Citizens' Issues
Privacy under threat as marketers mine social media for big bucks
As billions of people share a plethora of emotions on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat and what not, advertisers see a future market -- more mammoth than they could ever conceive of.
If you have gone through occasional bouts of "feeling blue" and shopped till you dropped in real life, you will understand shopping's therapeutic value, also called "retail therapy".
There is no doubt that tapping into people's emotions online and turning those into key first-party data via artificial intelligence (AI), real-time analytics and deep algorithms will bring unimaginable wealth for marketers and social media giants alike.
Social media companies have begun to decode what their users think, see, feel and react to as they pour out emotions on these platforms, and later feed potential advertisers.
In April this year, Facebook reportedly allowed advertisers to target "emotionally vulnerable" users as young as age 14 in Australia and New Zealand.
It monitored their posts and used algorithms to identify and exploit them by allowing advertisers to target them during their "most vulnerable moments", reported The Australian.
The company collected the information on a person's moods, including feeling "worthless", "overwhelmed" and "nervous", and then divulged the same to advertisers who used the information to target them with ads.
Facebook later admitted it was wrong to target children and apologised.
The practice was similar to a 2014 psychological experiment conducted by Facebook on 600,000 users without their knowledge. Facebook had then tweaked the News Feed of users to highlight either positive or negative posts from their friends.
Alarmed? Read on.
Facebook is now planning to "secretly watch and record users' emotions via their webcams and smartphone cameras". According to a "newly discovered patent", the company will use technology to see how facial expressions of users change when they come across different types of content on the site.
"In another case, the document says that if you happened to watch an advert for scotch, Facebook could choose to target you with more adverts for scotch," The Independent reported last week.
Facebook reacted: "We often seek patents for technology we never implement, and patents should not be taken as an indication of future plans."
For the privacy activists, it is disturbing to know that a software can discreetly measure people's emotions, spot depressed ones and onpass the data to advertisers.
"It is a direct invasion of privacy. When a person uses a device or computer or mobile, he or she is under the intrinsic understanding that his or her personal space is protected and no one can watch him or her activities," Pavan Duggal, the country's leading cyber law expert and privacy advocate, told IANS.
It is not only a direct violation of personal privacy -- but also data privacy.
"In no way should service providers be given the right to remotely activate webcams and smartphone cameras and record the information. Users must be constantly made aware of the potential ramifications of such services before he or she decides to consent to the same," Duggal stressed.
The patent also details how monitoring nearly two billion users' emotions would help Facebook keep them hooked for a long period.
"If this happens, I would say it would be the biggest invasion on privacy because millions of users have already agreed to allow the social media giant Facebook to access to their camera and microphone in the background without consent," Anoop Mishra, one of the nation's leading social media experts, told IANS.
Through this patent, facebook can easily access users' cameras and microphones without any prior intimation and to avoid this, informed users may stop using Facebook or may revoke the access permission of cameras and microphones within the Facebook app itself.
In such a scenario, the governments have a key role to play in the digital ecosystem.
"The rights and duties of data repositories being intermediaries and network service providers must be clearly stipulated in the context of protection and preservation of personal and data privacy," Duggal said.
Ironically, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg posted a picture last year that showed that he keeps the webcam and microphone at his system covered with tape!
Meanwhile, Twitter last month announced that it's allowing users to access the data advertising partners have on them.
"Users will be now able to go into their privacy settings and see which brands are targeting them with ads. Users will be able to choose which interests are accurate and which they don't want to be associated with," the micro-blogging platform said in a blog post.
Opting out completely from being targeted by advertisers is not yet an option, say media reports, but at least Twitter, that has huge first-party data, is giving users an option to tailor their lists.
In today's digital life and existence, privacy is increasingly becoming a rare commodity.
"We require a strong cyber law to protect the online privacy of people. It must be remembered that people are not guinea pigs and their privacy cannot be invaded upon by any stakeholder," noted Duggal, also a Supreme Court lawyer.
According to Mishra, "for marketers, the sharing of users' data is going to be a hit as they could make a bundle instantly".
Disclaimer: Information, facts or opinions expressed in this news article are presented as sourced from IANS and do not reflect views of Moneylife and hence Moneylife is not responsible or liable for the same. As a source and news provider, IANS is responsible for accuracy, completeness, suitability and validity of any information in this article.


