Google tops in user’s digital rights protection, Facebook is way behind

Google tops in user's digital rights protection, Facebook is way behind

World’s top Internet companies and telcos rated on protection of users’ digital rights

How much does a tech company value your digital rights? The Ranking Digital Rights project has launched its first Corporate Accountability Index to find that out. For studying the digital rights given by tech companies, Ranking Digital Rights has including 16 leading Internet and telecommunications companies who were evaluated on the protection they offered their users’ digital rights. A total of 31 indicators were taken into account, in an attempt to rate each company’s policies and practices that affect users’ freedom of expression and privacy.

And the results are pretty dismal. Only six companies out of the 16 put to test, scored at least 50 percent of the total possible points to indicate that they have good digital protection mechanism. Out of the six, Google was a distant leader with the highest score of 65 percent. It is followed by Yahoo with 50 percent, Microsoft with 50 percent and Twitter making it at 50 percent.

The index shows that nearly half the companies in the Index scored less than 25 percent, “showing a serious deficit of respect for users’ freedom of expression and privacy,” according to the project.

Alongside Google, the other Internet companies were (in order of their ranking):

  • Yahoo (58 percent)
  • Microsoft (56)
  • Twitter (50)
  • South Korean mobile apps company Kakao (47)
  • Facebook (41)
  • Chinese giant Tencent (16 percent)
  • Russian Mail.Ru (13).

For the telecom companies the indexing is given below :

  • Vodafone had the highest score (54 percent)
  • AT&T (50)
  • Orange (37)
  • Mexican company América Móvil (22 percent)
  • MTN (18)
  • Bharti Airtel (17)
  • Axiata (16)
  • Etisalat (14)

In general, Internet companies fared better than the leading telecoms players, although the worst scores for both categories were about the same.

The Ranking Digital Rights has included 31 indicators three main categories:commitment, freedom of expression, and privacy. An extended research process was employed, but the local laws, regulations, and political situation were not included. As Ranking Digital Rights writes: “the Index evaluates companies on what they do or don’t do, regardless of the reason. However, narrative profiles for each company include an analysis of how the company’s home jurisdiction’s legal, regulatory, and political environment may have affected its score.”

The project hopes the ranking will prove to be a “a powerful tool for investors, consumers, policymakers, and companies themselves to identify best practices.” In addition, Ranking Digital Rights provides a chance to the companies who are lagging in the Index to make it up and provide suitable protection to the users in future.

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Upgraded Firefox Private Browsing has Tracking Protection

Upgraded Firefox Private Browsing has Tracking Protection

Firefox brings its tracking-resistant private browsing for Windows, Mac, iOS and Android

We have reported earlier that most browsers actually track user data even when they are using the private browsing or incognito browsing mode in their current web browser. Google’s Chrome does it and Mozilla’s Firefox does it.  The private browsing mode will get rid of your history and cookies, but it won’t prevent cross-site trackers from getting a whiff of what you are surfing online.

Now you dont have to worry about as Mozilla has released a finished version of Firefox with its promised stricter Private Browsing mode. After you switch on the Private Browsing mode, Mozilla says that you’ll get additional tracking protection that blocks code from those ads and social services that follow you from site to site. The new browser also has a central control panel on the desktop for managing privacy and security, including the option to turn tracking protection off if it’s breaking an important page.

The new browser comes with many new features. Desktop users now have a one-click option to mute audio in tabs, much your friends using Chrome. On Android, you can get both direct voice searching from the address bar as well as kid-safe browsing on a tablet’s restricted profile.

You can download the upgraded Firefox which is available now on all platforms, especially if you are a private person and dont like the browsers snooping on your Internet history.

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Snapchat just reserved rights to use and distribute all photos taken with the app

Snapchat just reserved rights to use and distribute all photos taken with the app

Snapchat now owns all the rights for all the images you take with its App

Snapchat has been steadily gaining popularity among smartphone users for is destroy-able messages. While it has been providing secure image and video messaging between friends and dear one, it has not been without its share of controversy.

