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The East African : Mar 18th 2017
28 OUTLOOK The EastAfrican MARCH 18-24,2017 TECHNOLOGY Facebook cuts police off its data for ‘surveillance’ Social netwo≥ks have come unde≥ fi≥e fo≥ wo≥king with thi≥d pa≥ties who ma≥ket the data to law enfo≥cement By ELIZABETH DWOSKIN The Washington Post of data that has been increasingly used to monitor protesters and activists. The move, which the social F network announced on Monday last week, comes in the wake of concerns over law enforcement’s tracking of protesters’ social media accounts in places such as Ferguson, Missouri, and Baltimore. It also comes at a time when chief executive Mark Zuckerberg says he is expanding the company’s mission from merely “connecting the world” into friend networks, to promoting safety and community. Although the social network’s core business is advertising, Facebook, along with Twitter and Facebookowned Instagram, also provides developers access to users’ public feeds. The developers use the data to monitor trends and public events. For example, advertisers have tracked how and which consumers are discussing their products, while the Red Cross has used social data to get real-time information during disasters such as Hurricane Sandy. But the social networks have come under fire for working with third parties who market the data to law enforcement. Last year, Facebook, Instagram and Twitter cut off access to Geofeedia, a start-up that shared data with law enforcement, in response to an investigation by the American Civil Liberties Union. The ACLU published acebook is cutting police departments off from a vast trove PRECEDENT A High Court last month in Dublin declined to order Facebook to reveal the identity of a subscriber in a judgement that set a precedent on how government crackdowns on social media users will be handled. The plaintiff, Ugandan lawyer Fred Muwema, wanted the details of a Facebook user who he said had defamed him. In the past, governments have attempted to persuade Facebook to reveal identities of its subscribers, to no avail documents that made references to tracking activists at protests in Baltimore in 2015 after the death of a black man, Freddie Gray, while in police custody, and also to protests in Ferguson, Missouri, in 2014 after the police shooting of Michael Brown, an unarmed black 18-year-old. On Monday last week, Facebook updated its instructions for BRIEFS Developers aim for Japan’s fastest supercomputer Emerging supercomputer maker ExaScaler Inc and Keio University are among those developing an original supercomputer. Their project is supported by a Japan Science and Technology Agency programme that provides subsidies of up to $43.5 million for promising technologies. The corporate-academic project team aims to achieve the fastest computing speed in Japan by June, which would make the computer the third-fastest in the world, and eventually claim the world’s fastest position. The new supercomputer will be the first to be equipped with a highcapacity, low-power 3D integrated circuit developed by Prof Tadahiro Kuroda of Keio University. The team is utilising ExaScaler’s original “liquid cooling” technology to efficiently cool down the heated computer using liquid carbon fluoride. Dispute heats up between Uber, Waymo Police have been accused of tracking protesters’ social media accounts for a crackdown. Picture: File developers to say that they cannot “use data obtained from us to provide tools that are used for surveillance.” The company also said, in an accompanying blog post, that it had kicked other developers off the platform since it cut ties with Geofeedia. Until now, Facebook hasn’t We depend on social networks to connect and communicate about the most important issues in our lives and the core political and social issues in our country.” Nicole Ozer, director at ACLU been explicit about who can use information that users post publicly. This can include a person’s friend list, location, birthday, profile picture, education history, relationship status and political affiliation — if they make their profile or certain posts public. Some departments have praised the tools, which they say helps them fight crime — for example, if gang leaders publicly post references to their crimes. In a statement about the changes, which were the results of several months of conversations with activists, the ACLU and other groups lauded Facebook’s move as a “first step.” “We depend on social networks to connect and communicate about the most important issues in our lives and the core political and social issues in our country,” Nicole Ozer, technology and civil liberties director at the ACLU of California, said in the statement. “Now more than ever, we expect companies to shut any surveillance side doors and make sure nobody can use their platforms to target people of colour and activists,” she added. Some said Facebook had not gone far enough. “When technology companies allow their platforms and devices to be used to conduct mass surveillance of activists and other targeted communities, it chills democratic dissent and gives authoritarianism a licence to thrive,” Malkia Cyril, executive director and founder of the Centre for Media Justice, said in statement. An Uber app that is used to book a ride. Picture: File WikiLeaks sma≥t TV disclosu≥e should not wo≥≥y you By HAYLEY TSUKAYAMA The Washington Post SAMSUNG RECENTLY said that it is looking into reports based on WikiLeaks documents that the Central Intelligence Agency may have developed a way to access Samsung SmartTVs to control some features of the device and to record conversations within range of the television. According to the documents, which have not been confirmed by the CIA, the agency uses a “Fake Off” mode to make the television appear inactive and record conversations. Only Samsung smart TVs from 2012 and 2013 that run the older 1111, 1112 and 1116 versions of the company’s firmware are affected, the documents said. “Protecting consumers’ privacy and the secu- rity of our devices is a top priority at Samsung,” the company said. “We are aware of the report in question and are urgently looking into the matter.” Before the panic sets in, though, let’s take a step back. First, The Washington Post has not been able to independently verify what is described in the WikiLeaks information dump, and the CIA has declined to comment. Second, the WikiLeaks document describes the hacking of individual, targeted devices. Judging by the information posted on WikiLeaks, the CIA needs to plug a USB drive into a television to get the hack to work. While some say itis likely that the CIA was also developing the ability to get into televisions remotely, as Forbes reported, there isn’t proof that they have succeeded. “For the vast majority of us, this does not ap- ply to us at all,” said Jan Dawson, an industry analyst at Jackdaw Research. “There’s no need to worry for any normal law- abiding citizen, based on what I have seen.” But if you still have concerns, there are some steps to take if you want to turn off the voice recording capabilities on your Samsung television. You can head to your settings menu, then select “Smart Features.” From there, you can choose “Voice Recognition” and turn it off. The WikiLeaks report adds to concerns that have been raised recently about smart televisions and spying. Podcast addicts to benefit from new app If you are a podcast addict but want a little more function from your app, consider Stitcher — a sort of personalised radio service that lets you make playlists of your podcasts and feeds you recommendations based on the shows to which you’re already listening. You can search for podcasts and add them to your favorites playlist. Users can also reorder the podcasts based on the order in which you want to listen to them. So if you would rather skip your news podcasts in favour of some comedy, you can set the app up to do that. Self-driving car company Waymo have asked a judge to bar Uber from continuing to make or use self-driving technology that the company claims was stolen by former employees, according to court documents. Waymo, which is owned by Google’s parent company Alphabet, also asked that Uber return more than 14,000 documents that it says contain intellectual property and trade secrets in Friday’s filing in a San Francisco court. The allegations, first revealed last month, pit two of Silicon Valley’s leading autonomous technology companies in what could become a major legal battle.
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