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Amazon is shutting down its ‘Underground Actually Free’ program that gives away free Android apps

Amazon is shutting down its ‘Underground Actually Free’ program that gives away free Android apps

Late on Friday, Amazon announced it will be shutting down its “Underground Actually Free” program, which offers customers free versions of Android apps that would typically cost money, including those that relied on in-app purchases but were otherwise free downloads. Though it promised long-term support when it debuted back in August 2015 , Amazon today says the “Actually Free” program will be fully discontinued in 2019.

Well, to be fair, in the tech world, four years is a long time.

At launch, the lineup then included several well-known gaming titles, like  Frozen Free Fall, Star Wars Rebels: Recon Missions, Angry Birds Slingshot Stella, Looney Tunes Dash!  and others. There are now more than 20,000 apps and games in Underground, the website now claims.

Amazon is shutting down its ‘Underground Actually Free’ program that gives away free Android apps

The larger idea with the program was to lure consumers over to Amazon’s own hardware, the Kindle Fire HD and Fire HDX tablets, where the Underground apps were available through Amazon’s built-in Android app store. However, the company also made its Underground apps available to other Android devices through a separate download of an Underground mobile app.

Of course, this app had to be downloaded directly from Amazon’s website, as Google doesn’t allow competing app store apps to be published to its app marketplace, Google Play.

Amazon then footed the bill for these “actually free” apps, but had come up with a novel way of compensating developers. Instead of directly eating the cost of the paid download, or paying for whichever in-game items a customer ended up using, Amazon would pay developers based on how long people used a certain app.

That’s a compensation scheme Amazon had tried before, with its  Kindle Unlimited subscription service, which paid royalties to writers based on how many pages people read .

At the time of the initial launch, Amazon said the “Actually Free” program wasn’t a “one-off” promotion, and the company was committed to the program “long-term.”

Amazon is shutting down its ‘Underground Actually Free’ program that gives away free Android apps

Today, however, that story has changed.

In a blog post , Amazon says it has since enabled new ways for developers to make money for their apps, including through the use of its virtual currency Amazon Coins, and by selling t-shirts featuring their games’ characters and imagery through Merch by Amazon . Beyond the support for these additional revenue streams, the company didn’t give any solid reasons as to why the program needed to be shut down.

“Actually Free” will be shuttered in stages, Amazon says. As of May 31, 2017, the company will no longer accept app submissions to the program, but existing participants will continue to be paid per their developer agreement.

Amazon will then end access to the Underground Actually Free store through its Appstore for Android app in summer 2017. The app itself will continue to function on Android devices, allowing customers to shop for physical goods, watch Prime Video and use their previously installed free apps. (The app was meant to serve as a combination app store and main app for shopping Amazon.)

Fire tablet customers also will be able to use their Underground apps and access the Actually Free store

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Crunch Report | Elon Musk’s Tunnel Vision Gets Rendered

Crunch Report | Elon Musk’s Tunnel Vision Gets Rendered

You are about to activate our Facebook Messenger news bot. Once subscribed, the bot will send you a digest of trending stories once a day. You can also customize the types of stories it sends you.

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City of Portland may subpoena Uber for details on Greyball program

City of Portland may subpoena Uber for details on Greyball program

The Rose City isn’t happy with Uber… again. After the company failed to turn over details on its deeply sketchy

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Military social network wants you to hire a vet for your next tech opening

Military social network wants you to hire a vet for your next tech opening

Veteran-focused social platform Sandboxx wants to pair its community members with experts who can ease their transition back into the workforce — and hopefully even land them a job.

Global firm Betts Recruiting will join the self-described “military media and technology company” to empower vets to seek careers in the tech industry and to demonstrate their unique value to potential employers.

“We can think of no better partner than Sandboxx to help connect some of our country’s greatest talent, active military and veterans, with leading, high-growth companies,” Carolyn Betts Fleming, CEO of Betts Recruiting , told TechCrunch. “Betts is proud to expand our ongoing commitment to help remove barriers so that more veterans gain access to these amazing opportunities. To better serve this community, we trained a team of recruiters to help veterans translate their military experience into valuable skillsets for tech sales.”

The initiative will manifest across Sandboxx’s network as push and in-app notifications and email newsletters that start a conversation around professional development topics, like perfecting your LinkedIn profile and honing interview skills.

