Tag Archives: Privacy

Why You Should NOT Move WhatsApp Chats To Telegram!

Why You Should NOT Move WhatsApp Chats To Telegram!

Telegram just highlighted the ability to migrate WhatsApp chats to their app, but you really should NOT do that.

Find out why this is a BIG security and privacy risk than just leaving your chats in WhatsApp!

 

Telegram : Moving Chat History From WhatsApp, Line + KakaoTalk

In a recent version 7.4 update for their iOS app, Telegram announced a new feature – the ability to move your chat messages from other apps like WhatsApp, Line and Kakaotalk to their app.

Curiously, that ability has actually been part of WhatsApp since 2018, when they introduced the ability to export chats to email and other apps.

And while this feature is purportedly available only with the iOS version of Telegram Messenger, you can already do that with existing versions of WhatsApp and Telegram.

 

Why You Should NOT Move WhatsApp Chats To Telegram!

You should note that the privacy risks with WhatsApp have been grossly exaggerated by the media and many Internet “experts”.

For one thing – WhatsApp users have been sharing metadata with Facebook since September 2016, a fact initially lost on many media outlets and “experts”.

But we understand the fear – Facebook is a real snoop. Even so, it would be a mistake to migrate from WhatsApp to Telegram.

Let us share with you why you should NOT migrate from WhatsApp to Telegram, and why it is a BIG mistake to migrate your WhatsApp data to Telegram.

Fact #1 : Telegram Is LESS Secure Than WhatsApp

WhatsApp fully implemented end-to-end encryption across all of their apps and network since 5 April 2016.

End-to-end encryption prevents WhatsApp or Facebook from reading your messages. Only the sender and receiver(s) can read them.

WhatsApp shares a considerable amount of data and metadata that Facebook can use to identify and track your movements and activities. But not the content of your messages.

Telegram, on the other hand, has STILL NOT implemented end-to-end encryption for all messages by default.

Instead, they still insist on offering end-to-end encryption only when you create a Secret Chat.

This leaves the bulk of your messages completely readable by Telegram and anyone who intercepts those messages as they travel from your device through the Internet to the recipient.

The very presence of Secret Chats between certain people is itself metadata that can help oppressive regimes identify their enemies or whistleblowers.

Fact #2 : Your Data Is Stored In Telegram Cloud Servers

All WhatsApp data is stored only in your registered device. WhatsApp also does not retain messages in their servers after they are delivered, and will only store files (like photos and videos) and undelivered messages for 30 days.

It’s the opposite with Telegram – all of your data – messages, photos, videos, documents – is stored in their cloud servers. Even though they are encrypted in storage, Telegram holds the encryption keys, NOT YOU.

This ability has its advantages like convenient access across multiple devices, but it also makes Telegram less secure.

Telegram has access to your encrypted files, including the ability to decrypt them for authorities that legally compels them to do so.

Fact #3 : Moving Your Messages + Media To Telegram Exposes Them

While your chats and media remain within your WhatsApp app, they are encrypted and not available to anyone but yourself (and the recipients).

Migrating your chat messages and media to Telegram would involve sending them unencrypted to Telegram’s servers.

This exposes your hitherto secure chats and media to a man-in-the-middle attack – allowing a third party to snoop or grab a copy of the data as it travels unencrypted to the Telegram servers.

Fact #4 : Facebook Already Has Your Metadata

As we pointed out earlier, WhatsApp has been sharing our metadata with Facebook since September 2016.

So moving your existing chats out of WhatsApp won’t limit or reduce your exposure. That horse has long bolted from the stable.

Moving your chat history and files to Telegram will just offer a new attack surface for cybercriminals and oppressive regimes.

Fact #5 : Facebook Will Still Have Your Data If You Still Use Facebook!

Here is the other thing that people don’t realise – migrating from WhatsApp to another messaging app is pointless if you do not also stop using Facebook.

As long as you still use Facebook, they will still have access to a consideration amount of metadata. Losing your WhatsApp metadata just gives them less metadata.

After all, Facebook can track your movements and activity even if you are NOT on Facebook! This is what they call Off-Facebook Activity.

 

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Hello? WhatsApp Is Already Sharing Data With Facebook!

People are worried that a new WhatsApp privacy policy update will force them to share data with Facebook.

Well, here’s the real surprise – don’t you know that WhatsApp is already doing that?

Find out what’s going on, and what WhatsApp is really changing…

 

New WhatsApp Privacy Policy : Share Data With Facebook?

Many of you may have woken up to this pop-up on WhatsApp, alerting you to a change in its terms and privacy policy, which takes effect on 8 February 2021.

