The Best Virtual Private Networks, Why Net Neutrality is Important for REALTORS®, and More in Five for Wednesday

neon sign spelling VPN

      1. More people are using VPNs (Virtual Private Networks) to stay safe online. If you’re interested in using one to protect your privacy, remember at the very least this one thing: a paid VPN is better than a free one.
      2. VPNs, part two: The Wirecutter has a great roundup of the best VPNs. Spoiler alert: there’s not a single free one on their list.
      3. Net neutrality has been given a second chance at life by the US Senate. If you’re still wondering if net neutrality is important for REALTORS®, take the time to watch this video. And if you’re moved to take action and tell your House representative what you think, here’s an easy way to do it.
      4. Yay, technology: an app for Microsoft’s Hololens combines 360-degree sound and its knowledge of where objects are to help blind people navigate through homes and buildings.
      5. Boo, technology: a marketing company in Philadelphia geofences hospital emergency rooms and sends targeted ads to patients inside.

The Toughest Phones, What People Really Think About Facebook, and More in Five for Wednesday

photograph of cracked smartphone screen

      1. Everyone drops their phone eventually, but if you’re chronically slippery-handed, find out which smartphones are the hardest to break.
      2. Facebook has had a rough couple of months. Mozilla asked 47,000 people what they thought about the company and their role in protecting themselves online. The results are really interesting, and there’s an interactive tool you can use to look at the results.
      3. Machine learning and artificial intelligence may be able to predict when arguments online are about to get nasty.
      4. Tech companies have been selling facial-recognition systems to police departments, and it appears that at least one has implemented real-time analysis from cameras positioned in their city.
      5. Tread lightly with this one: PassProtect is a Chrome browser plug-in that will tell you how many times a password has been exposed in a data breach. PassProtect’s maker says it safe, but we’d probably use it at first just to see how many people really use “qwerty” or “letmein” as their passwords.

The Philippines’ Pollution-Free City, Twitter’s Move Into Encrypted Messages, And More In Five For Wednesday

illustration of pollution being erased from a city skyline

      1. Would you move to a city that is dedicated to sustainability, permits only electric cars, and reserves two-thirds of its land for parks and other green space? New Clark City in the Philippines plans to be exactly that.
      2. Love Twitter direct messages but worried about your privacy? Twitter appears ready to tackle encryption-friendly competitors such as Signal.
      3. Not all Internet of Things (Iot) devices provide a strong defense against hacking, so new products that warn you if your smart home has been compromised are really nice to see.
      4. Speaking of smart homes: smart switches are a great place to start, but there are some things you should know before you buy and install them. (You can also read our guide to smart switches, part of CRT Labs’ Smart Home Simplified series.)
      5. Lastly, Apple is getting serious with apps that share your location data with third-parties, removing them from the App Store and forcing companies to resubmit their apps for review after they’re brought into line with Apple’s policies.

Test Your Knowledge of Browser Privacy; The Amazing Benefits of Green Roofs; More in Five for Wednesday

illustration of someone incognito, with shadows and gradients

      1. Take a brief survey to find out how much you know (or don’t know) about Web browsers and their private modes. Misconceptions are apparently “significant.”
      2. And while you’re at it, review the Electronic Frontier Foundation’s Surveillance Self-Defense Toolkit.
      3. New York City’s ginormous Javits Convention Center has a 6.75 acre green roof that reduces energy consumption and has saved the owners millions of dollars. There really need to be more of these in our cities.
      4. We’re several years into the smart watch lifecycle, and because of their size, watches and other wearables are still difficult to control. We’re betting we’ll see more projects like this, which turns your arm into a touchscreen.
      5. Pinterest is doing some amazing design and user experience work to make their services more accessible to those with visual impairments. Improved UX for all users isn’t just a good idea, it’s good business.

Devices That Fold, A Really Different Way to Experience Email, and More in Five for Wednesday

Welcome to Five for Wednesday, CRT Labs’ long-running (since March 2014!) series of curated tech stories.


illustration of two origami birds


      1. Rumors of foldable phones and tablets have been floating around for some time now. And while tons of things are patented that don’t wind up being built, we might see foldable form factors sooner than we thought.
      2. Smart watches can tap your wrist to, say, tell you to make a left-hand turn at the next stop light. But what if taps on your arm could “read” you your email?
      3. Estimates of the cost of cybercrime and cyberattacks reach into the hundreds of billions of dollars, which is why Microsoft President Brad Smith has started a “digital Geneva Convention.
      4. GrayKey is a device that can reportedly crack Apple device passwords fairly easily and quickly. Apple will most likely defeat this soon, but stories like this are always a good time to review your password practices. This article on GrayKey has some great security tips towards the end.
      5. If facial recognition has you a bit freaked out, you might not want to know that identifying faces from thermal imagery may be just around the corner.