Author: Brianne Garrett


Hotspot Shield VPN accused of violating users’ privacy


The VPN service Hotspot Shield is being accused of violating web traffic policies. 

Screenshot by Brianne Garrett/CNET

The free virtual private networking service Hotspot Shield has been accused of violating its own privacy policies[1] by the Center for Democracy & Technology[2] (CDT), a nonprofit advocacy group for consumer privacy rights. 

In a 14-page filing[3], the CDT has requested that the Federal Trade Commission investigate Hotspot for engaging in “unfair and deceptive trade practices” by interfering with web traffic and redirecting it to partner websites like advertising companies. 

One reason that consumers sign up for VPN services like Hotspot is to shield their browsing habits from internet service providers and other online entities that broker user data, or to access services that ISPs — or host nations — otherwise block. But the VPN effectively has access to the same data that it’s shielding from the outside Web. 

As noted in the filing, Hotspot Shield CEO David Gorodyansky previously stated to the Huffington Post[4] that the company’s policy was to “never log or store user data.” 

Hotspot Shield could not be reached for comment. 

Read more about this story[5] at our sister publication, ZDNet.


  1. ^ own privacy policies (
  2. ^ Center for Democracy & Technology (
  3. ^ 14-page filing (
  4. ^ stated to the Huffington Post (
  5. ^ more about this story (

Samsung Galaxy S8 Active Release Date, Price and Specs


The S8 Active is a more durable version of the existing S8.


The Galaxy Note 8 is expected to be unveiled on August 23 at an event in New York City. In the meantime, though, fans of Samsung phones can feast their eyes on the all-new Galaxy S8 Active[1], a more ruggedized version of the Galaxy S8[2] released earlier this year.

To say the official announcement of the S8 Active was expected would be an understatement. In addition to being widely leaked[3] in the past few weeks, the Active-branded spinoff of Samsung’s mainstream flagship offering has been a mainstay for the past several years (see the previous S5, S6, and S7 Active phones). 

As with those past Active models, the S8 Active largely has the identical features of its baseline model — 5.8-inch AMOLED screen, the Bixby personal assistant and a single 12-megapixel rear camera — but is housed in a more rugged metal body that’s compliant with the MIL-STD-810G specification for water, dust and shock resistance. It also features a more capacious 4,000 mAh battery, compared with the standard S8’s 3,000 mAh version. (Exact dimensions and weight aren’t yet available.)

To that end, we’ll be keen to test the S8 Active’s water resistance. Initially, a small batch of S7 Active models didn’t survive[4] when Consumer Reports (and later CNET) plunged them underwater. The company later identified and fixed the problem[5], which our follow-up tests verified[6]

The S8 Active, available in meteor gray or titanium gold, will be available exclusively in the US through AT&T (at least initially) starting on August 11, with preorders available as of August 8. It’s available for 30 monthly installments of $28.34, or about $850. Additional deals related to the S8 Active — including bundles with the standard S8 and discounts on Samsung TVs — are available at AT&T’s website[7]


  1. ^ all-new Galaxy S8 Active (
  2. ^ Galaxy S8 (
  3. ^ widely leaked (
  4. ^ didn’t survive (
  5. ^ identified and fixed the problem (
  6. ^ follow-up tests verified (
  7. ^ AT&T’s website (

Smart NFC food packages might be coming to a store near you


NFC technology would allow you to access product information with the tap of your smartphone. 

Active & Intelligent Packaging Industry Association

Smart packaging might be heading to a grocery store near you, allowing you to access details about your food with a tap of your smartphone. 

The NFC Forum[1] — responsible for creating short-range wireless interactions — announced[2] it has partnered with the Active & Intelligent Packaging Industry Association (AIPIA) to create interactive tags and labels for food and other consumer products, allowing you to instantly read information on your smartphone before your purchase. 

You’re probably familiar with this NFC[3] technology that’s often used for e-tickets and wireless charging, especially since it’s supported by most phones. There’s packaging that already has QR-codes, but NFC technology wouldn’t require an app or scanning, the data is just tap-and-receive. 