Democratic Congress Members Raise Alarm About Security at Trump Properties

Two dozen House Democrats have sent a letter to White House counsel Donald McGahn, warning that digital security holes at the Trump Organization's clubs and hotels are risks to national security and the secrecy of classified information.


"The White House must act immediately to secure the potentially sensitive information on these systems," said the letter, which was signed by 24 Congress members and went to McGahn last week.


Their concerns were in response to an article published last month by ProPublica and Gizmodo that documented the cybersecurity vulnerabilities at properties the president has frequented since being elected. Our reporting found unencrypted login pages, servers running outdated software, accessible printers, and Wi-Fi networks that were open to anyone close enough to access them.


We were able to detect vulnerable networks at Mar-a-Lago — Trump's "Southern White House" — from a small motorboat about 800 feet from the club on Florida's Intracoastal Waterway. We also found open Wi-Fi networks at the grounds of the Trump golf courses in Bedminster, New Jersey, and accessible Wi-Fi-enabled printers at Trump's course in Sterling, Virginia.


"To leave these networks unsecured undermines our national priorities and the trust the American people place in the Office of the President," the letter warned.


The White House and the Trump Organization did not comment on the letter.


Rep. Eliot Engel, D-N.Y., the letter's author, said the vulnerabilities revealed by our story demand immediate action, but he's received no response from the administration so far. "It needs to be addressed quickly. Potentially every minute something is leaking," he said. "It is too late to close the henhouse after the foxes come in."


Since becoming president, Donald Trump has spent time at his clubs on most weekends and has met with foreign dignitaries like Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Chinese President Xi Jinping at Mar-a-Lago.


In February, members of Mar-a-Lago posted pictures of a dinner meeting between Trump and Abe on the patio of the club. Cybersecurity experts warned that sophisticated hackers could turn guests' cellphones into clandestine listening devices if they gained access to the networks at the club.


Hackers may not need to travel to each of the Trump Organization's clubs and hotels in order to gain access. We found that the Trump Hotel in Washington, D.C., was hosting a server running software that is more than a decade old and is still accessible from the internet.


After we notified the company that administers the Trump clubs' websites about our findings, they disabled an insecure login page that lead to a database of sensitive information that we found on Mar-a-Lago's website. However, the company, called Clubessential, has not locked down its customer documentation website, which includes usernames and passwords to internal accounts and is accessible to anyone with an internet connection.


Clubessential did not respond to a request for comment.


"Cyber-criminals and nation states have both the incentive and the ability to hack these networks to obtain sensitive information critical to our national security and international diplomacy," the Congress members' letter said.


Since our visits to Trump's properties in early May, the president has spent four weekends at his clubs.


"He's the president of the United States," Engel said. "We should make sure he's secure wherever he is."


ProPublica is a Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative newsroom. Sign up for their newsletter.
















Siftr Magic: Magic Cleaner for WhatsApp

Professor Kleen believes in cleanliness. So why not invite him to your phone to keep it clean? He knows intuitively what is clean and what is trash.

WhatsApp has this nasty habit of saving every single picture you have ever sent or received. While the app means well, the result is that every single time someone sent you a ‘cute’ photo, or a screenshot of their phone, it’s cluttering your storage.  Over time, hordes of WhatsApp messages clog your device’s memory. It is painful to sift through the pictures you need to keep and delete the rest. Magic Cleaner for WhatsApp does exactly that for you.

After you install and run the app, it will analyse all your WhatsApp photo and video attachments, find those that it feels are junk and then neatly categorise the junk into various groups—quotations, cartoons, forwards, etc. It allows you to review them and, ultimately, to delete them—all in one shot.

In my initial trials, I found that all this was done very intelligently, using cutting-edge technology and neural networks. After a few iterations, I was confident and was able to delete the junk, without even a review.

Siftr Magic works equally efficiently for WhatsApp, Line, Viber, Telegram and Hike.



We are listening!

Solve the equation and enter in the Captcha field.

To continue

Sign Up or Sign In


To continue

Sign Up or Sign In



The Scam
24 Year Of The Scam: The Perennial Bestseller, reads like a Thriller!
Moneylife Magazine
Fiercely independent and pro-consumer information on personal finance
Stockletters in 3 Flavours
Outstanding research that beats mutual funds year after year
MAS: Complete Online Financial Advisory
(Includes Moneylife Magazine and Lion Stockletter)