While you can delay the decision by clicking NOT NOW, you have to accept the new terms and privacy policy, to continue using WhatsApp.

Otherwise, the alert subtly suggests, you should “delete your account”.

 

Hello? WhatsApp Is Already Sharing Data With Facebook!

Many WhatsApp users are shocked by this new development, and pondering about whether they should jump to Telegram or some other instant messenger.

What’s more egregious though is that many websites are “warning” their readers about this new, shocking development.

The fact of the matter is – WhatsApp has been sharing data with Facebook for years!

In The Beginning : Private Communication Assured

After Facebook bought WhatsApp for a cool US$19 billion, Jan Koum set the record straight on 17 March 2014 :

Respect for your privacy is coded into our DNA, and we built WhatsApp around the goal of knowing as little about you as possible: You don’t have to give us your name and we don’t ask for your email address. We don’t know your birthday. We don’t know your home address. We don’t know where you work. We don’t know your likes, what you search for on the internet or collect your GPS location. None of that data has ever been collected and stored by WhatsApp, and we really have no plans to change that.

2016 : WhatsApp Starts Sharing Data With Facebook

In August 2016, WhatsApp announced that they would start sharing data with Facebook, after rolling out end-to-end encryption.

[B]y coordinating more with Facebook, we’ll be able to do things like track basic metrics about how often people use our services and better fight spam on WhatsApp. And by connecting your phone number with Facebook’s systems, Facebook can offer better friend suggestions and show you more relevant ads if you have an account with them. For example, you might see an ad from a company you already work with, rather than one from someone you’ve never heard of.

At that time, WhatsApp offered existing users a special one-time only option to opt-out of the data sharing, but only if they did it within 30 days.

If you are an existing user, you can choose not to have your WhatsApp account information shared with Facebook to improve your Facebook ads and products experiences. Existing users who accept our updated Terms and Privacy Policy will have an additional 30 days to make this choice by going to Settings > Account.

If you did not opt-out within 30 days back in August 2016, your data would be shared with Facebook.

This opt-out option was NOT provided to new WhatsApp users who registered on or after 25 August 2016.

After 24 September 2016 : WhatsApp Has Been Sharing Data With Facebook

With the singular exception of existing users who managed to opt-out by 24 September 2016, the data of every other WhatsApp user has been shared with Facebook.

8 February 2021 Onwards : More Information Is Shared

What will really change from 8 February 2021 onwards is the additional information that WhatsApp will share with Facebook :

  • Status Information. You may provide us your status if you choose to include one on your account. Learn how to use status on Android, iPhone, or KaiOS.
  • Transactions And Payments Data. If you use our payments services, or use our Services meant for purchases or other financial transactions, we process additional information about you, including payment account and transaction information. Payment account and transaction information includes information needed to complete the transaction (for example, information about your payment method, shipping details and transaction amount). If you use our payments services available in your country or territory, our privacy practices are described in the applicable payments privacy policy.
  • Location Information. We collect and use precise location information from your device with your permission when you choose to use location-related features, like when you decide to share your location with your contacts or view locations nearby or locations others have shared with you. There are certain settings relating to location-related information which you can find in your device settings or the in-app settings, such as location sharing. Even if you do not use our location-related features, we use IP addresses and other information like phone number area codes to estimate your general location (e.g., city and country). We also use your location information for diagnostics and troubleshooting purposes.
  • User Reports. Just as you can report other users, other users or third parties may also choose to report to us your interactions and your messages with them or others on our Services; for example, to report possible violations of our Terms or policies. When a report is made, we collect information on both the reporting user and reported user.
  • Businesses On WhatsApp. Businesses you interact with using our Services may provide us with information about their interactions with you. We require each of these businesses to act in accordance with applicable law when providing any information to us.When you message with a business on WhatsApp, keep in mind that the content you share may be visible to several people in that business. In addition, some businesses might be working with third-party service providers (which may include Facebook) to help manage their communications with their customers. For example, a business may give such third-party service provider access to its communications to send, store, read, manage, or otherwise process them for the business. To understand how a business processes your information, including how it might share your information with third parties or Facebook, you should review that business’ privacy policy or contact the business directly.

 

Opted Out In 2016? It Is Still Honoured!

WhatsApp will apparently continue to honour the decision of those who opted-out of data sharing in August 2016.

For those who opted out, you can agree to the new policy, and your data will still NOT be shared with Facebook.

To check if you opted-out in August 2016, you will need to check in your WhatsApp account – Settings > Account > Request Account Info.

