Tech round-up for July 24: Stop using FaceApp, reconsider TikTok, Google fixing private browsing in Chrome, playing the fake news game

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Categories Consumer technology | Video games

This week, Google is fixing a loophole in Chrome’s incognito mode and browser interaction teaches about the disinformation game. But first, why you should stop using FaceApp and TikTok.

Stop using FaceApp right now

If all of the talk and commentary in the past week hasn’t convinced you to delete the app from your smartphone, here’s another opportunity to reconsider.

While the app, which digitally ages a photograph of a person, has been around since 2017, it’s become popular again recently due to the new aging feature.

And while there is no evidence, as yet, that data and images collected by FaceApp have been used maliciously, by using the app you grant the company incredible permission to the use of your inages.

Just check out this section, quoted from the company’s terms of service

“You grant FaceApp a perpetual, irrevocable, nonexclusive, royalty-free, worldwide, fully-paid, transferable sub-licensable license to use, reproduce, modify, adapt, publish, translate, create derivative works from, distribute, publicly perform and display your User Content and any name, username or likeness provided in connection with your User Content in all media formats and channels now known or later developed, without compensation to you… You grant FaceApp consent to use the User Content, regardless of whether it includes an individual’s name, likeness, voice or persona, sufficient to indicate the individual’s identity. By using the Services, you agree that the User Content may be used for commercial purposes.”

If that’s not enough to keep you from installing FaceApp, there’s also news that fake versions are now showing up in app stores that install malware on your smartphone.

Reconsider letting your kids use TikTok

Another app that’s become popular, especially with kids, is TikTok. And it’s another one to be very wary of.

The video sharing app merged with Musical.ly in 2018 and paid $5.7 million to settle an FTC compaint for collecting information about the children who were using it. The company is facing another investigation for collecting data on kids in the United Kingdom.

TikTok is owned by a Chinese company, ByteDance, and while the company’s data policy has been recently revised (in part due to a fine by the FTC), anyone who was a user prior to February 2019 may have had data processed in China.

David Carroll teaches design and technology at the New School in New York and is featured in the new Netflix documentary The Great Hack which makes the argument that while social media is hailed as something that can connect us has in fact been weaponized against us.

Carroll, who sued Cambridge Analytica to find out what happened to his personal data recently tweeted that users of TikTok and FaceApp should assume their data is readily accessible by the Chinese and Russian governments.

Google making “incognito” browsing more private

Google is changing how private browsing works in the Chrome browser later this month.

Details were released in a blog post from the company last week.

The change is to close a loophole that has allowed companies and organizations to know if you were browsing in incognito mode. Some content publishers were restricting access to people who were browsing incognito, which is one way of trying to circumvent paywall meters.

The change isn’t being made to thwart publishers, but to affirm the right of Chrome users.

In the post, Barb Fraser, who manages news and web partnerships for Google, wrote; “We want you to be able to access the web privately, with the assurance that your choice to do so is private as well.”

Browser game challenges you to become a “bad actor” in search of followers

Bad News is a new interactive browser experience that puts you in the role of a “bad actor”. The objective is to gain followers and credibility, all while spreading false information.

The game begins by asking you to take the position of “fake news tycoon” and leads you through how people and organizations spread “fake news” by illuminating the tools and tactics they use. Along the way you earn badges for the things you do. The “impersonation” badge, for example, is earned when you, an “angry citizen,” create an online news site and give yourself the title of “editor-in-chief”.

The game was developed as a “publicly accessible media literacy tool” by DROG, a collective of European “academics, journalists, and media-experts”. It’s a great example of how games and interactive experiences can help us to better understand different perspectives by having us walk a mile in those shoes.

Bad News is playable in other languages and the creators have come up with a version of the game intended for kids aged 8 to 10.

Researchers at Cambridge University studied 15,000 players and found that playing the game can act to innoculate people against those same techniques being used against them.

Educating people about how disinformation is created and how to detect it is critical, as we know that it’s nearly impossible to try and correct it after it’s been distributed.

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