Tag: Social Media

FaceApp reacts to privacy concerns

22. July 2019

The picture editing app FaceApp, which became increasingly popular on social media, was confronted with various concerns about their privacy.

Created in Russia by a four-person start-up company, the app applies a newly developed technology that uses neural networks to modify a face in any photo while remaining photorealistic. In this process, no filters are placed on the photo, but the image itself is modified with the help of deep learning technology.

However, the app is accused of not explaining that the images are uploaded to a cloud for editing. In addition, the app is accused of uploading not only the image selected by the user, but also the entire camera roll in the background. The latter in particular raises high security concerns due to the large number of screenshots that people nowadays take of sensitive information such as access data or bank details.

While there is no evidence for the latter accusation and FaceApp emphasizes in its statement that no image other than the one chosen by the user is uploaded, they confirm the upload into a cloud.

The upload to the cloud justifies FaceApp with reasons of performance and traffic. With this, the app developers want to ensure that the user does not upload the photo repeatedly during each editing process.

Finally, FaceApp declares that no user data will be sold or passed on to third parties. Also, in 99 % of cases, they are unable to identify a person because the app can be and actually is used without registration by a large number of users.

Twitter shared location data on iOS devices

15. May 2019

Twitter recently published a statement admitting that the app shared location data on iOS devices even if the user had not turned on the “precise location” feature.

The problem appeared in cases in which a user used more than one Twitter account on the same iOS device. If he or she had opted into the “precise location” feature for one account it was also turned on when using another account, even if the user had not opted into using the feature on this account. The information on the real-time location was then passed on to trusted partners of Twitter. However, through technical measures, only the postcode or an area of five square kilometres was passed on to the partners. Twitter accounts or other “Unique Account IDs”, which reveal the identity of the user, were allegedly not transmitted.

According to Twitter’s statement, they have fixed the problem and informed the affected users: “We’re very sorry this happened. We recognize and appreciate the trust you place in us and are committed to earning that trust every day”.

Data protection risks with regard to WhatsApp and Snapchat on business phones

6. June 2018

The use of the chat services WhatsApp and Snapchat on smartphones used for business purposes will in future be forbidden for employees of the automotive supplier Continental: For data protection reasons, the employer prohibits its employees from downloading the apps. This ban affects approximately 36,000 mobile phones worldwide.

The ban is based on the fact that social media services access users’ address books and thus personal (and possibly confidential) data. The messenger apps do not restrict access to personal data in their settings, so Continental consequently decided to ban the apps from service mobile phones to protect business partners and its own employees.

Under the current terms of use, users of WhatsApp agree to provide contact information “in accordance with applicable laws”. WhatsApp hereby shifts its data protection responsibility to its users, who in fact confirm that they have obtained a corresponding declaration of consent for data processing from every person in their address book. The social media service will be aware that this is practically impossible to guarantee.

In order to ensure an adequate level of data protection, the latter would therefore be obliged to design the default settings to conform to data protection requirements. Such a change could also have a positive effect on the company itself, considering that this would remove the breeding ground for the prohibition. WhatsApp could then be used on countless other smartphones.

Will Visa Applicants for the USA have to reveal their Social Media Identities in future?

11. January 2018

The U.S. Department of State is aiming for Visa applicants to answer supplemental questions, including information about social media. A 30-Day notice has been published in November in order to gather opinions from all interested individuals and organizations. The goal is to establish a legal basis for the “proper collection of all information necessary to rigorously evaluate all grounds of inadmissibility or deportability, or grounds for the denial of other immigration benefits”.

In concrete terms, applicants are supposed to reveal their social media identifiers used during the last five years. The State Department stresses the fact that “the collection of social media platforms and identifiers will not be used to deny visas based on applicants’ race, religion, ethnicity, national origin, political views, gender, or sexual orientation.”

Meanwhile, the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) has submitted its comments asking for withdrawal of the proposal to collect social media identifiers and for review of the appropriateness of using social media to make visa determinations.

EPIC not only critizes the lack of transparency as it is “not clear how the State Department intends to use the social media identifiers” and further continues that “the benefits for national security” don’t seem precise. The organization also expresses concerns because the collection of these data enable enhanced profiling and tracking of individuals as well as large scale surveillance of innocent people, maybe even leading to secret profiles.

It remains to be seen how the situation develops and how the public opinion influences the outcome.