Sandboxx founder and CEO Sam Meeks argues that vets bring a wide breadth of unique advantages to the table.

“A particular resiliency lives within today’s warfighter that transfers well into the tech space,” Meeks said. “With a sense of curiosity and duty to accomplish the mission, we see many veterans adapting military skills into the workplace.”

He contends that between their leadership experience and service, vets are actually ideally suited to the high pressure environment of many startups. According to Meeks, career data bears this out.

“The military creates a wide and deep spectrum of skills and leadership capability. We see 20 year Master Sergeants landing Chief of Staff positions, four year Airmen starting under data scientists to 12 year military spouse following a dream into a Lead Designer for a blog company. The U.S. Military is a remarkable melting pot of experience for the tech sector to tap.”

As Meeks explains, military structure actually allocates time for veterans to acquire the kind of skills that make for desirable talent among tech companies. “Successful transitions to civilian lifestyle begin with months, if not a year of preparation,” Meeks said. “The time needed to learn how to become a mobile engineer or refine enterprise sales talent is afforded to those making this leap out of cammies. It one of the most overlooked benefits of serving in our military.”

While vets might have independently built up their skillsets, Betts will offer consulting for the interview process in addition to working with hiring managers and potential hires to find an ideal career fit. Betts, which made a public commitment to veterans in November 2016, has already pursued veteran-specific partnerships with a handful of tech companies, including Everstring, MuleSoft, EatClub and Dynamic Signal.

Betts has started partnerships with a number of tech firms including Everstring, MuleSoft, EatClub, and Dynamic Signal to specifically recruit veterans to join their sales teams. According to the company, firms often hire veterans in Sales Development or Account Executive positions, both roles that “require

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Former NSA director explains why the spy agency will end a controversial surveillance technique

Former NSA director explains why the spy agency will end a controversial surveillance technique

Earlier today, the NSA announced its intentions to limit a surveillance technique that had a nasty side effect of sweeping up communications to and from Americans.

In a rare unprompted press statement , the NSA explained that it would halt “any upstream internet communications that are solely ‘about’ a foreign intelligence target,” restricting its surveillance to messages sent or received by foreign intelligence targets.

TechCrunch spoke with General Michael Hayden , former director of the NSA and CIA, about how the shift will be implemented and the reasoning behind the agency’s surprise decision.

TC: Will this significantly impact the quality of the NSA’s data collection on foreign targets?

Hayden: This will have an impact, I think marginal, on some foreign intelligence collection. It also reduces to zero the amount of inadvertent collection you do on Americans. We do that balancing all the time. They decided they were getting too much inadvertent collection… but you lose some legitimate collection as well.

TC: Why did the NSA have so much trouble complying with court rules?

Hayden: It’s routine due diligence, we do this all the time. I have been told there were court concerns about how much inadvertent collection was taking place. No one has blinders on, they know there’s going to be grand debate about this system. They’ve got an option here with marginal intelligence disadvantage to reduce how much it squeezes American privacy. Operational, political, legal — it all makes sense.

No one has blinders on, they know there’s going to be grand debate about this system. They’ve got an option here with marginal intelligence disadvantage to reduce how much it squeezes American privacy.

This does not affect something that will be contentious this summer. The stuff you will continue to collect, you can use a U.S. person identifier to query the data you’ve already collected. That will also be contentious.

I don’t think that’s right. The number of times you use a U.S. person query is easily retrievable. Incidental [collection] is “foreigner is in the conversation,” but there’s information to, from or about an American.

They didn’t know how much inadvertent [collection] they had unless you go back and look at every one. Wyden kept saying, how many? We said we don’t know…

TC: What does this mean for upstream data collection?

Hayden: What they’re going to do, they’ve got to have a selector for upstream to grab the email coming by and it has to be someone they believe is not an American and outside the U.S. Up until this point, they used the selector to check to see who the email was from or to, or if the selector was mentioned in the body of the email.

The problem they had was when you use the selector “about” in the body of the email, occasionally you will pick up a communication in which neither end is foreign, in which both ends are American. It’s inadvertent and it’s not authorized. When you discover it, you have to flush it from the system. Occasionally, when the foreign selector was in

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