A unique feature of Snapchat is its ability to send messages with a short duration and then making it destroy itself after the user views it. This ability makes most users feel more relaxed with the content they share, due to the notion that the image will not be misused by anybody.

Well, that is going to change now as Snapchat has now introduced a reworked privacy policy and terms of service, giving firm rights to photos sent through the application.

As a user of the service, you give Snapchat the right to:

[…] host, store, use, display, reproduce, modify, adapt, edit, publish, create derivative works from, publicly perform, broadcast, distribute, syndicate, promote, exhibit, and publicly display that content in any form and in any and all media or distribution methods (now known or later developed).

Taking the new privacy by its face value means that Snapchat now owns all your images you take through its App. With this new policy, Snapchat is now able to use content sent through the app to promote its service, and distribute it among the public. While it is unclear how future plans have shaped this policy, this still shows a change in stance, in regards to user privacy.

FTC had earlier found fault with Snapchat service and has accused it of deceiving customers, by stating that images sent through the app would “disappear forever”. The FTC found that images could easily be extracted from the service and saved, regardless of their expiry stamp.

With the new privacy policy, FTC’s accusations rings true.

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Facebook Accused of Secretly Backing Controversial CISA bill

Facebook Accused of Secretly Backing Controversial CISA bill

Privacy group says Facebook quietly supporting CISA

The whole world is watching with bated breath as the US congress debates on the new Cyber Information Sharing Act (CISA). CISA, which is sponsored by North Carolina Republican Richard Burr, will be bringing a whole new mechanism for cyber security.

Facebook is seen to be opposing CISA though it has not yet gone on record either for or against it.  But a digital privacy group Fight for the Future says that Facebook has been quietly supporting it, crediting several anonymous sources on Capitol Hill.

“Sources on the Hill tell us that Facebook lobbyists are welcoming CISA behind closed doors,” Fight for the Future co-founder Tiffiniy Cheng wrote in a Saturday blog post.

Jeff Lyon, CTO of Fight for the Future made a a Reddit post denouncing Facebook for its two faced stand on CISA,  “Multiple sources on the hill have reported that Facebook is THE tech company lobbying in favor of CISA, several offices have heard from Facebook that they support CISA.”

A Facebook spokeperson told SCMagazine in a Monday email the company has “not been advocating privately or publicly for CISA.” The spokesperson questioned the report’s validity, while confirming Facebook has not issued a public statement for or against CISA.

Facebook belongs to the Computer and Communications Industry Association (CCIA), a trade association that opposes CISA. But “CCIA does not speak for us on this issue,” the Facebook spokesperson noted. “We are not taking a position on the bill.”

Edward Snowden tweeted about the report Sunday, calling Facebook “shameful.”

Despite all the efforts, the CISA looks to be sailing through the senate. The Senate voted 83–14 to end debates on the amendments for CISA last Thursday, and is scheduled for a final vote today, where it is expected to pass.

The proposed law puts DHS in charge of these new data collection powers. But it also gives Homeland Security the power to share that data with “any Federal agency or department, component, officer, employee, or agent of the Federal Government.” That could include law enforcement bodies like the FBI and ATF, intelligence agencies like the CIA and NSA, or even the U.S. Department of Agriculture if DHS thought it necessary. It could even include private contractors hired by federal agencies.

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Worried about privacy, forget Google and try these search engines

Worried about privacy, forget Google and try these search engines

3 Search Engines that don’t track user data like Google

Google is the ultimate search engine? Wrong, there are plenty of search engines that offer you same search results if not better. But due to the vast scale of Google, when you need to get information or find something online, chances are you go to Google. However, Google has one big flaw. It traces your browsing history and has been in limelight for it user data scraping methods. It saves your search history, scans your Gmail, tracks your location, keeps everything you say to “OK Google,” and a lot more. If you are using Google, than, Google probably knows a lot better of your digital habits than yourself.

Google tracks user data so that it can serve ads that are targeted just for you. Google says, it also saves data to give you better search results  which may be quite true. Though Google allows users to opt out of Google’s interest based ads and lets you delete your search history, it still saves enough user data to create a digital profile.

