Google Updates Play Store Policies to Protect Android Users

Google has updated its developer Play Store policies with an aim toward tamping down intrusive ads and other unpleasant consumer experiences, such as VPN abuse and brand impersonation on Android. Full-screen interstitial ads of all formats (video, GIF, static, etc.) that display unexpectedly — that often lead to users engaging with something else — are forbidden effective September 22. Likewise, apps that allow ads at the beginning of a game level or during the beginning of a game content segment are on the robust list of infractions the Play Store will no longer tolerate. Continue reading Google Updates Play Store Policies to Protect Android Users

Apple Campaign Exposes Data Auctions as Privacy Concern

Apple has unleashed an ad campaign to raise consumer awareness of the features it has developed to mitigate the privacy risks associated with data brokers who market users’ mobile data, selling everything from browsing history to shopping habits, contacts and location data. The 90-second spot, running this summer on broadcast and social media in 24 countries, is conveniently timed as a message to global regulators who have Apple in its crosshairs for a closed ecosystem some say is anticompetitive. The ad extends messaging CEO Tim Cook initiated in 2018 with his “data industrial complex” speech. Continue reading Apple Campaign Exposes Data Auctions as Privacy Concern

Facebook’s Purchase of Giphy to Provide Valuable User Data

Facebook has acquired the GIF platform Giphy for $400 million. Giphy’s 100+ million active daily users send over 1 billion GIFs a day. Facebook stated that Giphy’s content database will be integrated into its apps including Instagram, although it didn’t state a timeframe. Since every social app offers at least some GIF integration, including many that rely on a GIF keyboard and Giphy’s database, Facebook’s purchase is both a competitive edge and another way to harvest the kind of data that attracts advertisers. Continue reading Facebook’s Purchase of Giphy to Provide Valuable User Data

Google Unveils an Internal System for Secure Remote Access

Google debuted BeyondCorp Remote Access, a cloud-based service allowing remote access of internal systems without using a virtual private network (VPN). With so many employees working from home during the coronavirus pandemic, Google said it has “heard repeatedly … that organizations need an easier way to provide access to key internal applications.” Based on a product built for internal use almost ten years ago, the system uses a “zero-trust approach,” which requires additional authentication before granting access. Continue reading Google Unveils an Internal System for Secure Remote Access

EU Presses Facebook for Documents Related to Competition

The European Commission’ antitrust probe into Facebook is now seeking internal documents related to allegations that Facebook suppressed competition by leveraging its own access to users’ data. EU investigators are also looking into changes Facebook made to software interfaces that enabled app developers to access data, as well as more information on Facebook’s use of Israeli VPN app Onavo it purchased in 2013. Facebook, which shut down Onavo last year, said it disclosed its data collection to users. Continue reading EU Presses Facebook for Documents Related to Competition

NSA Discovers Windows Vulnerability — and Tells Microsoft

The National Security Agency (NSA) discovered a vulnerability in versions of Windows and, instead of retaining it, reported it to Microsoft, which is now patching the flaw in its handling of certificate and cryptographic messaging functions. The vulnerability could have enabled attackers to use malicious code that would pretend to be legitimate software. Microsoft also warned all current users of Windows 7 Home Basic, Home Premium, Professional or Ultimate to upgrade immediately. Continue reading NSA Discovers Windows Vulnerability — and Tells Microsoft

Disney, Charter Ink Distribution Deal, Aim to Prevent Piracy

Disney and Charter Communications, which just inked a new distribution deal, also stated they have partnered to prevent the sharing of a single account among multiple people. The distribution deal, which involves Disney’s Hulu, ESPN Plus and the soon-to-debut Disney Plus, will let customers buy online services either through Disney or Charter’s Spectrum TV service. The deal will also allow Charter to carry Disney-owned TV channels, including ABC, FX, National Geographic and others, on its cable service. Continue reading Disney, Charter Ink Distribution Deal, Aim to Prevent Piracy

