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TikTok is a massive data collection service – researcher

Disguised as a social network

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Photo by Kon Karampelas on Unsplash

TikTok is getting a lot of heat for its opaque data collection policies after it was discovered that the app also accessed the user’s clipboard on iOS. Now, a researcher alleges that the app has collected a huge amount of user data in the background while the service continues to operate like any other social network.

Going by the name bangorlol on Reddit, the user claims that after reverse-engineering the app, they caught it collecting an abnormal dose of personal information. This includes users’ phone hardware, the apps on their phone, network-related information like IP address, router MAC, Wi-Fi access point name, and if a user’s phone was rooted or jailbroken.

He further added that GPS location pings were also being sent to the company’s servers within short intervals. However, we should take the current findings with a pinch of salt. The allegations are from an independent study and yet to be verified or audited by a government or assigned third-party.

We also can’t ignore the report. TikTok has been in the news for all the wrong reasons lately. The US government has officially cited its potential security threats with the Chinese social network and at least two security audits are currently underway.

India has already banned 59 Chinese apps, including TikTok. The government said these apps are “stealing and surreptitiously transmitting users’ data in an unauthorized manner.”

When compared to other social networking apps, TikTok has access to extremely sensitive data. At this point, we need more transparency from TikTok. The company has already pulled its service from India, citing the recent ban. However, it’s yet to convince public authorities about its data protection policies.

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Google will blur NSFW photos soon

Turned on by default

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When I search for “food porn” in Google, I’m looking for enticing photos of food to whet my appetite for dinner. Sometimes, Google has other plans and shows me more than what I bargained for. Finally, the search engine is implementing a way to save us from those awkward moments. Google will soon blur explicit images from search results.

For Safer Internet Day, Google has announced the feature to help protect users from accidentally seeing graphic images — including both gore and pornography — from a search. The feature, which will start rolling out in the coming months, will turn on by default. Instead of showing the images directly, users will face the blurred version and a prompt to view the image despite the warning.

If you don’t mind an accidental shower of NSFW imagery, you can turn the feature off at any time. Alternatively, as always, users can also choose to filter out all explicit search results, blurred or otherwise.

Though the feature is easily adjustable, Google will not offer the same flexibility to supervised accounts. Any accounts supervised by a parent or a school will not be able to change how they view explicit content. Parents can add supervision to the accounts of their children.

SEE ALSO: Google is working on a ChatGPT competitor called Bard

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Google is working on a ChatGPT competitor called Bard

Potentially more info on Wednesday

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ChatGPT is taking the world by storm. Amid all the controversy of the technology’s capabilities, the language learning software has everyone talking about it. ChatGPT isn’t the only player out in the market, though. After enjoying a few months of unrivaled dominance, the software now has competition. Google is officially working on its own ChatGPT alternative called Bard.

Today, Google CEO Sundar Pichai announced Bard, an “experimental conversation AI service.” Powered by Google’s own Language Model for Dialogue Applications (or LaMDA, for short), Bard aims to leverage a gap in ChatGPT’s framework: the lack of connection to the web.

Unlike ChatGPT, Google’s software will connect to the internet. Besides offering uncannily realistic conversations, Bard will likely use information available on the web to complement output with up-to-date results. Since it’s a Google product, that should come as no surprise.

Now, Google’s history with language learning software is interesting. Even before Bard’s introduction, Google was already a huge proponent in AI and language learning. The company is even instrumental in developing GPT-3.5, the underlying technology behind ChatGPT. Currently, Google’s AI is also at the forefront of the Pixel’s camera, especially through the Magic Eraser tool.

Though the announcement seems definitive already, Google is holding an event on Wednesday, presumably to unveil more information about the software.

SEE ALSO: Google is working on a way to read a doctor’s handwriting

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Instagram possibly letting users pay for a blue badge

Copied from Twitter’s playbook

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Twitter got the internet into an uproar after implementing a way to pay for a coveted blue checkmark. Despite the controversy, other social media platforms are potentially introducing similar systems soon. As spotted in new code, Instagram has started referencing paid badges, hinting at a similar feature in the future.

First noticed by developer Alessandro Paluzzi (who spotted other unannounced developments in the past), Instagram’s coding includes mentions of an “IG_NME_PAID_BLUE_BADGE_IDV,” via TechCrunch. Additionally, Paluzzi found references to a Facebook version of the same code. To cap things off, he also discovered a few references to an upcoming subscription product from the current code.

A word of caution, though: Small references inside code might not mean much for the platform’s future plans. Paluzzi himself says that the feature is essentially unconfirmed for now, especially without a prototype.

Given the controversy surrounding the paid blue checkmark, it’s likely that Facebook and Instagram are waiting if Twitter’s experiment translates to better revenue in the long run. Though the initial Twitter Blue brouhaha simmered down for now, the new feature — along with Musk’s other changes to Twitter — are still experiments to test the new ownership’s vision for the platform.

For their part, both Facebook and Instagram have experimented with additional features to expand their offerings to their users. It’s not unheard of for either platform to draw inspiration from the winning features of other social media platforms.

SEE ALSO: Twitter reverses Facebook, Instagram ban

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