Category Archives: Security

Uber Announces New Safety Features

Uber Announces New Safety Features

Uber riders will hopefully be able to feel a little bit safer with Uber’s newly announced additional safety features.

A post in Uber’s Newsroom outlines Uber’s plans for making their ridesharing service safer for everyone. One new feature they describe is a centralized safety area in the app. Riders will be able to access these safety features on the home screen during a ride, so they won’t have to hunt around for safety tips and assistance.

Riders were already able to use their Share My Trip feature, which lets them message contacts to tell them they’re using Uber and to link them to a map of their ride. But according to Uber’s post, they will also be letting riders add “Trusted Contacts” they can choose from when sharing their status. They’ll be able to add as many as five people to notify about rides. This simply makes things quicker and easier. Also, users will be able to change their settings to a kind of night mode that specifically alerts people about ride statuses when someone is using Uber at night.

Uber also announced they would be adding a new Safety Center. This area of the app will give information about how to stay safe. Uber worked with law enforcement and other organizations to put together this information.

A huge part of the new features involves making 911 calls. Uber will soon be adding a button users can press to be connected with 911, making the process a little quicker during an emergency. And when using this feature, you’ll see exactly where you are. They’re also testing a feature that will automatically send location information to 911, as well as working to make 911 communication quicker and more efficient.

They also mention they’ll soon be making driver screening a little more intense. Uber already had screenings in place, but now they plan to rescreen drivers every year and work to find out sooner about new criminal issues with drivers. On top of all of this, they’re working on their Safety Advisory Board.

In the past, there have been stories of dangerous situations that occurred during Uber rides. Since strangers are riding in vehicles with each other, there’s bound to be some risk involved for both drivers and riders. Uber’s previous safety features were helpful, but their newest features will hopefully make the process smoother when protecting yourself during a ride. And with more driver screenings, perhaps some dangerous situations can be avoided altogether.

For more about Uber’s safety plans, take a look at their news article.

Instagram Adds New Features & Will Let You Download Data

Instagram Adds New Features & Will Let You Download Data

Instagram has been in the news very recently for their newest updates and for a recent announcement. Instagram users will now be able to use some new features, and they’ll also soon be able to download copies of their entire data history.

Reuters reports that Instagram, which is part of Facebook Inc, will soon let its users download their data. This announcement comes while Facebook is dealing with the fallout of the Cambridge Analytica scandal (which you can learn more about in my recent articles “Third-Party Data on Social Media” and “Facebook and Its Data Scandal”). Because of the mishandling of their data, Facebook users (and users of many different social media platforms) have become much more concerned with how their data is being used. This has led to many updates from Facebook on how third-party apps and user data will be handled. And now Instagram has joined in with their plans.

Reuters reports that Instagram users will be able to download data like photos, videos, and messages. There’s currently no word on when this tool will be made available.

Meanwhile, Instagram has added some new features. According to TechCrunch, Instagram’s new update includes a new filter called Focus. Focus is a portrait mode that can be used in Instagram’s camera to take both photos and videos. It blurs the background of a portrait photo, making the subject of the photo stand out more sharply. This style was previously available in other apps and on certain phones. With Instagram’s Focus feature, though, more people will be able to take portrait photos.

They’ve also added stickers for mentions, says TechCrunch. This feature is currently rolling out for people using iOS. Instead of simply tagging someone using text, you’ll now be able to tag them using a sticker. This makes Instagram posts a little more customizable and fun. It’s not clear when everyone will gain access to these stickers.

Amazon in the News

Amazon in the News

As is often the case, Amazon has appeared in the news quite a bit recently. Much of their recent news has had to do with updates to their devices, though their services have been updated, as well. Specifically, their Fire tablets, Echo speakers, and Amazon Key delivery service have seen some changes. Here’s a rundown of what you might have missed!

Fire 7 and HD 8 users can now access Alexa hands-free

Users of Amazon’s current Fire 7 and Fire HD 8 will now have easier access to Alexa. Older devices can already use Alexa by pressing a specific area on their screen, but CNET is reporting that these newer models of the Fire tablet won’t need to be tapped on to wake Alexa. If the tablet’s screen is on or if it’s charging, you’ll be able to wake Alexa. This adds a little convenience, making Alexa a hands-free helper on certain tablets.