 

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Fact Check : Fat Bidin Claims On MySejahtera Snooping!

Wan Azlee, who goes by Fat Bidin, claims that MySejahtera is mining private information from our phones.

Find out what he discovered, and what the FACTS really are!

Updated @ 2020-12-03 : Added MySejahtera version history for more context.

Updated @ 2020-12-01 : Added more information, including how to disable permissions in Android and iOS for the paranoid.

Originally posted @ 2020-11-30

 

Fat Bidin : MySejahtera Is Mining Information From Our Phones!

In Episode 41 of Fat Bidin Knows Everything, Wan Azlee claimed (between mouthfuls of oats) that MySejahtera is mining a wealth of private information from our phones.

His evidence? A report by the Exodus Privacy website, stating that MySejahtera has 6 trackers and 24 permissions.

He went through the 24 permissions and made these concerning observations about MySejahtera :

  • it can take control of your phone and pair it with your Bluetooth devices
  • directly call phone numbers
  • find accounts on your phone
  • read your contacts in your phone
  • read the contents of your SD card
  • modify or delete the contents of your SD card
  • prevent your phone from sleeping
  • modify your contacts

Phwoarrrr…. shocking, isn’t it? Wan Azlee / Fat Bidin then asks the Malaysia Ministry of Health to be transparent and tell us what’s going on.

Well, let’s take a closer look at his claims…

 

Fat Bidin On MySejahtera Is Mining Our Information : A Fact Check

Wan Azlee is very articulate, but Fat Bidin honestly doesn’t quite know everything… and here’s why.

Fact #1 : That MySejahtera Version Was From April 2020

Fat Bidin posted his video on 24 November 2020, and we noticed that he was checking an old version of MySejahtera – version 1.0.10, that was posted way back in April 2020.

For the record, there has been FOURTEEN UPDATES since that version :

  • 1.0.11 : 23 April 2020
  • 1.0.12 : 28 April 2020
  • 1.0.13 : 3 May 2020
  • 1.0.15 : 4 May 2020
  • 1.0.16 : 13 May 2020
  • 1.0.17 : 23 May 2020
  • 1.0.18 : 30 May 2020
  • 1.0.19 : 3 June 2020
  • 1.0.20 : 28 June 2020
  • 1.0.21 : 30 June 2020
  • 1.0.22 : 21 July 2020
  • 1.0.23 : 29 July 2020
  • 1.0.24 : 11 August 2020
  • 1.0.25 : 5 November 2020

The latest version of MySejahtera – version 1.0.25 –  was released on 5 November 2020 – 19 days before Wan Azlee posted his video.

Why on Earth would he focus on a 6 month-old version of the app, when there is a much newer version?

Fact #2 : Exodus Posted Their Latest MySejahtera Report On 20 November 2020

Exodus posted their latest report on the latest version of MySejahtera (version 1.0.25) on 20 November 2020 at 10:47 am (as you can see in this screenshot).

That was 4 days before Wan Azlee posted his video, so why didn’t he use this new report instead?

Fact #3 : MySejahtera Has 1 Tracker + 14 Permissions According To Exodus

According to the November 20 Exodus report, MySejahtera has 1 tracker – Google Firebase Analytics, and 14 permissions, of which the highlighted ones were :

  • ACCESS_COARSE_LOCATION : access approximate location (network-based)
  • ACCESS_FINE_LOCATION : access precise location (GPS and network-based)
  • CALL_PHONE : directly call phone numbers
  • CAMERA : take pictures and videos
  • READ_EXTERNAL_STORAGE : read the contents of your SD card
  • WRITE_EXTERNAL_STORAGE : modify or delete the contents of your SD card

We immediately noticed that several controversial permissions are no longer in it :

  • GET_ACCOUNTS : find accounts on the device
  • READ_CONTACTS : read your contacts
  • WRITE_CONTACTS : modify your contacts

So if you are worried that MySejahtera is reading your contacts or modifying them, just UPDATE it to the latest version 1.0.25!

Fact #4 : Actual Permissions Are Fewer

When we checked MySejahtera 1.0.25 as installed in our phone, we found that it actually asked for and used only 11 permissions, instead of 14 as reported by Exodus.

The report also offered a bit more context about those permissions. For instance, location data is only made available when you are actively using the app.

That’s because the location data is used by MySejahtera for its Hotspot Tracker and Locate Health Screening Facility features.

In your phone, you can tap on them for more information on what they allow the app to do.

Fact #5 : Apps Need To Read, Modify + Delete Their Own Data

The permission to read, modify and delete content on our phone may seem ridiculous, but it is a necessity for most apps.