If you are a privacy oriented person or just dont want anybody to sniff your digital life, you can try these three alternative search engines which guarantee privacy to their users.

1. DuckDuckGo

First in the list is DuckDuckGo. DuckDuckGo has now grown into a solid Google replacement. It doesn’t track user data or target your IP address or search history. The search engine deployed by DuckDuckGo uses nifty algorithms and calculations you’ve come to expect on Google and give you a good search result. You can also customize its interface, with search shortcuts and an Instant Answers feature that’s just as good as, if not better than,Google’s Knowledge Graph. You can also make DuckDuckGo an extension of your browser and activate more privacy settings to keep your search history as protected as possible.

2. Yippy

Yippy is a new kid on the block that offers you total privacy in your Internet search. It automatically detects and blocks adult content, including pornography, gambling sites, sex product sites and other websites that are not appropriate for kids.

Plus, the site protects your privacy. It will not collect personally identifiable information about you, like your name, telephone number, address and email address. On the flip side, it may collect anonymous information about your IP address. It also uses cookies, which it claims does not track your personal behavior.

3. Ixquick

Ixquick is the latest entrant in the private search engines space. Its USP is that it concentrates totally on giving your very discreet search results. In fact, it calls itself the world’s most private search site. It doesn’t record your IP address, browser information or search history, so advertisers can’t track you.

It also gives you the privacy of searching via proxy, so the sites you visit don’t even know your real IP address. This is similar to Tor, but without the hassle of setting it up. Ixquick has relatively good user interface and it’s proxy option gives you the most online privacy. It may slow down your searches, but when you select “proxy,” Ixquick makes you invisible online.

It furnishes search results with three options to the Internet user. When you use Ixquick to search for “Techworm.” Your search results will look similar to Google’s, with a list of websites that match your search, but each result has three options:

• Click on a link and it takes you to a page as normal, meaning the website can see you.

• Choose “Highlight” just to see the basics of a site to decide if you actually want to visit it.

• Click “Proxy” and you will remain anonymous to the site you’re visiting. The site will see Ixquick’s IP address, not yours. Just note that it will slow down the site a little.

The above three search engines offer the maximum privacy in your search results. If you know any other search engine that offers privacy kindly mention the same in the comments.

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Google’s OK Google/Voice Search listens and stores your voice, here is how to delete it

Google's OK Google/Voice Search tool listens and records your voice, here is how to delete it

This is how to delete your voice recordings stored by OK Google tool and Google Voice Search

It is no secret that Google is not just listens to your voice searches, but the search giant also records and stores every single voice search you make on a Google server. Evidently the company secretly stores its users’ searches from its voice-activated assistant Google’s Voice Search, OK Google and search feature Google Now. This stored data is than used by the Google algorithm to churn out relevant advertisements to you and also improve its search feature.

You will be shocked at the list of all the recordings Google has ever made of you. You can listen to your own voice recording by visiting your “Voice & Audio Activity” page in the Google Dashboard and you will find a list of all the voice searches you have made.

Alex Hern of The Guardian’s first noticed this Voice & Audio Activity feature and decided to give it a spin. Alex admits to feeling a little shocked at the volume of his data that Google has logged in.

Luckily you can delete all your stored Voice Records

Luckily for use, Google has made attempts to be transparent about the data it collects. As with the location history, showing users any location the company has tracked them to, through apps such as Google Maps as well as simply using an Android phone, Google has also made you the boss of your voice recordings by giving you access to the Voice and Audio Activity page.
Here is how to delete the voice recordings. Log in to your Google account, head on to your archive of Google Now sessions and then open up the page for your ‘Voice and Audio Activity.’
This is how to delete your voice recordings stored by OK Google tool and Google Voice Search
Check if Voice and Audio Activity is turned ON. Under the menu you will find a list of all the voice commands you have made to Google Now,/OK Google or Voice Search along with the PLAY button next to each one of them for you to listen to.
From there, select one or more or all of the recordings from the Checkbox, and hit “delete” button at the top of your system’s screen. Once deleted, your voice recordings will no longer be available either to you or Google.
If you want, you can also turn OFF Voice and Audio Activity on your Google account. Do remeber, turning off the voice and audio authority doesnt stop Google from recording your voice. If you are privacy conscious, never use Google Now, Voice Search and OK Google feature.
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WhatsApp messages can be deleted says Indian government after public uproar

