Everything Is Becoming Paywalled Content Even You

On the internet of the future, nothing appears on your screen without approval. Scavenging Wikipedia, you’ll learn about pizza farms and the insane circumstances surrounding King Edmund II’s death (he died while taking a shit). At one point, you’ll likely tweet about that strange period in 2019 when Pete Buttigieg wore Obama drag during his primary run for president.

One night, before turning in for bed, you’ll scroll through Instagram, admiring one acquaintance in particular, deciding to follow their bio link to a private subscription-only page where they offer “premium” content (mostly nudes). In this version of utopia—your very own!—there is only bliss and the occasional curated chaos.

There are no diabolical algorithms suggesting what to stream, who to follow, or where to vacation. There is no nefarious ad tracking going on. Privacy intrusions are essentially nonexistent. There are no public status markers, no heart-emoji icons nudging you into liking something you actually don’t (but liked anyway because your friend posted it and that’s how friendship works on the internet). Everything you read and everyone you follow is, for once, up to you. In this digital Eden, you command full control.

There’s just one catch: It requires a monthly subscription of $5. In fact, most aspects of your harmoniously-constructed Shangri-La will necessitate a subscription. Even you—yes, you—will have a set monthly fee for family members, friends, colleagues, and Twitter randos to subscribe to all your top-tier content. This is the age of the subscription ouroboros, a constantly renewing cycle of collective (and sometimes shameless) self-sponsorship where everyone can stay in their own loop forever.

If all of that sounds like an impossibility, like it could only occur in some bizarro universe where celebrity presidents don’t exist and Earth is actually the temperature it should be, it’s not. It’s almost here. The internet turned everything into a commodity—now built on what economist Jeremy Rifkin calls “access relationships,” where “virtually all of our time is commodified” and “communications, communion, and commerce [are] indistinguishable.”

Think of it like an open subscription loop, or peer-to-peer lifestyle funding. The next frontier is a world where everyone is an influencer, and we are all just paying for, and being paid for, a litany of perfectly curated feeds.

In this future, OnlyFans creators like Clément Castelli are the cornerstones. He is among a generation of influencers who are the new faces of bare-all subscription fandom. With membership-oriented platforms, crowdfunding, and fan-based subscription sites—from Patreon to service-driven apps like TaskRabbit—people like Castelli can deliver exactly what users want, and those users, those fans, get exactly what they came for.

No one has to make content just to get views and appeal to the masses, and the masses don’t have to sort through everything they don’t want to find what they do—a shift that will change not just the future of work but internet life as we will come to know it.

Piece by piece, this transformation is already taking hold. In Rifkin’s 2001 book Age of Access, he anticipated a society not unlike the one we’ll soon have, where “every activity outside the confines of family relations is a paid-for experience, a world in which traditional reciprocal obligations and expectations—mediated by feelings of faith, empathy, and solidarity—are replaced by contractual relations in the form of paid memberships, subscriptions, admission charges, retainers, and fees.”

Although it is only now coalescing, the shift began about a decade ago, just as social media networks were equipping users with the tools to become avatars of endless self-creation, styling their identities however they saw fit. The most in-demand platforms—especially the big three: Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook—prioritized individualism and self-branding.

Around this time, major crowdfunders were also in vogue, promising that if projects were fully funded, contributors would receive special additional benefits for their donations. In 2013, Patreon expanded on the model Kickstarter and GoFundMe gave rise to, allowing “patrons” to opt-in to an artist’s ongoing creative pursuits, donating monthly and not just on a one-time basis.

“Patreon encourages creators to treat these patrons less like charitable benefactors and more like members who have purchased admission to a club,” Jonah Weiner reported last October for WIRED, “entitling them to exclusive perks, whether it’s gated chat sessions, bonus content, or early peeks at a work in progress.”

In the years since, platforms have found new ways to harness fandoms for profit. OnlyFans, which adopted a similar model to Patreon, played on the allure of the influence economy, enticing uber-popular Instagrammers like Castelli, trainer Badass Cass, and former MTV star Malcolm Drummer to upload risker content behind a monthly paywall.