Unless the apps is merely a container for a website or web service, it needs to store data, and modify or delete it when necessary.

Fact #6 : Access To External / SD Card Is Necessary

Most developers will also ask for the permission to read, modify and delete content to the (micro) SD card, because of Adoptable Storage.

Adoptable Storage is a feature that lets smartphones use external storage (like a microSD card) as if it is part of their internal storage.

When a microSD card is used this way, apps like MySejahtera can be installed on it. Therefore, it would require permission to read, modify and delete its own data on the external storage card.

Fact #7 : Android Restricts Data Snooping

Apps that have access to read / modify / write external storage are allowed to access files from other apps. However, this is limited to only these three media collections :

  • MediaStore.Images
  • MediaStore.Video
  • MediaStore.Audio

MySejahtera, or any other app with similar permissions, cannot read / modify / delete data outside of those three media storage locations.

Fact #8 : MySejahtera Has A Privacy Policy

Like all other Android and iOS apps, MySejahtera has a privacy policy, where it is stated clearly that

MySejahtera is owned and operated by the Government of Malaysia. It is administrated by the Ministry of Health (MOH) and assisted by the National Security Council (NSC) and the Malaysian Administrative Modernisation and Management Planning Unit (MAMPU). The Government assures that the collection of your personal information is align with Personal Data Protection Act 2010 (Act 709).

The app will not record user’s Personal Data except with the permission and voluntarily provided by the user. Information collected are used for monitoring and enforcement purposes by Government authorities in dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic. This information is not shared with other organizations for other purposes unless specifically stated.

Fact #9 : You Are Protected By PDPA 2010 (Act 709)

We are all protected by the Personal Data Protection Act 2010 (Act 709).

Anyone who is caught sharing our personal data without permission is be liable to a fine not exceeding three hundred thousand ringgit or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding two years or to both.

Fact #10 : You Can Disable Permissions

You can view and disable any permission that worries you :

Android

  1. Go to Settings > Apps >  MySejahtera > Permissions.
  2. Tap on the permission you don’t want, and select Deny.

Apple iOS

  1. Go to Settings > MySejahtera.
  2. Disable the permissions you don’t want.

But note that doing this will likely break some features in MySejahtera.

Fact #11 : Many Other Apps Are Worse For Your Privacy

When it comes to privacy, we have bigger fishes to fry. Take a look at how many trackers and permissions these four popular apps require.

They make MySejahtera look absolutely privacy-conscious!

 

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Warning : Using A Camera Cover Can Damage Your MacBook!

After years of letting third-party companies sell camera covers, Apple just issued a warning that using a camera cover can damage your MacBook laptop!

Find out what’s going on, and why using a camera cover may be critical for your privacy, but can damage your MacBook!

 

Warning : Using A Camera Cover Can Damage Your MacBook!

In a new technical advisory, Apple warns that closing your MacBook laptop with a camera cover attached could physically damage the display, due to the limited clearance between the display and the chassis.

In addition, installing a camera cover can block the ambient light sensor located next to the camera. This will prevent features like automatic brightness and True Tone from working properly.

If you close your Mac notebook with a camera cover installed, you might damage your display because the clearance between the display and keyboard is designed to very tight tolerances.

Covering the built-in camera might also interfere with the ambient light sensor and prevent features like automatic brightness and technical advisory from working.

Instead of using a camera cover, Apple recommends relying on the camera indicator light to tell you when it is actively recording you.

This is a VERY BAD idea, which we will elaborate in this article : Apple Is Wrong. You Need To Cover Your Mac Camera!

 

What If You MUST Use A Camera Cover?

If your organisation or work requires you to use a camera cover, Apple issued these recommendations :

  • Make sure the camera cover is not thicker than 0.1 mm.
  • Avoid using a camera cover that leaves adhesive residue.
  • If you install a camera cover that is thicker than 0.1 mm, remove the camera cover before closing your computer.

For Americans and anyone else still stuck with Imperial measurements, 0.1 mm = 0.00393 inch.

This example of an ultra-thin camera cover designed for the MacBook is 8X too thick, according to Apple.

It is physically impossible to create a camera cover that thin. In other words, Apple is telling you yet again NOT to use an actual camera cover!

Instead, try using a tiny piece of sticky note. It is not only thin, it is also soft. Just make sure it covers only the camera, and not the ambient light sensor.

 

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TikTok Caught Spying What We Type In Other Apps… TWICE!

TikTok was caught spying on what we type in other apps, not once, but TWICE… so far.