WhatsApp exempted by Indian Government from purview of draft encryption policy

Public outcry compels Indian government to remove WhatsApp, social media from purview of draft encryption policy

The Indian government had earlier put forward a proposal to keep a check on every message that an individual would send via WhatsApp, SMS, or Google Hangouts. According to that, the government required storing of all encrypted messages, including SMSes and emails, sent from any mobile device or computer mandatory for 90 days under the New Encryption Policy.

Following public outcry over investigation and compulsory storing of messages, the Modi government yesterday issued clarification that social media websites like WhatsApp, Twitter, Facebook and applications will be exempted from the purview of the Encryption Policy.

There are certain categories of encryption products that will be exempted from the purview of the draft national encryption policy, according to the draft posted by The Department of Electronics and Information Technology (DeitY).

A proposed addendum to the policy posted on the department’s website said that the mass-use encryption products, which are currently being used in web applications, social media sites, and social media applications such as WhatsApp, Facebook, Twitter etc. are being exempted from the purview of the draft National Encryption Policy.
Also, banking transactions, payment gateways as well as password protected e-commerce businesses will be exempted from the purview of this policy.

The following categories of encryption products are being exempted from the purview of the draft national encryption policy:

1. The mass use encryption products, which are currently being used in web applications, social media sites, and social media applications such as Whatsapp, Facebook, Twitter, etc.

2. SSL/TLS encryption products being used in Internet-banking and payment gateways as directed by the Reserve Bank of India.

3. SSL/TLS encryption products being used for e-commerce and password based transactions.

The draft of New Encryption Policy proposes that users of encrypted messaging service on demand should reproduce same text, transacted during a communication, in plain format before law enforcement agencies. The draft also implied that there may be punishment associated with the deletion of WhatsApp communication for 90 days.

The proposed policy, issued by the DeitY would be applicable on everyone including citizens, government departments, academic institutions, and for all kind of personal or official communications.

As per the draft, “all citizens including personnel of Government / Business (G/B) performing non-official / personal functions, are required to store the plaintexts of the corresponding encrypted information for 90 days from the date of transaction and provide the verifiable Plain Text to Law and Enforcement Agencies as and when required as per the provision of the laws of the country.”

“On demand, the user shall be able to reproduce the same Plain text and encrypted text pairs using the software / hardware used to produce the encrypted text from the given plain text. Such plain text information shall be stored by the user/organisation/agency for 90 days from the date of transaction and made available to Law Enforcement Agencies as and when demanded in line with the provisions of the laws of the country,” it adds.

“All vendors of encryption products shall register their products with the designated agency of the government. While seeking registration, the vendors shall submit working copies of the encryption software / hardware to the Government along with professional quality documentation, test suites and execution platform environments. The vendors shall work with the designated Government Agencies in security evaluation of their encryption products,” the draft adds.

All the modern messaging services basically like WhatsApp, Google Chat, Viber, Yahoo Messenger, Line etc, come with high level of encryption and many a time the law enforcement agencies find it hard to access the encrypted information.

In the event, the user has communicated with foreigner or entity abroad, then it would be the primary responsibility of the user in the country to provide with readable plain text along with the corresponding encrypted information.

According to the draft, apart from this all service providers situated within and outside India that use encryption technology must register themselves with the government that provide any type of services in India.

The draft proposes to introduce the New Encryption Policy under section 84 A of Information Technology Act 2000. This section was introduced through amendment in 2008.

The sub-section 84 C that was also introduced through the amendment has provision of imprisonment for violation of the act.

“Encryption products may be exported but with prior intimation to the designated agency of Government of India. Users in India are allowed to use only the products registered in India. Government reserves the right to take appropriate action as per Law of the country for any violation of this Policy,” the draft said.