In the six months since I reported on the site last year, it has doubled in size, with more than 20 million registered users and 200,000 “creators.” There’s an obvious demand for this stripe of content. OnlyFans began as an influencer’s paradise—they could finally show themselves as they never had before, and make money doing it—but it has since expanded its offering. Creators are no longer just influencers, reality TV stars, adult entertainers or #fitspo evangelists; they’re your friends, your neighbors, your coworkers, your local bartender and that one guy at Trader Joe’s who always bags your groceries just right. It is a preview of what’s to come.

Today, there seems to be a larger integration happening across-the-board, for everyone. All of us, in one form or another, will have no choice but to practice self-sponsorship. Imagining a future where Twitter and Instagram have private monthly subscription options for users with locked accounts doesn’t seem that far off. Maybe certain platforms offer package deals. For $10 a month on YouTube, you choose which five creators you want to subscribe to, of which they get a cut.

This new reality is less about everyone transforming into their own brand or even becoming an independent contractor at the whims of a mercurial gig economy—it will be the very basis for life, or at least livelihood. It’s the creation of a future in which we can never afford to stop working, or better yet, where work doesn’t actually feel like work.

Most people will still have the kind of jobs they have now, but living them will provide the additional capital they need to get by, as each person’s life just becomes another upload into someone else’s feed. This shift will completely change how we define labor, and what it means to generations who come after us, remapping their relationship to the internet and its many resources.

Not long ago, I wrote about why the internet might work better if certain parts of it were segregated along racial lines, calling to mind the digital communities of the past that thrived in isolation—MelaNet, CyberPowWow, NetNoir Online. I now wonder if this might be the actual shape that segregation takes, a kind of intentional partitioning as a matter of financial sustenance.

What I’m arguing for is not a private internet—in this dreamland, many services still offer “free” options—but one designed in such a way that people can support each other more meaningfully. As Rifkin predicted, many of our daily interactions are now “bound up in strictly commercial relationships.” But this doesn’t have to be a bad thing. We still have a choice to opt-in. Think of it as an internet built around more purposeful connections—only to the things, people, and experiences we want.

Source: Everything Is Becoming Paywalled Content—Even You | WIRED

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More Great WIRED Stories

References

Olmstead, Kenny. “Online: Key Questions Facing Digital News”. The State of News Media 2011. Pew Research Center. Archived from the original on 7 November 2011. Retrieved 15 November 2011.

Apple Vs Facebook Who Will Win The Data Privacy War?

Apple Vs. Facebook – Who Will Win The Data Privacy War?

Did you know the average app includes six third-party trackers that collect and share your online data?

The war over data privacy continues to heat up in the tech world. Two of the world’s biggest technology companies, Apple and Facebook, are taking very different approaches to user privacy, and their decisions are having ripple effects throughout the tech community.

Apple’s New Transparency Requirement

Apple’s new App Tracking Transparency feature, which will automatically be enabled on iOS in early spring, forces app developers to explicitly ask for permission from users to track and share information for cross-platform ad targeting.

With App Tracking Transparency, Apple requires every iOS app to ask you upfront if they’re allowed to share your information with data brokers and other networks, so they can serve mobile ads to you and measure your response to those ads.

After this change is in place, you’ll see a notification the first time you launch any new app on your phone, explaining what the proposed third-party tracker is used for, and whether you want to approve or reject the tracking and sharing of your data.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg criticized Apple’s new changes publicly, saying they were specifically put in place to put Facebook at a disadvantage. Zuckerberg says Apple is Facebook’s biggest competitor.

But while Apple is adding more privacy features to give its users more control, Facebook is moving in the other direction.

The Thin Line Between WhatsApp and Facebook

Facebook recently announced changes to the WhatsApp Privacy Policy that have some users outraged.

Right now, WhatsApp has some features that allow users to communicate with businesses through WhatsApp chat—and some of those businesses are hosted by Facebook. According to the new policy, messages between the prospect or customer and the business they’re communicating with could be collected and shared with the larger Facebook ecosystem.

That means Facebook and its advertisers could potentially use customer service chats or transaction receipts for marketing and advertising purposes.

The content of users’ individual chats will continue to be encrypted, so they cannot be seen by the company. The data within those chats will not be harvested or shared with third parties. Nonetheless, Facebook faced a huge backlash against the new rules after the announcement, prompting them to publish an FAQ page to clarify the policy and reassure upset WhatsApp users.

