Apps

WhatsApp users move to Signal due to changes in privacy policy

Signal has Musk’s seal of approval

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Over the week, a big change has come to WhatsApp with Facebook updating the messaging app’s privacy policy. As a result of the change, most WhatsApp users are now switching to another encrypted messaging service, Signal.

The whole thing started when WhatsApp notified its users about the updated terms and privacy policy this week. In a nutshell, the updated terms expand the type of data WhatsApp can collect from its users. This includes the user’s account information, contacts, status information, and payment data.

WhatsApp also collects device information, location, and user cookies. To make matters worse, the updated terms even include provisions for collecting ” hardware model, operating system information, browser information, IP address, mobile network information including phone number, and device identifiers” which previous terms don’t contain at all.

As a form of reassurance, WhatsApp will never touch user messages and conversations. The service will continue to encrypt messages end-to-end, and will never display third-party ads in the meantime.

All the data collected by WhatsApp will supposedly help improve Facebook. The data will also improve the services on other Facebook products such as Messenger, Instagram, and the Facebook app itself.

The updated terms also removed the option to opt-out of this data sharing. Users who don’t exactly agree to the terms will have their accounts disabled by February 8, 2021. Those who live in countries covered by the GDPR will continue to see an opt-out option.

See also: Privacy and security tips for your smartphone

Signal gets a heads-up

As a result of the change, Signal — an open-source encrypted messaging service — has seen an influx of users migrating from WhatsApp. The service even got a friendly recommendation from Elon Musk and Edward Snowden. For those clueless about the latter, he is the famous whistleblower who leaked the illegal privacy-invading acts done by the US’ National Security Agency last 2013.

Due to the influx of users signing up, the service has experienced delays in verifying phone numbers, which is critical in the registration process. Since then, the team behind Signal has resolved most of the delays in the past few days.

Users who don’t agree with Facebook’s invasive practices are also encouraged to join Signal. The messaging service boasts of having end-to-end encryption built-in by default and not collecting any user information. It is also run by a non-profit organization, which is different from popular messaging services usually run by large for-profit tech companies. It is available for Android, iOS, and desktop.

Apps

Race For Water is a virtual race and fundraiser for clean water access

Raise funds when you run, walk, or ride your bike

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Clean water is a right, not a privilege. As per United Nations, the average distance African and Asian women walk to collect water is six kilometers, while carrying at least one 20-liter jug.

Waves for Water Philippines, in partnership with Takbo.PH launches Race For Water, in time for Women’s Month and Water Month. The virtual fundraiser is also tribute to World Water Day, addressing the global water crisis we are facing.

Runners and fitness enthusiasts can hit their personal targets through this online event while helping people along the way. This innovative race is designed to ensure social distancing and prioritize safety among participants and beneficiaries.

“I want clean water access for everyone, how do I help?”

Wherever you are in the world, you can join the virtual event, but entitlements and raffle prizes are open to Philippine residents only. To join, you can amp up your support by walking, running, and biking that extra mile.

Sign up at app.takbo.ph and record your progress using any GPS-tracking app of your choice. For every personal target hit, there’s a monetary equivalent. Waves for Water will convert the accumulated distance traveled by all participants into liters of filtered water.

Proceeds of Race For Water will go towards building a gravity-fed water system for an upland indigenous peoples’ community in Porac, Pampanga. This ensures they have water points within meters of their homes.

“When can I sign up and join the race?”

The Virtual Race starts March 1, 2021, and will be ongoing until April 15, 2021. To know more about Race For Water, visit the fundraising page.

Follow @wavesforwaterphilippines and @race4water on Instagram, for updates on giveaways, premium raffle items, and other side events. The event is organized in partnership with H&M Philippines, Aveda Philippines, The Bouldering Hive, and co-presented by TUMI Philippines, San Miguel Corporation, and Atlas.

For more information, visit Race for Water Virtual Run | Race for Water Virtual Ride.

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BPI Foundation’s Breakthrough app teaches personal finance through a digital board game

Your financial choices can either save you or break you!

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BPI Foundation, the social responsibility arm of the Bank of the Philippine Islands, launched its first interactive mobile game. Called Breakthrough: The Financial Choices We Make, the game aims to educate more Filipinos about personal finance in an entertaining manner. For brevity, we’ll be calling the game Breakthrough from hereon.

You can sharpen your financial awareness, understanding, and judgment — from basic to complex financial concepts. Saving, budgeting, insurance, debt management, investments, and retirement planning; your financial choices can either save you or break you.

Walkthrough

Breakthrough utilizes a board game set up like Monopoly, but instead of humans, you’re going against AI opponents. Players roll the dice which travels around the digital board landing on a corresponding tile.

Each tile presents common life events where a player’s decision can affect their score. There’s an opportunity to save, go on vacation, invest in stocks, or purchase insurance. You can even experience mishaps beyond your control like getting scammed, phished, or having emergencies such as car breakdown and home damage.

Overall, you can either amass or lose wealth depending on the path you decide to take. Whoever has the most assets, investments, coins, and highest net worth wins the game.

App development

The development of the app is the Foundation’s response to the World Bank’s study recommending the use of edutainment as a form of teaching financial concepts to the public, as stated by BPI Foundation Executive Director Owen Cammayo.

Apart from the board game, the app included a Financial Wellness journal, quizzes, and tips for players. Moving forward, the BPI Foundations plans to use the app in future runs of financial education webinars and other Foundation activities.

Moreover, the game is planning to scale up, further improving and expanding the gameplay. The Foundation, together with its partner Taktyl Studios, is working on allowing multi-player options, too. Breakthrough is now available on the App Store and Google’s Play Store.

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Facebook to pay $650 million in facial recognition lawsuit

The company that never learns

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A federal judge has approved a settlement in which Facebook will pay US$ 650 million to a class-action lawsuit over its tagging feature. The lawsuit alleged that facial recognition technology, used to tag photos, infringed on users’ privacy.

Facebook users who submitted claims will get at least US$ 345 from the company, the AP reported. The lawsuit had claimed that the adoption of facial recognition technology was being done without seeking permission from users. The social network also failed to inform the users how long their data was being stored.

While many of us view the tagging option as a feature, the platform collects sensitive facial recognition data, whose handling procedures remain opaque. Facebook ended photo-tagging suggestions in 2019 and instead opted for a model to allow users to control what data the platform has over their face.

“Overall, the settlement is a major win for consumers in the hotly contested area of digital privacy,” wrote Judge Donato. “The standing issue makes this settlement all the more valuable because Facebook and other big tech companies continue to fight the proposition that a statutory privacy violation is a genuine harm.”

The class-action case was first filed in Illinois in 2015, suggesting a violation of the Biometric Information Privacy Act. Facebook initially agreed to pay US$ 550 million last year, but another $100 million was added to the judge’s insistence.

 

Attorney Jay Edelson, who originally filed the suit in Illinois in April 2015, told the Chicago Tribune that the settlement was a “big deal.” He also tweeted that the settlement, “was the largest cash privacy class action settlement in history.”

Facebook has an abysmal track record of managing users’ data. In 2019, The US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) imposed a US$ 5 billion penalty on Facebook for misrepresenting users’ ability to control their facial recognition data, as well as other sensitive account metadata.

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