Find out what’s going on, and what you should do about it!

 

TikTok : What Is It?

TikTok is a Chinese social networking service built around short video clips. Developed and owned by ByteDance which is based in Beijing, it is very popular amongst young people and even children.

This has led to numerous controversies as TikTok proved slow or reluctant to remove dangerous or racist videos :

 

TikTok Caught Spying What We Type In Other Apps… TWICE!

Beyond their obvious desire to grow their service at the expense of the danger to real people, there have been cybersecurity and privacy concerns about TikTok.

In a space of just four months, TikTok has been caught spying on what we type in OTHER APPS… not once, but TWICE. Take a look at this video expose…

TikTok Caught Spying On What We Type : First Time

Let’s start in March 2020, when Talal Has Bakry and Tommy Mysk exposed how they found that TikTok was spying on what we typed in other apps through the pasteboard / clipboard.

In the video above, you can see how TikTok immediately asked to read all text stored in the pasteboard, whenever it is launched.

The pasteboard contains everything you copied earlier – messages from other people, quotes from an article, or far more sensitive stuff like your password or account number.

And because of Apple’s universal clipboard feature, this means everything you copy on your Mac or iPad will be available on your iPhone, and therefore TikTok.

To be clear, TikTok was just one of the many apps that they found to be spying on what we type. Here were the apps they confirmed were spying on the pasteboard / clipboard.

News Games Social Other
ABC News
Al Jazeera English
CBS News
CNBC
Fox News
News Break
New York Times
NPR
itv Nachrichten
Reuters
Russia Today
Stern Nachrichten
The Economist
The Huffington Post
The Wall Street Journal
VICE News
8 Ball Pool
AMAZE!!!
Bejeweled
Block Puzzle
Classic Bejeweled
Classic Bejeweled HD
Flip The Gun
Fruit Ninja
Golfmasters
Letter Soup
Love Nikki
My Emma
Plants vs. Zombies Heroes
Pooking – Billiards City
PUBG Mobile
Tomb of the Mask
Tomb of the Mask: Color
Total Party Kill
Watermarbling
TikTok
ToTalk
Tok
Truecaller
Viber
Weibo
Zoosk
10% Happier: Meditation
5-0 Radio Police Scanner
Accuweather
AliExpress Shopping
Bed Bath & Beyond
Dazn
Hotels.com
Hotel Tonight
Overstock
Pigment – Adult Coloring Book
Recolor Coloring Book to Color
Sky Ticket
The Weather Network

At that time, TikTok told Zak Doffman that it was Google Ads that was snooping into the pasteboard / clipboard.

The clipboard access issues showed up due to third-party SDKs, in our case an older version Google Ads SDK. We are in the processes of updating so that the third-party SDK will no longer have access.

They claimed it was because TikTok was using an older Google Ads SDK, which they have since replaced with a newer version.

TikTok Caught Spying On What We Type : Second Time

BFast forward to June, and the release of iOS 14 beta. The new clipboard warning feature in iOS 14 appears to have caught TikTok spying on the pasteboard / clipboard once again.

In the dramatic video shared by Jeremy Burge – the 1:35 point in our video above – he shows TikTok grabbing the contents of his iPhone’s clipboard every 1-3 keystrokes, as he typed in Instagram!

This is even more egregious than the first time they spied on the pasteboard / clipboard! Instead of just looking at what you copied into the clipboard earlier, TikTok is literally reading what you are typing in a different app!

TikTok now claims that this issue was “triggered by a feature designed to identify repetitive, spammy behaviour“, and that they have already submitted an updated app without this “anti-spam feature“.

 

TikTok Caught Spying : What Should YOU Do?

If you are not a frequent TikTok user, the answer is simple – UNINSTALL TikTok.

If you really like TikTok, you should immediately update to the latest version, which ByteDance claims will no longer read your clipboard because it has both an updated Google Ads SDK, as well as their anti-spam feature removed.

Either way, if you are concerned about privacy issues with TikTok, you should write to privacy@tiktok.com and express your deep concerns about not letting them read what you are typing, whether it is in their app or other apps.

 

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Fine For Scratching Nose A Wake-Up Call On AI Surveillance!

The recent case of a Chinese driver getting fine for scratching his face is a funny example of current AI surveillance technology. Yet it is also a wake-up call on the dangers of pervasive AI surveillance by the state.

 

Fined For Scratching Nose By AI Surveillance System!

A Jinan resident, Mr. Liu, was driving his car in the eastern Shandong province, when he raised his hand to touch his face. Most of us unconsciously do that 2 to 5 times per minute!

