Facebook ‘Unintentionally’ Uploaded Email Contacts of 1.5 Million Users

Facebook Inc said on Wednesday it may have “unintentionally uploaded” email contacts of 1.5 million new users since May 2016, in what seems to be the latest privacy-related issue faced by the social media company.

In March, Facebook had stopped offering email password verification as an option for people who signed up for the first time, the company said. There were cases in which email contacts of people were uploaded to Facebook when they created their account, the company said.

“We estimate that up to 1.5 million people’s email contacts may have been uploaded. These contacts were not shared with anyone and we are deleting them,” Facebook told Reuters, adding that users whose contacts were imported will be notified.

The underlying glitch has been fixed, according to the company statement. Business Insider had earlier reported that the social media company harvested email contacts of the users without their knowledge or consent when they opened their accounts.

When an email password was entered, a message popped up saying it was “importing” contacts without asking for permission first, the report said.

Facebook has been hit by a number of privacy-related issues recently, including a glitch that exposed passwords of millions of users stored in readable format within its internal systems to its employees.

Last year, the company came under fire following revelations that Cambridge Analytica, a British political consulting firm, obtained personal data of millions of people’s Facebook profiles without their consent.

The company has also been facing criticism from lawmakers across the world for what has been seen by some as tricking people into giving personal data to Facebook and for the presence of hate speech and data portability on the platform.

Separately, Facebook was asked to ensure its social media platform is not abused for political purposes or to spread misinformation during elections.

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Google: Android Users Get Browser, Search Options in EU Case

Google said Thursday it will start giving European Union smartphone users a choice of browsers and search apps on its Android operating system, in changes designed to comply with an EU antitrust ruling.

Following an Android update, users will be shown two new screens giving them the new options, Google product management director Paul Gennai said in a blog post.

The EU’s executive Commission slapped the Silicon Valley giant with a record 4.34 billion euro (then $5 billion) antitrust fine in July after finding that it abused the dominance of Android by forcing handset and tablet makers to install Google apps, reducing consumer choice.

The commission had ordered Google to come up with a remedy or face further fines. The company, which is appealing the ruling, said the changes are being rolled out over the next few weeks to both new and existing Android phones in Europe.

Android users who open the Google Play store after the update will be given the option to install up to five search apps and five browsers, Gennai said. Apps will be included based on their popularity and shown in random order. Users who choose a search app will also be asked if they want to change the default search engine in the phone’s Chrome browser.

Android is the most widely used mobile operating system, beating even Apple’s iOS.

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Samsung to Investigate Reports of Galaxy Fold Screen Problems

South Korea’s Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd. said it has received a few reports of damage to the main display of samples of its upcoming foldable smartphone and that it will investigate.

Some tech reviewers of the Galaxy Fold, a splashy $1,980 phone that opens into a tablet and that goes on sale in the United States April 26, said the phone malfunctioned after only a day or two of use.

“We will thoroughly inspect these units in person to determine the cause of the matter,” Samsung said in a statement, noting that a limited number of early Galaxy Fold samples were provided to media for review.

Screen cracking, flickering

The problem seems to be related to the unit’s screen either cracking or flickering, according to Twitter posts by technology journalists from Bloomberg, The Verge and CNBC who received the phone this week for review purposes.

Samsung, which has advertised the phone as “the future,” said removing a protective layer of its main display might cause damage, and that it will clearly inform customers such.

The company said it has closed pre-orders for the Galaxy Fold because of “high demand.” It told Reuters there is no change to its release schedule following the malfunction reports.

From phone to tablet

The South Korean company’s Galaxy Fold resembles a conventional smartphone but opens like a book to reveal a second display the size of a small tablet at 7.3 inches (18.5 cm).

Although Galaxy Fold and Huawei Technologies Co Ltd.’s Mate X foldable phones are not expected to be big sellers, the new designs were hailed as framing the future of smartphones this year in a field that has seen few surprises since Apple Inc. introduced the screen slab iPhone in 2007.

The problems with the new phone drew comparisons to Samsung’s Galaxy Note 7 phone in 2016. Battery and design flaws in the Note 7 led to some units catching fire or exploding, forcing Samsung to recall and cancel sales of the phone. The recall wiped out nearly all of the profit in Samsung’s mobile division in the third quarter of 2016.

Samsung has said it plans to churn out at least 1 million foldable Galaxy Fold handsets globally, compared with its total estimated 300 million mobile phones it produces annually.

Reviewers puzzled

Reviewers of the new Galaxy Fold said they did not know what the problem was and Samsung did not provide answers.

