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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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Firefox for Android about to become faster, sleeker

Expect big changes in version 70

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One of the main Android browsers out there is Mozilla Firefox. For a long time though, Firefox for Android remains largely unchanged. Also, some people complained about performance issues compared to other browsers. That is set to change, however, as a new version of the browser land on these coming months.

This new version is actually in development by Mozilla for a long time now. Internally referred to as “Fenix”, the upcoming Firefox version is actually rebuilt from the ground up. As such, the Firefox browser that most people are using now is actually a legacy browser. Mozilla stopped the development of this legacy browser until versions 68-69 but continued issuing minor updates along the way.

Version 70 marks the new browser that will slowly roll out in the coming months. This new version is focused on speed and simplicity. One of the biggest changes is the location of the navigation bar. Users will now find it on the bottom along with the menu button, making navigation much easier with one hand. Plus, Firefox is introducing a new “Collections” feature which is basically a list of your favorite sites.

Also new is support for dark mode, and enhanced tracking protection. The latter is a feature that Mozilla has been pushing to its users across its desktop and mobile users.

Firefox is also getting a much-needed performance and speed boost with the latest version. Mozilla reworked the Gecko engine that powers this browser. Developers put an optimized version of the Gecko engine — GeckoView — inside. Aside from a revamped UI and faster browser engine, Firefox promises support for add-ons. For now, however, users can only install a limited number of add-ons.

Coming sooner than later

Mozilla has already begun the process of updating existing Firefox users to the new browser last February. For users to receive the update, they have to be on Firefox 59 or higher. Plus, they should be running Android 5 Lollipop or higher. They must also have automatic updates enabled.

Eligible users don’t have to do anything to upgrade to the latest Firefox. Mozilla will handle the update process for them. Most browser data from the legacy browser will also be migrated to the new one. These browsing data include history, bookmarks, cookies, default search engine, add-ons, and more.

Meanwhile, ineligible users won’t receive the new browser. Mozilla is devoting its development resources to the new browser, so there won’t be any more updates to the legacy browser after 2020. Users who upgraded to the new browser can’t downgrade too.

Indeed, the beloved Firefox browser had come a long way. Recent developments to the browser mean that Firefox users can expect more on months and years to come.

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Chrome for Android will soon accept biometric authentication

Never too late!

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Google Chrome for Android will soon start accepting your fingerprint for authentication, coupled with advanced auto-fill options.

Once released, you’ll be able to add your payment credentials within a second by using your fingerprint. According to XDA Developers, the card’s CVC or CVV number will be needed for the first transaction only.

A majority of phones today ship with a fingerprint sensor and this can be leveraged to improve the web experience on Chrome. Pixel users will also be able to use facial recognition instead of a fingerprint scanner.

The biometric authentication feature will be optional and users will be able to enable or disable it from within Chrome settings. The biometric payment feature is not yet available but is expected to arrive sometime in the next few weeks.

Furthermore, Google is now bringing support for Chrome to share its passwords with different apps on iOS. This will create a seamless experience for iOS users who rely on Google services. Android and iOS are two completely different ecosystems and Google is trying to bridge this gap by providing a smoother service.

Earlier this year, Google Chrome released support for Windows Hello authentication system, letting compatible devices run a smoother payment experience.

Apple, on the other hand, already has a similar system in place on the Safari browser. The newer generation of MacBooks also has Touch ID support that’s deeply integrated with macOS and the rest of the Apple ecosystem.

SEE ALSO: Google Chrome gains tab grouping in a new update

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Google wants Samsung to favor Google Assistant over Bixby

Do you actively use Bixby?

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Samsung Bixby

Samsung has managed to retain a lot of proprietary technology on its Android-powered phones. One UI, Samsung apps, and Bixby are a few of them that come pre-installed on every Galaxy-branded phone. And Google wants to change this.

According to a report in Bloomberg, Google is negotiating with Samsung to provide more prominence to Google services and, in turn, reduce Samsung’s indigenous technology. If the talks are successful, we could potentially see Google services like Google Assistant become primary on all Galaxy phones.

Obviously, making Google Assistant primary doesn’t mean Samsung ditches its self-developed Bixby assistant. The two are co-existing right now, and the same can be carried forward.

Samsung relies on Android for all its phones, but it has never stopped depending on its proprietary technology. It has tried to push Bixby a lot in recent years. Some phones have a dedicated assistant button that’ll summon Bixby on a single tap. However, adoption by users hasn’t taken off as expected.

The South Korean giant has always wanted to make an ecosystem of its own. Bixby assistant is found on Samsung’s home appliances as well. It isn’t the first time the two companies have clashed over ecosystem conflicts. Before One UI, Google wasn’t okay with Samsung shipping all its phones with TouchWiz UI since it could pose a challenge to stock Android’s adoption.

If Google can convince Samsung to remap the dedicated button and program it for Google Assistant, it’ll indirectly acquire a considerable part of the market. Apple has aggressively pushed Siri on all its products, and Amazon is also trying to make a mark with Alexa.

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