The pushback was big enough that Facebook decided to delay the rollout of the new rules (originally slated for February) to May 15th. In mid-May, WhatsApp users will need to accept the new Privacy Policy terms, or lose access to their accounts.

For many WhatsApp users, this announcement was a distinct reminder that WhatsApp users are now Facebook customers, and over time, Facebook will be moving information between the two platforms more often, in the name of “interoperability.”

Transparency: Winning Hearts and Minds in the Tech World

Apple and Facebook often take different approaches to user privacy. More and more, Apple seems to be taking steps to be more transparent and to protect user data, including regulating app developers in their ecosystem.

Meanwhile, Facebook has trouble gaining the trust of many of its users, and the common assumption is that the company prioritizes the needs of its advertisers over the privacy of its users.

Clearly, the market is sensitive to privacy issues, and they want companies to be more transparent – as evidenced by the backlash to Facebook’s recent WhatsApp announcement.

In the long run, I believe the companies that are more transparent with their users and take a stand to protect data privacy will be the ones who succeed – but only time will tell.

Follow me on Twitter or LinkedIn. Check out my website.

Bernard Marr is an internationally best-selling author, popular keynote speaker, futurist, and a strategic business & technology advisor to governments and companies. He helps organisations improve their business performance, use data more intelligently, and understand the implications of new technologies such as artificial intelligence, big data, blockchains, and the Internet of Things. Why don’t you connect with Bernard on Twitter (@bernardmarr), LinkedIn (https://uk.linkedin.com/in/bernardmarr) or instagram (bernard.marr)?

Source: Apple Vs. Facebook – Who Will Win The Data Privacy War?

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Only on “CBS This Morning,” Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and his wife, philanthropist Priscilla Chan, invited us into their home. They have never allowed a TV camera crew inside before. Gayle King was able to see first-hand who this couple is outside their Facebook lives. They discussed raising their two young daughters and how family inspires the work they do. Watch “CBS This Morning” HERE: http://bit.ly/1T88yAR Download the CBS News app on iOS HERE: https://apple.co/1tRNnUy Download the CBS News app on Android HERE: https://bit.ly/1IcphuX Like “CBS This Morning” on Facebook HERE: http://on.fb.me/1LhtdvI Follow “CBS This Morning” on Twitter HERE: http://bit.ly/1Xj5W3p Follow “CBS This Morning” on Instagram HERE: http://bit.ly/1Q7NGnY
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We Need to Change How We Share Our Personal Data Online in the Age of COVID19

1

A few months into the coronavirus pandemic, the web is more central to humanity’s functioning than I could have imagined 30 years ago. It’s now a lifeline for billions of people and businesses worldwide. But I’m more frustrated now with the current state of the web than ever before. We could be doing so much better.

COVID-19 underscores how urgently we need a new approach to organizing and sharing personal data. You only have to look at the limited scope and the widespread adoption challenges of the pandemic apps offered by various tech companies and governments.

Think of all the data about your life accumulated in the various applications you use – social gatherings, frequent contacts, recent travel, health, fitness, photos, and so on. Why is it that none of that information can be combined and used to help you, especially during a crisis?

It’s because you aren’t in control of your data. Most businesses, from big tech to consumer brands, have siphoned it for their own agendas. Our global reactions to COVID-19 should present us with an urgent impetus to rethink this arrangement.

For some years now, I, along with a growing number of dedicated engineers, have been working on a different kind of technology for the web. It’s called Solid. It’s an update to the web – a course-correction if you will – that provides you with a trusted place or places to store all your digital information about your life, at work and home, no matter what application you use that produces it. The data remains under your control, and you can easily choose who can access it, for what purpose, and for how long. With Solid, you can effectively decide how to share anything with anyone, no matter what app you or the recipient uses. It’s as if your apps could all talk to one another, but only under your supervision.

There’s even more that could have been done to benefit the lives of people impacted by the crisis – simply by linking data between apps. For example:

What if you could safely share photos about your symptoms, your fitness log, the medications you’ve taken, and places you’ve been directly with your doctor? All under your control.