Apple Reinstates Kid Controls, App Developers File Lawsuit

Apple abruptly reversed a decision made a year ago to remove iPhone apps that use one of two technologies to allow parents to control their children’s use of Apple devices. The company revealed its move to allow parental controls in a short blog post on its website. The reversal comes on the heels of news that the Department of Justice and the Federal Trade Commission are scrutinizing Silicon Valley tech companies for antitrust behavior. App developers filed a lawsuit in California accusing Apple of monopolizing app distribution. Continue reading Apple Reinstates Kid Controls, App Developers File Lawsuit

Facebook Solicited Teens to Download Its Surveillance Tool

An investigation reveals that Facebook has been secretly paying users ages 13 to 35 since 2016 to install an iOS or Android “Facebook Research” app that gives the company access to all of their smartphone and Internet activity. The Research app is similar to Facebook’s Onavo Protect app that Apple banned in June and may also be a violation of Apple policy. Legislators on both sides of the aisle were infuriated at the news, decrying the surveillance technology. Facebook’s earlier Onavo app was also criticized as spyware.

Continue reading Facebook Solicited Teens to Download Its Surveillance Tool

WorkLink From AWS Enables Secure Mobile Intranet Access

Amazon’s AWS cloud computing unit has announced its new WorkLink service that promises to provide workers with simple and secure mobile access to all of their companies’ intranet sites and web apps. Since most companies typically use virtual private networks or mobile device management software for such remote access, AWS wants to replace the often expensive and complex use of these approaches with simple one-click access that employees should find similar to basic Internet browsing on their various devices. Continue reading WorkLink From AWS Enables Secure Mobile Intranet Access

Facebook Shared Private Data to Advance Its Own Interests

According to its 2017 internal records, Facebook shared users’ personal data with the world’s biggest tech firms, allowing them to circumvent privacy rules. By doing so, Facebook boosted its advertising revenue, partner companies enhanced their products with more features, and Facebook users were able to connect across websites and devices. For example, Facebook allowed Microsoft’s Bing search engine to see names of all its 2.2 billion global users without consent, and let Netflix and Spotify read users’ private messages. Continue reading Facebook Shared Private Data to Advance Its Own Interests

RCS Standard Will Bring Multimedia Capabilities to Messaging

SMS messaging is popular, be it Apple’s iMessage, Facebook Messenger or WhatsApp. But these messaging services aren’t interoperable: a Facebook user can’t use Messenger to reach someone on iMessage, for example. A solution is on the horizon with RCS — Rich Communication Services — an online protocol adopted by the GSM Association to replace SMS, and one that adds significant multimedia capabilities. The GSMA, a trade group that represents 750+ mobile operators and others in the mobile ecosystem, came up with Universal Profile, a standard that underlies RCS. Continue reading RCS Standard Will Bring Multimedia Capabilities to Messaging

Right to Be Forgotten Case Could Affect Borderless Internet

In early 2019, the European Union’s highest court will likely rule on a dispute between Google and French regulators on the right to be forgotten. In 2015, French regulators ordered Google to respect this right on all its sites worldwide — in other words, not just google.fr but also google.com. Google’s argument (and that of many other tech companies) is that this “right” not only menaces free speech but is an onus for private companies, encroaches on sovereignty and creates a range of other risks. Continue reading Right to Be Forgotten Case Could Affect Borderless Internet

Facebook Suspends Apps, Removes its Own From Apple Store

Facebook has suspended 400 apps, about double the number it previously said it removed due to “concerns around the developers who built them or how the information people chose to share with the app may have been used.” The company is now investigating these apps and developers. Elsewhere, after Apple ruled that Facebook’s data-security app violated its data collection policies, Facebook pulled the app from the store. Facebook used the app to track the competition and learn more about new product categories. Continue reading Facebook Suspends Apps, Removes its Own From Apple Store

Verizon’s VPN Product Protects Mobile Users on Public Wi-Fi

Verizon debuted a VPN (virtual private network) product, dubbed Safe Wi-Fi, marketed as a security measure for smartphone users who log onto public networks, as well as an ad-blocker. Public Wi-Fi networks can make it easy for advertisers and bad actors to track a user’s IP address, which the VPN will hide from public view. Safe Wi-Fi — available to Verizon customers on Android and iOS devices — is priced at $3.99 per month per account. Safe Wi-Fi can protect up to 10 devices on a single account. Continue reading Verizon’s VPN Product Protects Mobile Users on Public Wi-Fi