Unbeknownst to him, one of the many AI surveillance cameras in the city noticed his action, and issued him a fine of 50 yuan* and 2 demerit points for “driving while holding a phone“.

* Approximately $7.25 / £5.70 / €6.50 / RM 30

The Jinan AI surveillance system also sent him this screenshot of his traffic violation, as captured at 7:20 AM on 20 May 2019.

Just like many automated systems (looking at you, Facebook and Google!), there was no way to dispute the charge. Mr. Liu tried to sort out the situation over the phone, but “no one would help him“.

He only got justice by appealing to the court of public opinion on Sina Weibo, where his post went viral. Only then did the Jinan traffic police department take notice and investigate his complaint.

Two days later, they cancelled his ticket after confirming that he was only touching his face, and not actually using a phone while driving.

 

AI Surveillance In Chinese Cities

China has been working hard at developing smart cities, as part of their social engineering efforts to quell political dissent and encourage Chinese citizens to “behave properly”.

There are already over 170 million surveillance cameras across China, with a projected 400 million surveillance cameras installed by next year. And they are all controlled by AI surveillance systems.

Such extensive surveillance coverage has allowed the Chinese government to detect crimes and punish their citizens for them. It also feeds the new Social Credit System – a national reputation system that assess the economic and social reputation of every Chinese citizen and business.

However, such pervasive surveillance has led to serious privacy implications for the Chinese citizenry. Anyone who wants to understand the power, allure and dangers of AI surveillance should watch the TV series, Person of Interest.

 

The Dangers Of AI Surveillance

While AI surveillance technology is now quite incredible, this case has exposed its vulnerabilities and limitations.

  1. Human oversight is still necessary, because AI surveillance is not accurate enough to detect false positives.
  2. It may be tempting to make the AI surveillance system the judge, jury and executioner, but such systems need to implement the principle of “guilty beyond a reasonable doubt“, and that means ignoring anything that is not close to a 99.9% match.
  3. There should be an appeal system in place. It took a viral social media post to alert the Jinan traffic police department to the mistake.
  4. There is also the question of personal data security. Can the government securely store the data, without unsanctioned or illegal access? How long should they store the information before they are deleted?

 

Alibaba Cloud + The Malaysia City Brain

Alibaba Cloud is one of the chief architects of Chinese smart city initiative and AI surveillance capabilities with their ET City Brain that runs on their Tianchi Platform.

Last year, Alibaba Cloud announced their collaboration with the Malaysia Digital Economy Corporation (MDEC) to introduce the Malaysia City Brain.

The first phase of the Malaysia City Brain will kickstart with 382 AI traffic cameras at 281 traffic light junctions in Kuala Lumpur.

Although the Malaysian government is ostensibly implementing the Malaysia City Brain to “optimise the flow of vehicles and timing of traffic signals“, it is really a short step to the Chinese model of population and crime surveillance.

 

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FB Messenger, Instagram + WhatsApp Integration Clarified!

Since the story broke about the Facebook Messenger, Instagram and WhatsApp integration plan, the world exploded in a mixture of shock, apoplexy, and righteous indignation.

Take a DEEP BREATH and CALM DOWN. Let us tell you exactly what the FB Messenger + Instagram + WhatsApp integration plan is really about, and what it really means for Facebook and all of us…

 

The FB Messenger + Instagram + WhatsApp Integration Plan Clarified!

What Is Going On?

The New York Times broke the story on 25 January 2019, that Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg is working to integrate the messaging services that power Facebook Messenger, Instagram and WhatsApp.

Essentially, he wants all three platforms to use the same messaging platform or protocol to communicate.

Are The Three Apps Being Merged?

NO.

Some reports (looking at your, Forbes and BBC!) have claimed that WhatsApp is merging with Facebook Messenger and Instagram, or that WhatsApp and Instagram will be integrated with Facebook Messenger. That is NOT TRUE.

Facebook is not going to combine all three apps into a single mega-app – the one app to rule them all. WhatsApp, Instagram and Facebook Messenger will continue to be separate apps.

What Exactly Has Changed?

NOTHING at the moment. This FB Messenger + Instagram + WhatsApp integration project is scheduled to be completed by the end of 2019, or early 2020.

Until the new unified messaging protocol is complete and implemented in all three apps, nothing will change. At the moment, all three apps continue to use their existing messaging protocols.

What We Know About The Messenger + Instagram + WhatsApp Integration Plan So Far

Let’s enumerate what we know about the FB Messenger + Instagram + WhatsApp integration plan :

  1. All three apps will still function independently
  2. All three apps will use the same messaging protocol
  3. The new unified messaging protocol will support end-to-end encryption

Why Does Facebook Want To Do This?