What if your whole family could automatically share location information and daily temperature readings with each other so you’d all feel assured when it was safe to visit your grandfather? And be sure no-one else would see it.

What if health providers could during an outbreak see a map of households flagged as immuno-compromised or at-risk, so they could organize regular medical check-ins? And once the crisis is over, their access to your data could be taken away, and privacy restored.

What if grocery delivery apps could prioritize homes based on whether elderly residents lived there? Without those homes or the people in them having their personal details known by the delivery service.

What if a suddenly unemployed person could, from one simple app, give every government agency access to their financial status and quickly receive a complete overview of all the services for which they’re eligible? Without being concerned that any agency could pry into their personal activity.

None of this is possible within the constructs of today’s web. But all of it and much more could be possible. I don’t believe we should accept the web as it currently is or be resigned to its shortcomings, just because we need it so much. It doesn’t have to be this way. We can make it better.

My goal has always been a web that empowers human beings, redistributes power to individuals, and reimagines distributed creativity, collaboration, and compassion.

Today, developers are creating exciting new applications and organizations are exploring new ways to innovate. The momentum for this new and vibrant web is already palpable, but we must not let the crisis distract us. We must be ready to hit the ground running once this crisis passes so we are better prepared to navigate the next one. To help make this a reality, I co-founded a company, called Inrupt, to support Solid’s evolution into a high-quality, reliable technology that can be used at scale by businesses, developers, and, eventually, by everyone.

Let’s free data from silos and put it to work for our personal benefit and the greater good. Let’s collaborate more effectively and innovate in ways that benefit humanity and revitalize economies. Let’s build these new systems with which people will work together more effectively. Let’s inspire businesses, governments, and developers to build powerful application platforms that work for us, not just for them.

Let’s focus on making the post-COVID-19 world much more effective than the pre-COVID-19 world. Our future depends on it.

BY TIM BERNERS-LEE

bevtraders-2

Exclusive: Warning Over Chinese Mobile Giant Xiaomi Recording Millions Of People’s ‘Private’ Web And Phone Use

“It’s a backdoor with phone functionality,” quips Gabi Cirlig about his new Xiaomi phone. He’s only half-joking.

Cirlig is speaking with Forbes after discovering that his Redmi Note 8 smartphone was watching much of what he was doing on the phone. That data was then being sent to remote servers hosted by another Chinese tech giant, Alibaba, which were ostensibly rented by Xiaomi.

The seasoned cybersecurity researcher found a worrying amount of his behavior was being tracked, whilst various kinds of device data were also being harvested, leaving Cirlig spooked that his identity and his private life was being exposed to the Chinese company.

When he looked around the Web on the device’s default Xiaomi browser, it recorded all the websites he visited, including search engine queries whether with Google or the privacy-focused DuckDuckGo, and every item viewed on a news feed feature of the Xiaomi software. That tracking appeared to be happening even if he used the supposedly private “incognito” mode.

The device was also recording what folders he opened and to which screens he swiped, including the status bar and the settings page. All of the data was being packaged up and sent to remote servers in Singapore and Russia, though the Web domains they hosted were registered in Beijing.

Meanwhile, at Forbes’ request, cybersecurity researcher Andrew Tierney investigated further. He also found browsers shipped by Xiaomi on Google Play—Mi Browser Pro and the Mint Browser—were collecting the same data. Together, they have more than 15 million downloads, according to Google Play statistics.

Many more millions are likely to be affected by what Cirlig described as a serious privacy issue, though Xiaomi denied there was a problem. Valued at $50 billion, Xiaomi is one of the top four smartphone makers in the world by market share, behind Apple, Samsung and Huawei. Xiaomi’s big sell is cheap devices that have many of the same qualities as higher-end smartphones. But for customers, that low cost could come with a hefty price: their privacy.

Cirlig thinks that the problems affect many more models than the one he tested. He downloaded firmware for other Xiaomi phones—including the Xiaomi MI 10, Xiaomi Redmi K20 and Xiaomi Mi MIX 3 devices. He then confirmed they had the same browser code, leading him to suspect they had the same privacy issues.