According to AIPIA, incorporating this new technology into packaging allows for, “growth, enhanced efficiency and security, reduced waste and better control in sales and marketing.” But, despite the hype, there’s no firm word as to when this technology will officially hit the market, or what food brands will support it. 


  1. ^ NFC Forum (
  2. ^ announced (
  3. ^ NFC (

HP dresses up its VR backpacks for business


HP calls the Z VR backpack the world’s first professional wearable VR PC. 


HP is launching what it calls the world’s first professional virtual reality[1] wearable, in the form of a convenient portable backpack.

With the new HP Z VR Backpack, you can avoid the usual VR hassle of cords and wires — since you’re actually wearing the computer. It’s complete with battery, ports and the right PC parts for VR creation. The PC, a very flat-looking mini-desktop, slides right into the backpack harness, and the whole thing weighs around 10 pounds (4.5 kg). 

The company is no stranger to VR backpacks. Back in 2016 it launched the HP Omen X VR backpack[2], a consumer version — like other VR backpacks we’ve tried[3], it was kinda ridiculous. 

Now, with the Z VR backpack, there’s a business version HP says is ideal for employee training, simulations and more immersive customer experiences, according to the company’s press release.[4] It features the latest Intel Core i7 processor and 16GB of memory.

When you no longer want to wear your computer, there’s a docking system[5] that lets you transition back to the desktop.


  1. ^ virtual reality (
  2. ^ HP Omen X VR backpack (
  3. ^ other VR backpacks we’ve tried (
  4. ^ the company’s press release. (
  5. ^ docking system (

Airbnb guest files lawsuit after alleged sexual assault by host


Airbnb is named in a sexual assault lawsuit. 

Carl Court, Getty Images

An Airbnb[1] guest is suing the home-rental company for failing to conduct a thorough screening of a host she says attacked her during a stay at his property.  

Leslie Lapayowker alleges she was sexually assaulted by Carlos Del Olmo when she stayed at the studio apartment attached to his Los Angeles home in July 2016, according to a lawsuit filed in San Francisco Superior Court. In the suit, Lapayowker says Del Olmo made inappropriate comments, was taking drugs and demanded that she engage in sexual activity with him. He also grabbed Lapayowker, kissed her and exposed himself, according to the suit.

The lawsuit says Airbnb neglected its responsibility to screen Del Olmo closely, which may have prevented the assault. Del Olmo, who had been given Airbnb’s “superhost” status, was arrested in 2013 for domestic violence but avoided prosecution by taking anger management classes, according to the lawsuit. 

Airbnb says it conducts background checks and cleared Del Olmo because he hadn’t been convicted of a crime in the 2013 incident. The company runs background checks on all hosts and guests, and pays special attention to terrorist watch lists, felony convictions, sex offender registries and “significant misdemeanors.” The policy is noted on their website[2]

Del Olmo couldn’t be reached for comment. Teresa Li, Lapayowker’s attorney, didn’t return calls seeking comment.

This isn’t the first time Airbnb has had problems with its hosts[3]. Earlier this month, an Airbnb host agreed to pay $5,000 after turning away a guest because she was Asian American. The host was also required by California’s Department of Fair Employment and Housing to take a college-level course in Asian-American studies. 

The suit file Thursday appears to be the first time Airbnb has been involved in a sexual assault case and raises questions about what the company’s legal responsibilities are in vetting hosts and guests.

Lapayowker pressed charges against Del Olmo after the incident in 2016. Law enforcement officials determined there wasn’t enough evidence to move forward. 

The allegations, however, prompted Aibnb to ban Del Olmo from its site. 

“The abhorrent behavior described has no place in our community and we will not tolerate it,” Nick Shapiro, Airbnb’s global head of trust and risk management, said in a statement on Friday. “We have been trying to support [Lapayowker] in any way we can.”

Virtual reality 101: CNET tells you everything you need to know about VR.[4]

CNET en Español: Get all your tech news and reviews in Spanish.[5]


  1. ^ Airbnb (
  2. ^ website (
  3. ^ problems with its hosts (
  4. ^ Virtual reality 101 (
  5. ^ CNET en Español (