You can now have every Echo in your home repeat audio messages

If you have multiple Echo devices in your home, you may appreciate Amazon’s recent update. Mashable is reporting that you can now broadcast from one Echo device to all of your others. You simply have to use one of the triggers, including “Alexa, tell everyone to […]” “Alexa, announce […]” or “Alexa, broadcast […]” and then every other Echo device will announce what you’ve said. Even if you only have one Echo, this could be useful, because you can trigger an announcement through the Alexa app on your phone or tablet.

Fire parental controls can now be changed remotely

If you have kids who use an Amazon tablet with FreeTime, you no longer have to adjust settings on the tablet itself. The Verge has reported that Amazon now has a Parent Dashboard that allows people to change parental controls from a computer or phone. You can also use this feature to check up on what your kids are doing, taking a look at what apps they’ve been using, looking at their activity, and more. The Verge also mentions this is only available for parents whose children are using the kid-oriented versions of Amazon’s Fire tablets.

More smart locks will now work with Amazon’s delivery service

If you use Amazon Key (or are thinking about using it), you now have more options and features. According to Digital Trends, there are now five more smart locks you can use with Amazon Key, giving your more choices with the service. You may remember hearing about Amazon Key—it’s Amazon’s delivery service that has their delivery drivers bring your packages inside by using your installed smart lock. Digital Trends also notes that Amazon has updated their service to include video footage of people who enter or leave homes using the smart locks.

Sears, Delta, Others Involved in Data Breach

Sears, Delta, Others Involved in Data Breach

Several companies are dealing with a data breach. According to Reuters, Sears and Delta announced last week that [24]7.ai, which the companies use, was the victim of a cyber attack back in September of last year. And according to CNET, Kmart and Best Buy were also affected.

Payment information for less than a hundred thousand clients of [24]7.ai was compromised, Reuters reports. They also note that although the credit card information was “exposed,” Delta has said that doesn’t necessarily mean it was actually used. And Sears has said that their stores themselves weren’t affected and that Sears cards weren’t part of the breach.

CNET also mentions again that no companies have actually said that this payment information was stolen. At this point, what’s clear is that there was a chance for the information of thousands of people to be taken. The period of the cyber security attack was just a couple of weeks—from the 26th of September to the 12th of October (at which point the breach was taken care of).

Despite not knowing whether the information was stolen, Best Buy, at least, is taking action to try to reassure customers. CNET reports that Best Buy plans to provide credit monitoring free to anyone who’s concerned. They’ve also tried to lessen fears by making it clear that purchases made using stolen information won’t hit the person whose information has been stolen.

[24]7.ai was quick to make their statement and make clear they were taking the issue seriously. In their statement, they said their service was safe and secure and said they were working with law enforcement and their clients to take care of the issue and any fallout.

Until more information is released, it’s hard to know whether any information was actually taken and used. As a precaution, be sure to keep a close watch on your card statements if you made purchases at these stores.

Third-Party Data on Social Media

Third-Party Data on Social Media

With all the discussion of Facebook’s recent data scandal, third-party data is a major topic of discussion among social media services. (Find out more about Facebook’s difficulties, referred to as the Cambridge Analytica scandal, in my article from last week.) Facebook is bringing a number of changes due to the scandal, most of which will restrict access to users’ data. Meanwhile, another social media giant is in the news for a somewhat puzzling reason, as it may soon be making third party access possible.

Here’s a rundown of just some of Facebook’s updates, as well as Snapchat’s recent news.

Facebook is ending their Partner Categories

Facebook is now ending their Partner Categories. According to TechCrunch, Facebook is going to stop using third-party data in its targeted advertising. With targeted ads, a number of different tools are used. Until now, Facebook had used data collected from third parties as one way to accurately target ads toward users. After the recent data scandal, though, Facebook is ending the practice. According to Entrepreneur, companies like Axciom and Experian were part of Facebook’s Partner Categories. TechCrunch notes that Facebook has said the decision is in place permanently, not just while they try to work their way through their current issues.