And there appear to be issues with how Xiaomi is transferring the data to its servers. Though the Chinese company claimed the data was being encrypted when transferred in an attempt to protect user privacy, Cirlig found he was able to quickly see just what was being taken from his device by decoding a chunk of information that was hidden with a form of easily crackable encoding, known as base64. It took Cirlig just a few seconds to change the garbled data into readable chunks of information.

“My main concern for privacy is that the data sent to their servers can be very easily correlated with a specific user,” warned Cirlig.

Xiaomi’s response

In response to the findings, Xiaomi said, “The research claims are untrue,” and “Privacy and security is of top concern,” adding that it “strictly follows and is fully compliant with local laws and regulations on user data privacy matters.” But a spokesperson confirmed it was collecting browsing data, claiming the information was anonymized so wasn’t tied to any identity. They said that users had consented to such tracking.

But, as pointed out by Cirlig and Tierney, it wasn’t just the website or Web search that was sent to the server. Xiaomi was also collecting data about the phone, including unique numbers for identifying the specific device and Android version. Cirlig said such “metadata” could “easily be correlated with an actual human behind the screen.”

Xiaomi’s spokesperson also denied that browsing data was being recorded under incognito mode. Both Cirlig and Tierney, however, found in their independent tests that their web habits were sent off to remote servers regardless of what mode the browser was set to, providing both photos and videos as proof.

When Forbes provided Xiaomi with a video made by Cirlig showing how his Google search for “porn” and a visit to the site PornHub were sent to remote servers, even when in incognito mode, the company spokesperson continued to deny that the information was being recorded. “This video shows the collection of anonymous browsing data, which is one of the most common solutions adopted by internet companies to improve the overall browser product experience through analyzing non-personally identifiable information,” they added.

Both Cirlig and Tierney said Xiaomi’s behavior was more invasive than other browsers like Google Chrome or Apple Safari. “It’s a lot worse than any of the mainstream browsers I have seen,” Tierney said. “Many of them take analytics, but it’s about usage and crashing. Taking browser behavior, including URLs, without explicit consent and in private browsing mode, is about as bad as it gets.”

Cirlig also suspected that his app use was being monitored by Xiaomi, as every time he opened an app, a chunk of information would be sent to a remote server. Another researcher who’d tested Xiaomi devices, though was under an NDA to discuss the matter openly, said he’d seen the manufacturer’s phone collect such data. Xiaomi didn’t respond to questions on that issue.

‘Behavioral Analytics’

Xiaomi appears to have another reason for collecting the data: to better understand its users’ behavior. It’s using the services of a behavioral analytics company called Sensors Analytics. The Chinese startup, also known as Sensors Data, has raised $60 million since its founding in 2015, most recently taking $44 million in a round led by New York private equity firm Warburg Pincus, which also featured funding from Sequoia Capital China. As described in Pitchbook, a tracker of company funding, Sensors Analytics is a “provider of an in-depth user behavior analysis platform and professional consulting services.” Its tools help its clients in “exploring the hidden stories behind the indicators in exploring the key behaviors of different businesses.”

Both Cirlig and Tierney found their Xiaomi apps were sending data to domains that appeared to reference Sensors Analytics, including the repeated use of SA. When clicking on one of the domains, the page contained one sentence: “Sensors Analytics is ready to receive your data!”  There was an API called SensorDataAPI—an API (application programming interface) being the software that allows third parties access to app data. Xiaomi is also listed as a customer on Sensors Data’s website.

The founder and CEO of Sensors Data, Sang Wenfeng, has a long history in tracking users. At Chinese internet giant Baidu he built a big data platform for Baidu user logs, according to his company bio.

Xiaomi’s spokesperson confirmed the relationship with the startup: “While Sensors Analytics provides a data analysis solution for Xiaomi, the collected anonymous data are stored on Xiaomi’s own servers and will not be shared with Sensors Analytics, or any other third-party companies.”

It’s the second time in two months that a huge Chinese tech company has been seen watching over users’ phone habits. A security app with a “private” browser made by Cheetah Mobile, a public company listed on the New York Stock Exchange, was seen collecting information on Web use, Wi-Fi access point names and more granular data like how a user scrolled on visited Web pages. Cheetah argued it needed to collect the information to protect users and improve their experience.