Arun Sukumar, Head, Cyber Initiative, said “Having a draft on issue is a welcome step. It looks at everything with prism of law enforcemnnt. It will create a license raj. There is very much concern around privacy of citizen. The policy wants messages to be given on demand. If my private information is sought by government, it should be done through courts.”

As netizens, you can send in your opinion and comments to [email protected] until 16 October, 2015.

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Siri/Cortana listening posts for Apple/Microsoft and their marketeers

Siri/Cortana listening posts for Apple/Microsoft and their marketeers

Invasion of Privacy by Siri and Cortana brought out in open

“Everything you’ve ever said to Siri/Cortana has been recorded…and I get to listen to it” says an employee of Walk N’Talk Technologies

A Redditor, FallenMyst today stated the obvious on a Reddit thread, people other than the users can easily hear what the user says to Siri and Cortana and in all probability may use it to harm the user in long run.

FallenMyst stated in the thread that he had just joined a tech firm, Walk N’Talk Technologies where he got to listen into the sound bytes, match it with what is said in an audio click and then give the feedback about the quality to his bosses.

I started a new job today with Walk N’Talk Technologies. I get to listen to sound bites and rate how the text matches up with what is said in an audio clip and give feedback on what should be improved.

So far so good for FallenMyst because he thought that the sound bytes being given to him for benchmarking may be random. However he noticed a pattern in the voice samples and realised that they were sound samples of users giving voice commands to their smartphones using either Apple’s Siri or Microsoft’s Cortana.

Hearing the personal communications from users which is not supposed to heard by anyone other than the user and Siri/Cortana put FallenMyst in a moral dilemma.

“Soon, I realized that I was hearing peoples commands given to their mobile devices. Guys, I’m telling you, if you’ve said it to your phone, it’s been recorded…and there’s a damn good chance a 3rd party is going to hear it, FallenMyst states on the thread.

It seems that whatever that a users says to Siri/Cortana is being recorded and saved in the clouds and is available for listening to an unwanted third party.

Though it may be innocent stuff like “Siri, do you like me?” but in the end, a unwanted person is hearing a personal communication meant to be for Siri/Cortana’s ears only.

“I heard everything from kiddos asking innocent things like “Siri, do you like me?” to some guy asking Galaxy to lick his bxxxxxe. I wish I was kidding,” FallenMyst states.

Further, if such information is indeed being store by Apple and/or Microsoft, did they obtain users explicit permission to store it. Can Apple/Microsoft guarantee that such personal communications are not used by it/breached by hackers and used against the user.  Sometimes, innocent stuff can land you in a soup.

The post has already received a thousand upvotes on Reddit since it was posted an hour ago.  Many redditors have given their views and comments on the post. Some of the top comments are given below :

[–]mjrbac0n 1 point 55 minutes ago
“It’s helps pay for the device, like commercials.” Once the sound waves leave your mouth, you don’t own them anymore anyway.

[–]TheGreenJedi1 point

So i have a quick question OP,

If I remember some similar articles about this stuff happening the data is scrubbed of name and location and many other details, it’d be pretty hard for it to get traced back to a user in regards to the sexting.

Is that true?

Voice Commands are only going to get better through the work your doing at “Walk N’Talk Technologies.” So I’m really not surprised. I consider it my duty to future generations to help this technology work. I’m slightly surprised at the number of people using it for sexting though.

[–]jpgray1 point

Pretty interesting. I wonder if there’s going to be court cases in the near future on this sort of thing & stuff like the samsung TVs and xbox kinect recording people unwittingly. I don’t care what terms of use you agree to when you buy your device, people aren’t knowingly giving consent to this level of monitoring and it’s definitely an invasion of privacy.

Redditor jpgray has a point there, perhaps Apple and Microsoft should get ready for a class action suit for invasion of privacy and breach of trust!

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Snapchat launches ‘Snapchat Safety Center’ for advising parents on image abuse

Snapchat launches ‘Snapchat Safety Center’ for advising parents on image abuse

‘Snapchat Safety Center’ Snapchat’s new feature to help parents

With the Snappening still fresh on its mind, Snapchat has launched a new feature for its App users which is specifically targeted for image abuse victims, their parents and teachers. Called ‘Snapchat Safety Center,’ the feature will give advise parents who feel that their children’s Snapchat messages or messages are being abused in way.