Facebook wants your help spotting data mining apps

Facebook is focusing heavily on finding apps that could misuse data gathered from their users. In fact, according to CNET, they will now pay users who find “data mining” apps. Facebook already had a program in place that rewarded people for finding other issues on the site. With this program, people could get paid for reporting apps that are using data in a way that breaks Facebook’s policies. CNET also notes that some “bug bounty programs” can offer rewards of up to $100,000.

Snapchat may let third party apps connect to your account

With the flurry of news around Facebook’s handling of third party data, news has come out that Snapchat may be planning to let third party apps connect to users’ accounts. Mashable has reported that the current beta version of Snapchat has a new feature called “Connected Apps.” Bitmoji and Shazam have already been able to connect to Snapchat accounts. But if this setting in Snapchat’s beta is any indication, more apps will soon be able to connect. Of course, just because it’s in beta doesn’t mean it will actually be released in full. Whatever happens, news of its inclusion in the beta app has come at a strange and unfortunate time.

Facebook and Its Data Scandal

Facebook and Its Data Scandal

Facebook has been in the news quite a lot recently, and not necessarily for good reasons.

The social media service appears in the news on a regular basis any given week, but for the past week, a lot of focus has been on their data scandal and what will come of it. During that news, Facebook has announced some upcoming changes to its service.

Here’s what you might have missed over the past week or so, including a brief recap of Facebook’s data issues!

Some of Facebook’s newest announcements have come now that Zuckerberg has apologized for the Cambridge Analytica scandal. Zuckerberg issued an apology for what happened with their recent data scandal. According to CNN Money, Zuckerberg issued the apology during a TV interview on CNN. In his interview, he mentions the policy changes that have been put in place since the incident and notes that these policies should have been in place sooner. He also spoke about his regret that people weren’t informed about the issue sooner.

Facebook’s data scandal revolves around how some Facebook user data was accessed by an app (which is typical) and then, against Facebook policy, shared with a third party.

According Zuckerberg in his CNN interview, users will be notified if their information was shared during the incident. And The Verge writes that Facebook will be changing how developers can access Facebook users’ data.

Amid all of this negative press, one WhatsApp founder has said to delete Facebook. One of the founders of the popular messaging app has called out Facebook during their scandal concerning user data.

Brian Acton, who helped create WhatsApp before it was sold to Facebook, is now warning people that they should leave Facebook. The Independent reports that Acton tweeted that it was “time” to stop using the social media giant. He doesn’t specifically discuss the Cambridge Analytica scandal, but the timing of his tweet suggests his tweet was referencing Facebook’s current data issues.

You may remember that earlier this year Acton gave Signal (a secure messaging service) millions of dollars, which I wrote about back in February.

With Zuckerberg’s recent apology, it’s clear that Facebook is making a point to address this data issue and reassure users. Whether current users will jump ship due to the scandal and Acton’s call to leave Facebook remains to be seen.

Signal, Maker of Signal Messenger, Receives $50 Million

Signal, Maker of Signal Messenger, Receives $50 Million

Signal seems to be doing well at the moment, as it’s now being reported that they’ve received $50 million from the co-founder of WhatsApp.

Brian Acton, who co-founded WhatsApp and who previously worked for Facebook, is now aligned with Signal and providing them with millions of dollars. Acton is no longer with Facebook or WhatsApp, and he will be the executive chairman for the Signal Foundation, a new organization.

According to a blog on Signal’s website, the Signal Foundation is a just-launched 501(c)(3) non-profit organization that will further Signal’s mission. Acton also provides a message on Signal’s blog, explaining Signal’s mission, which is “to develop open source privacy technology that protects free expression and enables secure global communication.” Signal (and Acton) believe it’s important to offer secure communication to everyone across the world, and they hope to do this with the Foundation.

Signal has become fairly popular with their Signal Messenger, a service that encrypts messages (offering end to end encryption) and provides more security than typical messaging services. It’s meant to make people feel more certain that their messages aren’t being compromised. It offers security for those who might be concerned about government spying or their texts being intercepted for nefarious purposes.