Late in his research, Cirlig also discovered that Xiaomi’s music player app on his phone was collecting information on his listening habits: what songs were played and when.

One message was clear to the researcher: when you’re listening, Xiaomi is listening, too.

UPDATE: Xiaomi posted a blog in which it delineated how and when it collects visited URLs visited by its users. Read it in full here.

The company reiterated that the data transferred from Xiaomi devices and browsers was anonymized and not attached to any identity.

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I’m associate editor for Forbes, covering security, surveillance and privacy. I’ve been breaking news and writing features on these topics for major publications since 2010. As a freelancer, I worked for The Guardian, Vice Motherboard, Wired and BBC.com, amongst many others. I was named BT Security Journalist of the year in 2012 and 2013 for a range of exclusive articles, and in 2014 was handed Best News Story for a feature on US government harassment of security professionals. I like to hear from hackers who are breaking things for either fun or profit and researchers who’ve uncovered nasty things on the web. Tip me on Signal at 447837496820. I use WhatsApp and Treema too. Or you can email me at TBrewster@forbes.com, or tbthomasbrewster@gmail.com.

Source: Exclusive: Warning Over Chinese Mobile Giant Xiaomi Recording Millions Of People’s ‘Private’ Web And Phone Use

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Zoom’s A Lifeline During COVID-19: This Is Why It’s Also A Privacy Risk

I admit it, I’ve been using Zoom during the COVID-19 crisis to carry on with my yoga classes without having to leave my home. It’s been a lifeline using the video conferencing app to take an exercise class, and Zoom’s so functional it allows multiple people to be in the same “virtual” room at once.

Other friends are using it for virtual parties, and of course, business meetings and conferences. Even UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson was seen using Zoom for his recent cabinet meeting.

As someone who works in the security industry, I hear a lot about the privacy risks associated with the big tech firms Facebook and Google.

But now the COVID-19 crisis is increasing the frequency people use the video chat service Zoom, it’s important we are aware of the implications for our privacy. And Zoom might not be the best choice for privacy-conscious users, it seems.

Facebook COVID-19 Fallout: Why Is The Social Network Taking Down Legitimate Posts?

 

How private and secure are your Zoom calls? So, what’s the problem? For a start, Zoom’s privacy policy outlines some rather concerning data collection practices, according to research by consumer advocacy organization Consumer Reports.

On the surface of it, Zoom’s privacy policy is similar to the likes of Facebook and Google–it collects and stores personal data and shares it with third parties such as advertisers.

But Zoom’s policy also covers what it labels “customer content,” or “the content contained in cloud recordings, and instant messages, files, whiteboards … shared while using the service.”

This includes videos, transcripts that can be generated automatically, documents shared on screen, and the names of everyone on a call.

Consumer Reports points out that your instant messages and videos can be used to target advertising campaigns or develop a facial recognition algorithm, like videos collected by other tech companies. “That’s probably not what people are expecting when they contact a therapist, hold a business meeting, or have a job interview using Zoom.”

Consumer Reports reached out to the company for comment on its privacy practices. A Zoom spokesperson told me via email that the firm “does not sell user data of any kind to anyone.”

Zoom isn’t necessarily doing anything users would object to with the data, says Bill Fitzgerald, a Consumer Reports privacy researcher who analyzed the company’s policies. However, the firm’s terms of use provide “a whole lot of leeway to collect information and share it, both now and in the future.”

Data that can be collected and shared by your meeting host

The information that Zoom itself can share and collect is a worry, but what about the data handled by your host? Another big concern about Zoom, which you might not be aware of, is that the video app offers hosts “rights that might not be immediately apparent to other participants—or, in some cases, to the hosts themselves,” Consumer Reports states.

You might be using Zoom for work, so your boss could be the host, or you might be buying a service such as a class. Perhaps even more concerningly during this COVID-19 crisis, you may be using Zoom to talk to a health professional about your symptoms.

“Zoom puts a lot of power in the hands of the meeting hosts,” says Justin Brookman, director of privacy and technology policy at Consumer Reports. “The host has more power to record and monitor the call than you might realize if you’re just a participant, especially if he or she has a corporate account.”

