whole, has come a long way over the past decade. With a lot of hard work and a better response to growing competition from the likes of Epic and Discord, the long-standing platform may continue to thrive for years to come.

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