Migrating all three apps to a unified messaging protocol or platform has some real advantages for Facebook :

  • far less work is needed to maintain a single platform or set of protocols, than three different platforms or sets of protocols
  • it will extend the reach of their three apps, helping to “encourage” users of one app to use the other two apps.
  • it will make it easier for them to harvest more information, to create more accurate user profiles.
  • it should make it easier to introduce or extend new features into all three apps, e.g. time-limited Stories.

Is This Good Or Bad For Users?

There are some potential advantages for users…

  • users of any one of those three apps will be able to communicate with each other, without installing the other apps.
  • users of any one of those three apps will be able to share data (photos, videos, files, etc.) with each other, without installing the other apps.
  • it will introduce end-to-end encryption to Instagram, which does not yet support it.
  • potentially, it could mean end-to-end encryption will be enabled by default for Facebook Messenger (which currently only supports end-to-end encryption if you turn on Secret Conversations).
  • it could promote greater accountability and transparency, with a reduction in fake accounts and profiles.

On the other hand, the tighter integration has some serious potential ramifications…

  • it will be harder to obfuscate or separate your profile in one app, from your profiles in the other two apps.
  • any bug or vulnerability in the unified messaging protocol will affect all three apps.
  • any successful attack will cause far greater damage, with far more data lost or stolen.
  • it does not address serious privacy concerns – even if end-to-end encryption is enabled by default for all three apps in the new unified messaging protocol, the metadata isn’t.
  • it may make it more difficult for users to consider alternative apps or services.
  • abusing one app (intentional or otherwise) could get you banned or blocked on all three apps.

How Serious Are These Concerns?

The New York Times reported that Mark Zuckerberg’s “championing” of the FB Messenger + Instagram + WhatsApp integration plan led to “internal strife” over privacy concerns. How bad?

Apparently, it led to the founders of both Instagram (Kevin System and Mike Krieger) and WhatsApp (Jan Koum and Brian Acton) leaving Facebook. Dozens of WhatsApp employees also clashed with Mark Zuckerberg over this integration plan.

But Don’t Panic Just Yet…

There is no need to be one of those headless chickens running around, screaming that the world has ended or is about to end. The WhatsApp Messenger you have come to rely on has not changed, or will change for many more months to come.

The project is still in its infancy. Facebook is internally planning to complete the project by the end of 2019, and probably early 2020. There is still the better part of the year to consider alternative messaging apps out there.

 

Recommended Reading

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Facebook Privacy Tools Are Now Easier To Find. Yay?

Facebook has been doing a belated job of closing the barn door after the horses have bolted out and rampaged through the village. Now they officially announced that Facebook privacy tools are “easier to find”. Yay for transparency?

Read the official Facebook press release on making privacy tools easier to find… and tell us what you think!

 

Facebook Privacy Tools Now Easier To Find

By Erin Egan, VP and Chief Privacy Officer, Policy and Ashlie Beringer, VP and Deputy General Counsel

Last week showed how much more work we need to do to enforce our policies and help people understand how Facebook works and the choices they have over their data. We’ve heard loud and clear that privacy settings and other important tools are too hard to find and that we must do more to keep people informed.

So in addition to Mark Zuckerberg’s announcements last week – cracking down on abuse of the Facebook platform, strengthening our policies, and making it easier for people to revoke apps’ ability to use your data – we’re taking additional steps in the coming weeks to put people more in control of their privacy.

Most of these updates have been in the works for some time, but the events of the past several days underscore their importance.

Making Data Settings and Tools Easier to Find

Controls that are easier to find and use. We’ve redesigned our entire settings menu on mobile devices from top to bottom to make things easier to find. Instead of having settings spread across nearly 20 different screens, they’re now accessible from a single place. We’ve also cleaned up outdated settings so it’s clear what information can and can’t be shared with apps.

New Privacy Shortcuts menu. People have also told us that information about privacy, security, and ads should be much easier to find. The new Privacy Shortcuts is a menu where you can control your data in just a few taps, with clearer explanations of how our controls work. The experience is now clearer, more visual, and easy-to-find. From here you can:

  • Make your account more secure: You can add more layers of protection to your account, like two-factor authentication. If you turn this on and someone tries to log into your account from a device we don’t recogni​se, you’ll be asked to confirm whether it was you.
  • Control your personal information: You can review what you’ve shared and delete it if you want to. This includes posts you’ve shared or reacted to, friend requests you’ve sent, and things you’ve searched for on Facebook.
  • Control the ads you see: You can manage the information we use to show you ads. Ad preferences explains how ads work and the options you have.
  • Manage who sees your posts and profile information: You own what you share on Facebook, and you can manage things like who sees your posts and the information you choose to include on your profile.

