TikTok Boom

Last week was an… interesting one in regard to TikTok. The massively-successful social network app with 50 million daily active users is in the sights of the US House of Representatives. They feel the app should be banned but that is a real slippery slope and one that could backfire drastically. Let’s rewind a bit to see how we got here. A Chinese company called ByteDance owns TikTok. For a while the app floundered as a network that never caught on in its original incarnation Music.ly. They rebranded into TikTok and shifted from a music lipsyncing app into the video-focused…

Permission Slip Stops Data Brokers

The collection of our personal data to then be packaged and sold is nothing new. TVs do it, websites do it, and companies all over the world do it. It’s why GDPR and CCPA exist. But what do you do if you live elsewhere? That’s where Consumer Reports comes in. A new service + app called Permission Slip is a free offering from the long-trusted review site. In a nutshell it sends data deletion requests to companies on your behalf. Those requests demand those companies comply with the law. And it is pretty seamless. For someone like me who takes…

Mac Duck

Privacy-focused search engine DuckDuckGo has been inching closer over time to do more than be a great search. In their newest move, the company has released the first preview version of their own web browser for the Mac. José Adorno at 9to5Mac has more details. The browser uses built-in privacy protections like private search, tracker blocking, website encryption, and email protection. Downloaded over 150 million times since 2018, the team behind DuckDuckGo decided it was time to bring the “privacy, simplified” experience to desktops and laptops. DuckDuckGo for Mac is an all-in-one privacy solution for everyday browsing with no complicated…

John Oliver: Data Broker

The HBO program Last Week Tonight with John Oliver covers a wide range of topics. Some are deadly serious while others are quite lighthearted. But regardless of what he talks about every Sunday evening, it’s thorough and interesting. This past Sunday he took a stab at data collection and privacy, something I’m actually bringing to you on Thursday’s edition of The Longform. So there is no better time to bring this to you. Oliver and his team go into data privacy in this long video. Many of the ideas are ones we’ve heard many times such as “if the thing…

Permanent Deletion

We scroll and eventually pause. Is it a funny photo that caught the eye? Perhaps it’s a memory that the algorithm has surfaced. Or maybe it’s simply some piece of content that’s got way too many likes and comments for its own good. It won’t be an ad, of course, because we scroll right by those. As far back as I can recall, that was my typical time on Facebook. Always scrolling, sometimes posting, never satisfying. Then something strange happened: I’d had enough. I proceeded to do what most people never even consider doing. This is the story of my…

Life360 Gets Slightly Less Crappy

When news broke about Life360 being one of the biggest data brokers as a side-hustle, the blowback was huge. This company, which people pay to use to see the location of friends & family, was not only collecting all this information but also selling it all to at least a dozen companies. Umar Shakir at The Verge has more. Life360, a safety and tracking service that helps its users to keep tabs on the whereabouts of family and friends who also use the app, is scaling back its user data sales business to just two partners: Allstate Arity and Placer.ai…

Verizon The Spy

There are two types of companies most people can agree we all hate: cable / ISP companies and cell phone carriers. Verizon, being both, doubly-sucks when news broke of its data collection it’s beginning to turn on. They are rolling out something called “Custom Experience” which collects data about your apps and web browsing activity to help “provide you more personalized experiences with Verizon.” Even worse: Verizon is opting in everyone by default. Yes, if you do nothing, you are giving them permission to collect everything they want on an ongoing basis. Emma Roth at The Verge has more details…

Life360: You Are the Product

Time and time again companies (admittedly Apple a lot) will beat the drum with a simple mantra. If a service is free, YOU are the product. Reporting from By Jon Keegan and Alfred Ng at The Markup detail how the app Life360, marketed as a “family safety” app, traffics in user data to make all their cash. A former X-Mode [a data broker] engineer said the raw location data the company received from Life360 was among X-Mode’s most valuable offerings due to the sheer volume and precision of the data. A former Cuebiq employee joked that the company wouldn’t be able to run…

Future Android Phones May Get Always On Camera

No thanks. I don’t know how else to respond to this announcement by Qualcomm where they showed off the newest version of their Snapdragon Generation 8 processors. This chip supports an always on camera. The Snapdragon is the heart of nearly every Android phone on the market, not to mention many electronics out there. Mark Hachman over at PC World has more details about this privacy invasion. Essentially, it will be able to automatically unlock your phone, but also notice when someone may be peering over your shoulder and alert you… Qualcomm also showed off a video where a cook…