Another particularly intrusive Zoom feature offers hosts the ability to turn on “attention tracking” to check whether you are paying attention during the call. This allows the hosts–who could be your boss or client–to monitor whether you click away from the Zoom window for more than 30 seconds while a screen is being shared.

Meet Lockdown, The App That Reveals Who’s Tracking You On Your iPhone

 

Zoom privacy: “A bucket of red flags” 

I asked Rowenna Fielding, a privacy expert and head of individual rights and ethics at Protecture, what she thought. She says Zoom’s privacy policy “is a bucket of red flags.”

“They collect a potentially huge amount of personal data from accounts, calls made through the service and from scraping social profiles, but there’s no way to opt out of specific use purposes while continuing to use the service.”

In addition, she says, although the policy is careful to state that no data is “sold”, it is still used for targeting and marketing purposes. “This in many cases is the harmful use that individuals most object to, especially if programmatic advertising, such as real-time-bidding, is involved.”

Fielding warns: “For an employee or contractor whose boss or clients require them to use Zoom, this is bad news because they are required to expose, or accept the passive collection of, personal data which is not strictly necessary for the operation of the call, and which is then used for a variety of vaguely-described purposes by Zoom.”

She says that while the policy might meet U.S. privacy standards, she’d give it a C- for transparency and accountability according to the more stringent EU data protection regulation’s (GDPR) standards.

Can you use Zoom while protecting your privacy?

Given these concerning privacy flaws, it almost seems impossible to see Zoom as a privacy conscious option. However, sometimes it’s your only choice, especially when the decision is made by a boss or provider of a service.

Consumer Reports experts advise you to keep your camera and mic turned off unless you’re actually speaking. If you feel that you need to have the camera turned on, the experts advise you use a background image so the host can’t see inside your home.

If you care about your privacy, Fielding advises using a unique email address specifically for Zoom, clearing cookies and blocking trackers after every call, opting out of all secondary data uses where possible, and leaving feedback that explains the problems with the service’s privacy.

And if you don’t have to use Zoom, why not choose something else? Many of us are stuck inside for a while during COVID-19, and Houseparty might be a good idea for social chats, while Signal provides a much more secure video service. Jitsi, an open source app that supports multiple chats, is also a good option.

Whatever you choose, check the privacy policy: When you’re on video, it matters even more.

 

Zoom has now sent me a longer statement in response to this story. “Zoom takes its users’ privacy extremely seriously,” a spokesperson told me via email. “Zoom only collects data from individuals using the Zoom platform as needed to provide the service and ensure it is delivered as effectively as possible. Zoom must collect basic technical information like users’ IP address, OS details and device details in order for the service to function properly. 

“Zoom has layered safeguards in place to protect our users’ privacy, which includes preventing anyone, including Zoom employees, from directly accessing any data that users share during meetings, including – but not limited to – the video, audio and chat content of those meetings. Importantly, Zoom does not mine user data or sell user data of any kind to anyone.”

Meanwhile, Zoom says its attention tracking feature is “built for training purposes.”

This is “so hosts can tell if participants have the app open and active when the screen-sharing feature is in use,” the spokesperson says, adding that the feature is off by default and only the account admin can enable it. 

“It is important to note the attention tracking feature only tracks if a participant’s Zoom video window is open and in focus when the host is sharing their screen. It does not track any aspects of the audio or video content of a call, and it also does not track any other applications or activity on your device.”

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I’m a freelance cybersecurity journalist with over a decade’s experience writing news, reviews and features. I report and analyze breaking cybersecurity and privacy stories with a particular interest in cyber warfare, application security and data misuse. Contact me at kate.oflaherty@techjournalist.co.uk.

Source: Zoom’s A Lifeline During COVID-19: This Is Why It’s Also A Privacy Risk

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What Will Happen to Internet Privacy in the Future?

Unfortunately, we have reached a point where the internet doesn’t work correctly unless we sacrifice some of our privacy. Everything from Twitter to cell phones wants access to our personal information, GPS location, and more. To most of us, how companies store and use our information is mostly a mystery. There are constant stories about stolen consumer information, yet we still, willingly, give out ours because the alternative is cloud services and social networks locking us out. If internet privacy has already eroded so much in the present day, what will things be like in the future? Read more…..

Source: What Will Happen to Internet Privacy in the Future?

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