Bloomberg reporter Mark Gurman tweeted: “The screen on my Galaxy Fold review unit is completely broken and unusable just two days in. Hard to know if this is widespread or not.”

According to Gurman’s tweets, he removed a plastic layer on the screen that was not meant to be removed and the phone malfunctioned afterward.

Dieter Bohn, executive editor of The Verge, said that a “small bulge” appeared on the crease of the phone screen, which appeared to be something pressing from underneath the screen.

Bohn said Samsung replaced his test phone but did not offer a reason for the problem.

“It is very troubling,” Bohn told Reuters, adding that he did not remove the plastic screen cover.

Steve Kovach, tech editor at CNBC.com tweeted a video of half of his phone’s screen flickering after using it for just a day.

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UN: Smartphones, Digital Technology Can Improve Health Care

The World Health Organization (WHO) has issued its first guidelines on digital health intervention.

The U.N. agency said governments can improve the health of their citizens by using digital technology to make health systems more efficient and responsive to their patients.

The United Nations said 51 percent of the world’s population has access to broadband internet service.

Chief WHO scientist Soumya Swaminathan said increased availability and use of digital technology offers new opportunities to improve people’s health.

She told VOA the technology enables people, even in the remotest settings, to leapfrog into the development of a more effective, inclusive health system. With the use of mobile phones, computers and laptops, she said it is possible to bypass the intervening stages many countries have had to go through.

“So, a health worker in Congo can directly start using a mobile phone if the government is able to provide one to the health worker and get away from filling 30 paper registers, which occupy about one-third of front-line health workers time,” she added.

New recommendations

The new guidelines include 10 recommendations on how governments can use digital technology for maximum impact on their health systems.

A WHO scientist specializing in digital innovations and research, Garrett Mehl, said the recommendations deal with issues such as birth notification.

“Knowing that a baby has been born is critical to knowing how to provide vaccinations; knowing that the mother needs different post-natal care visits,” he said. “But without knowing that there was a birth that has happened, it is difficult to trigger those events in the health system.”

The guidelines also address privacy concerns.They have recommendations for ensuring that sensitive data, such as issues of sexual and reproductive health, are protected and not put at risk.

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Google Blocks Chinese App TikTok in India After Court Order

Google has blocked access to the hugely popular video app TikTok in India to comply with a state court’s directive to prohibit its downloads, a person with direct knowledge of the matter told Reuters on Tuesday.

The move comes hours after a court in southern Tamil Nadu state refused a request by China’s Bytedance Technology to suspend a ban on its TikTok app, putting its future in one of its key markets in doubt.

The state court had on April 3 asked the federal government to ban TikTok, saying it encouraged pornography and made child users vulnerable to sexual predators. Its ruling came after an individual launched a public interest litigation calling for a ban.

The federal government had sent a letter to Apple and Google to abide by the state court’s order, according to an IT ministry official.

The app was still available on Apple’s platforms late Tuesday, but was no longer available on Google’s Play store in India.

Google said in a statement it does not comment on individual apps but adheres to local laws. Apple did not respond to requests for comment, while TikTok did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Google’s move.

TikTok, which allows users to create and share short videos with special effects, has become hugely popular in India but has been criticized by some politicians who say its content is inappropriate.

It had been downloaded more than 240 million times in India, app analytics firm Sensor Tower said in February. More than 30 million users in India installed it in January 2019, 12 times more than in the same month last year.

Jokes, clips and footage related to India’s thriving movie industry dominate the app’s platform, along with memes and videos in which youngsters, some scantily clad, lip-sync and dance to popular music.

Challenge to court’s ban

Bytedance challenged the state court’s ban order in India’s Supreme Court last week, saying it went against freedom of speech rights in India.

The top court had referred the case back to the state court, where a judge on Tuesday rejected Bytedance’s request to put the ban order on hold, said K. Neelamegam, a lawyer arguing against Bytedance in the case.

TikTok earlier said in a statement that it had faith in the Indian judicial system and was “optimistic about an outcome that would be well received by millions” of its users. It did not comment further on the judge’s decision.

The company, however, welcomed the decision to appoint a senior lawyer to assist the court in upcoming proceedings.

The state court has requested written submissions from Bytedance in the case and has scheduled its next hearing for April 24.

Salman Waris, a technology lawyer at TechLegis Advocates & Solicitors, said the legal action against Bytedance could set a precedent of Indian courts intervening to regulate content on social media and other digital platforms.

In its Supreme Court filing, Bytedance argued that a “very minuscule” proportion of TikTok content was considered inappropriate or obscene.

The company employs more than 250 people in India and had plans for more investment as it expands the business, it said.

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