Back in October, cyber criminals had managed to hack into a 3rd party Snapchat addon and leaked 13 gigs of images on 4Chan. The images database was thought to be full of pictures of minors sharing their intimate moments with their same aged friends. 4Chan mods quickly deleted the Snappening post but not before it was shared and reposted. The 13 gigs database eventually landed on torrent websites and was among the top downloaded torrents for some time.

Though Snapchat was not connected with the hack other than being used for sending and receiving the destructible messages, it was panned by users all over the world for lax security guidelines for 3rd party Apps.

Snapchat has now taken a lead towards protecting children from image abuse and offering guidance and practical advice to the affected parents by opening the ‘Snapchat Safety Center’.

Announcing the launch on its website, Snapchat said that it had partnered with experts like ConnectSafely, UK Safer Internet Center and iKeepSafe. Snapchat states that,

“Snapchat is a fast, fun way to share moments with friends and family. Most of our community uses Snapchat every day, so it isn’t surprising that parents and teachers regularly ask us for advice. When it came to building our safety center, we partnered with experts.

Together with our safety advisory board, some of the world’s leading safety advocates, we have developed guides for staying safe while using Snapchat. Within our safety center parents, teachers, and Snapchatters can find safety tips, research, and resources.

Safety is a shared responsibility. If you need assistance, please contact Team Snapchat through our Abuse and Safety center.”

If you are concerned parent, you can be a part of the Snapchat Safety Center by visiting the Abuse and Safety Center. You can watch the video released by Snapchat to give you a clear picture of how Abuse and Safety Center will help you :

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“Deep Dense Face Detector” a breakthrough in face detection

“Deep Dense Face Detector” a breakthrough in face detection

Deep Dense Face Detector can spot you in a crowd of million

It’s quite often difficult to recognise and pick up faces from crowd. But making the computers to do the same is too much difficult as the system had to be programmed in such usual manner so that it can recognise it correctly.

Researches are going on and still much had to be done to make it more effective and efficient. But researchers from Yahoo Labs and Stanford University have developed an algorithm that can identify faces from various different angles, when part of the face is hidden including upside down and partially occluded .

The new algorithm has been named Deep Dense Face Detector and was presented on Tuesday by the two researchers, Sachin Farfade and Mohammad Saberian.

The algorithm  for such type of detector system was built on the Viola-Jones algorithm which spots front-facing people in images by picking out key facial features such as a vertical nose and shadows around the eyes.

At present the computers can only detect pretty straight faces, in fact, the systems cant even detect and identify the person or image if it is obscured or looking in various directions leave alone upside down. So to cope up with this issue Farfade and his team used a form of machine learning known as a deep convolutional neural network.  This network involves training a computer to recognise elements of images from a database using various layers.

Looking few months back, Google had used a similar technique for its recent GoogLeNet classification algorithm that can identify images within images, such as a dog wearing a cap sitting on the bench.

Mr Farfade trained his algorithm using a database of 200,000 images featuring faces shown at various angles and orientations, plus 20 million images that didn’t contain faces.

The researches describe that “face detection is getting attracted by many people day by day and to make it simpler and better, we had lot to do.”

And, the team said the technology could be improved following further training.

Since this is  going to be a is good news for all of the cloud providers and social networks that trade in images and for businesses like Facebook, Instagram and Imgur.  The Deep Face tool used by Facebook also uses a neural network technique to help recognise users in photos. Its algorithm identifies faces ‘as accurately as a human’ and uses a 3D model to virtually rotate faces so they are facing the camera.

In the model, the team used a neural network that had been trained on a database of faces to try and match the face with one in a test database of more than 4 million images, containing more than 4,000 separate identities, each one labelled by humans.

The Facebook Deep Face tool feature has now started appearing in the privacy settings of accounts during tagging. But the feature is not available to all and it is still in its infancy.

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