The Signal Protocol, which is from Open Whisper Systems and used for Signal Messenger, is also used in services like WhatsApp, Skype, and Facebook Messenger. Specifically, Facebook Messenger uses Signal to offer Secret Conversations. These locked-down messages can be sent by opening a conversation with someone, clicking the information button in the corner of the conversation, and choosing to “Go to Secret Conversation.” The conversation will then use Signal Protocol to encrypt the messages sent and received.

While Signal has been frowned upon by some government agencies like the FBI (according to Newsweek), for many it’s simply a way to feel more secure and private. With the money the Signal Foundation has received, Signal will be able to increase the size of its staff and do more with their service.

(Featured image: Signal website)

Android Oreo Update Paused

Android Oreo Update Paused

Android’s newest update, Android 8.0 (a.k.a. Oreo), has stopped after unexpected issues occurred with some users.

The highly anticipated update began rolling out to Samsung S8 devices last week, says The Verge, but it’s now been halted. The update was stopped as it was causing some users’ phones to reboot unexpectedly. Specifically, some S8 and S8 Plus owners were reporting that the update caused their phones to reboot at random.

Android 8.0—Oreo—is bringing many new features to Android users. Android’s website details some of the features to expect from the release that has been rolling out. It notes some phones will start two times faster, and they’ll use power better because 8.0 reduces background app usage. It’s also adding an autofill feature, offering picture-in-picture (so you can use more than one app at a time), changing some aspects of how apps work, releasing redesigned emojis (with more than 60 new ones), adding accessibility updates, and more.

Last year, CNET outlined some of the Android Oreo features they were most excited about. This included the new autofill feature and the picture in picture feature. They also pointed out how useful the app changes will be. They mentioned the new notification channels that will be available in apps that update for Oreo, as well as the notification dots that will appear on apps.

The Verge points out that the update wasn’t rolling out worldwide yet, so the sudden halt to Oreo’s release doesn’t impact as many people as it could. However, those who did already get the update before it was stopped are now using an OS that is not as ready for release as Samsung thought. The Verge’s article quotes Samsung as saying they’re working to get the improved version of Oreo out to users “as quickly as possible,” so hopefully users won’t have to wait too long.

For even more about Android Oreo, check out the Android website or read Android Authority’s review from last year.

Facebook News Survey Raises Eyebrows

Facebook News Survey Raises Eyebrows

Facebook has put out a news survey, and many are questioning its effectiveness. The news survey, meant to learn which news publishers Facebook users trust, only includes two questions. Because of this, some wonder how accurate it will be and how much use it can really be for Facebook.

The two questions, according to the BBC, ask users about specific websites. Users are first asked if they recognize the chosen websites. Then they’re asked to use a scale to represent how much they trust those websites. The scale has five options, starting with “not at all” and ending with “entirely.”

Facebook has taken many different steps in recent months to specifically try to combat false news stories taking hold on their platform. For instance, in November they announced a tool that would let users see if they’d interacted with Russian propaganda sites. This tool went live soon after, and it can be found by visiting the Facebook Help Center.

They’ve also tried various different ways of letting users spot fake news. For a while, Facebook used Disputed Flags to show users that other sources had disputed certain content. Then Facebook switched to using Related Articles to help identify false news stories. The Related Articles that show up underneath content can help offer different views on the story, including showing third-party fact-checking articles.

Though people are questioning the value of a survey with only two questions, Facebook has said there’s a reason for its simplicity. They’ve said surveys can sometimes be confusing and “bias signal,” and they’ve mentioned the information gathered is only applied to “publishers for which we have enough data.” Naturally, Facebook will not be basing their decisions solely on this news survey, instead working with various other data, as well.

Facebook’s news trust survey may be cause for concern for some users who see it as too simple, but Facebook seems to feel it will be a useful way to help prioritize news articles from sources that can be trusted. As it’s implemented, we’ll see how useful it really might be while working alongside Facebook’s other features and updates that are meant to stop the spread of false news.