Tools to find, download and delete your Facebook data.

It’s one thing to have a policy explaining what data we collect and use, but it’s even more useful when people see and manage their own information. Some people want to delete things they’ve shared in the past, while others are just curious about the information Facebook has.

So we’re introducing Access Your Information – a secure way for people to access and manage their information, such as posts, reactions, comments, and things you’ve searched for. You can go here to delete anything from your timeline or profile that you no longer want on Facebook.

We’re also making it easier to download the data you’ve shared with Facebook – it’s your data, after all. You can download a secure copy and even move it to another service. This includes photos you’ve uploaded, contacts you’ve added to your account, posts on your timeline, and more.

The Road Ahead

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It’s also our responsibility to tell you how we collect and use your data in language that’s detailed, but also easy to understand. In the coming weeks, we’ll be proposing updates to Facebook’s terms of service that include our commitments to people.

We’ll also update our data policy to better spell out what data we collect and how we use it. These updates are about transparency – not about gaining new rights to collect, use, or share data.

We’ve worked with regulators, legislators and privacy experts on these tools and updates. We’ll have more to share in the coming weeks, including updates on the measures Mark shared last week.

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Study : People Will Sacrifice Personal Photos For Just 10 Euros!

20 April 2017 – While people claim to value their personal photos more than any other form of data stored on their digital devices, they are happy to sell them for little money, research by Kaspersky Lab shows. A survey has shown that for 49% of people, private and personal photos of themselves are the most precious data they have on their devices, followed by photos of their children and spouses.

The thought of losing these precious memories is considered more distressing for them than the prospect of a car accident, breaking up with a partner, or a quarrel with a friend or family member. However, when confronted with the decision to delete this data for money, people nevertheless gave their digital data – such as photos – away for as little as 10.37 Euros.

 

Yes, People Will Sacrifice Personal Photos For Just 10 Euros!

When asked, people say that digital memories have a special place in their hearts, perhaps because these memories are considered to be irreplaceable. Over two-fifths, for example, say they wouldn’t be able to replace photos and videos of their travels (45%), their children (44%) or themselves (40%).

The survey shows that the thought of losing these personal photos is considered very distressing by most people. In fact, this latest study from Kaspersky Lab indicates that people often value their devices and photos even more than their partners, friends and pets.

Kaspersky Lab asked people how distressed they would be in a number of different scenarios, including the illness of a family member, a breakup with a partner, a car accident, the loss of their digital photos, contacts, and more. Across the globe, the illness of a family member ranked in first place as the most distressing incident that they could experience. The loss or theft of a device, and the loss of digital photos, ranked second and third in multiple regions across the globe leaving car accidents, a break up with a partner, a bad day at work, quarrels with family members and friends, and even in some cases, a pet’s illness, lower in the ranks of distressing incidents.

However, an experiment conducted for Kaspersky Lab by media psychologists at the University of Wuerzburg also showed researchers a contradictory result: despite them claiming to love for their data, people are also ready to sell it for surprisingly little money.

The participants of the experiment were asked to place a monetary value on the data stored on their smartphones – including photos of family and friends, contact information and personal documents. Surprisingly, the values people placed on their data were significantly lower than expected, considering the distress they said they would experience if they were to lose that data. People tended to put more money against their financial and payment details (an average 13.33EUR) than other forms of data. Contact information was considered to be worth 11.89EUR on average and general photos were valued at only 10.37EUR on average.

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Furthermore, the experiment showed that it is people’s most precious memories which they are most likely to exchange for money. When participants were offered payment (based on the sums above) for the deletion of their data (no data was actually deleted), it was the photos of family and friends, personal documents and photos of the participants themselves that were the data categories most often approved for deletion.

“The experiment showed us interesting and reflective results: while people believe that they understand the value of their data, the emotional value isn’t reflected in their everyday actions. On the one hand, people seem to be aware of the types of data that are more important to them– they believe their digital memories, such as photos, are extremely distressing to lose. On the other hand, people have a low awareness of the value of their data, and are putting little monetary value against their data as a result. They know it’s emotionally important, but they are not able to appreciate its value yet. They would need someone to actively remind them of what their data is worth before they share it, or allow someone to delete it.” – said Andrei Mochola, Head of Consumer Business at Kaspersky Lab.

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