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Apps are sending sensitive data to Facebook, despite company policies

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facebook ceo mark zuckerbergMark Zuckerberg, CEO of Facebook, which has been under fire for its data collection and privacy practices.REUTERS/Leah Millis
  • Some 11 popular apps are sharing the highly personal data they collect with Facebook, The Wall Street Journal reported Friday.
  • Among the data the apps shared with Facebook were users’ weight and whether they were menstruating, according to the report.
  • The apps generally didn’t give users an easy way to opt out of such sharing and many didn’t explicitly disclose what data they were uploading to Facebook.
  • Facebook bars developers from sharing certain sensitive data with it ,and deletes such information when it finds it, a spokeswoman said.
  • But sharing of app data generally is a standard industry practice, she said.

Some of the most popular smartphone apps are uploading to Facebook highly personal information about their users, including their blood pressure and weight, what house listings they were looking at, and whether they were menstruating or pregnant, without users’ explicit knowledge or consent, The Wall Street Journal reported Friday.

The Journal found that at least 11 apps were transferring such sensitive data to Facebook; they included Flo Health’s Flo Period & Ovulation Tracker, Move’s Realtor.com, and Instant Heart Rate: HR Monitor. All of the apps named by the Journal — and thousands of others besides — include code from Facebook that allow their developers to track how people are using them and use that information to target ads at them.

The apps are transferring data to Facebook regardless of whether the individual users log into the app via the social network or are even members of it, The Journal reported. None of them gave users an obvious way to block Facebook from getting their data, according to the story. Many of them didn’t explicitly disclose to users what information they were sharing with Facebook, according to the report.

The practices may put the developers and Facebook in trouble with regulators in the United States and Europe. Following The Journal’s report, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo reportedly ordered an investigation into apps sharing sensitive information with Facebook.

That may only be the start. The Federal Trade Commission has in the past cracked down on companies whose actual privacy practices differed significantly from what they disclosed to their users. Meanwhile, Europe’s new General Data Protection Regulation typically requires companies to gain users’ explicit consent before collecting or sharing their personal data.

The company is already under regulatory scrutiny after a series of mishaps that came to light last year, including the leak of records to Cambridge Analytica, the data firm linked to President Trump. The Journal’s report comes as the company is reportedly negotiating with the FTC over the size of a fine related to that massive data leak.

Read this: Facebook is reportedly considering paying a record multibillion-dollar fine to settle the FTC’s investigation into its privacy practices

Facebook’s terms bar the sharing of sensitive data

Facebook’s terms of service require developers that use its code to make clear what information they are sharing with the social network, company spokeswoman Nissa Anklesaria told Business Insider. They also bar app makers from sharing certain sensitive data with Facebook. Facebook looks for and deletes such data when the company finds it, she said.

But generally, the practice of apps sharing data with Facebook for the purpose of advertising to users is nothing unusual or untoward, Anklesaria said.

“Sharing information across apps on your iPhone or Android device is how mobile advertising works and is industry standard practice,” she said.

Several of the developers mentioned in The Journal’s report changed their privacy policies or data sharing practices after being contacted by the newspaper. For example, BetterMe, maker of BetterMe: Weight Loss Workouts, updated its privacy policy to make more explicit what information it shares with Facebook and why.

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Wedding attack and tech: How OpenText’s investigations service beats the traditional approach

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At its heart, an investigation is a hunt for relevant facts in order to tell a story — a story that drives strategies for organizations, including law firms.

Tracy Drynan, head of OpenText Recon Investigations — a seamless end-to-end service that helps companies and law firms find evidence for all types of investigations including internal investigations, litigation assessments, compliance and regulatory investigations, c-suite vetting and more — says these stories are a more powerful tool than most people think.

The team led by Drynan arms both in-house and external counsel with the information needed to guide their corporate and outside lawyers with the information needed to guide their clients: an investigation empowers them. What differentiates OpenText Recon is the speed with which the team utilizes specialized tools and workflows to efficiently locate evidence. This approach gains insights into patterns, gaps and relationships in a fraction of the cost of a traditional eDiscovery review, and more quickly gathers the relevant facts to create that critical story.

“Whether it be litigation or a regulatory investigation or an internal audit, often time is of the essence,” Drynan says. “Being able to make decisions that affect your bottom line, your liability, your risks which ultimately challenge your resources, even public opinion, is critical.”

Too often, an archaic model is applied to investigations — one derived when we still existed in a paper society — that analyzes all available information but doesn’t actively hunt for relevant facts, and that produces a disconnect. An efficient model does not need to analyze every piece of information.

“It’s flawed for this reason,” Drynan says. “When you review a set of information, even when you apply advanced analytics and information retrieval science, it is still at the end bucketed for a team to analyze it contiguously. In a way, we are still following the pre-electronic paradigm — we are reviewing almost paper documents one by one, and that unfortunately is handicapping both the talent and the technology in the hunt for the facts.”

While lawyers may make a living hunting facts and building narratives, Drynan would argue their approach could be improved and points out that many of the companies hired by firms to help out during an investigation still apply that outdated model. OpenText Recon breaks that pattern and approaches the hunt differently — they don’t compartmentalize anything, which means the team can identify patterns more easily. Those patterns become the clues, which become the facts, that become the story that allow lawyers to make those critical decisions. The result is not a stack of documents, but a more nuanced report outlining the important facts to analyze.

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Canada takes aim at Netflix, Airbnb in $6.5B big-tech tax plan

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Canada’s federal government is planning to force foreign-based technology firms such as Netflix Inc. and Airbnb Inc. to charge their users a sales tax in a move aimed at boosting the government’s coffers by as much as $6.5 billion over the next five years. 

The new taxation plans, outlined in the government’s Fall Economic Statement, attempt to level the playing field between Canadian companies and foreign-based digital corporations that were largely exempt from paying federal sales taxes. Some provinces — such as Saskatchewan, British Columbia, and Quebec — introduced taxes on streaming services like Netflix earlier this year. 

The government announced Monday that any foreign-based company selling digital products or services to consumers in Canada will be required to collect and remit the Goods and Services Tax or Harmonized Sales Tax. The new tax changes are proposed to begin on July 1, 2021. 

“Canadians want a tax system that is fair, where everyone pays their fair share, so the government has the resources it needs to invest in people and keep our economy strong. That is why we are moving ahead with implementing GST/HST on multinational digital giants and limiting stock option deductions in the largest companies,” said Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland, in prepared remarks. 

“And Canada will act unilaterally, if necessary … to apply a tax on large multinational digital corporations, so they pay their fair share just like any other company operating in Canada.”

Those taxes will include any sales on products or services made through digital marketplace platforms, sales to Canadians of goods that are located in Canadian fulfillment warehouses, as well as any companies whose platforms help to facilitate short-term rental accommodations in Canada. 

However, the new taxation moves wouldn’t see streaming services such as Netflix, Amazon.com Inc.’s Prime Video, Walt Disney Co.’s Disney+, and Spotify Technology SA meet certain Canadian-content requirements, something the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission​ recommended be adopted rather than introduce new tax measures in a wide-ranging report released earlier this year. 

The CRTC estimates that those streaming services record annual revenue of roughly $5 billion, according to its most recent financial data. The federal broadcast regulator said in January that Ottawa should require foreign streaming services to invest in local programming rather than “digital taxes” that would likely get passed down to consumers. 

“It is more appropriate to establish a regime that requires such online streaming services that benefit from operating in Canada to invest in Canadian programming that they believe will attract and appeal to Canadians,” the report said. 

Ottawa will also consider new corporate-level taxes for foreign-owned digital corporations and is working with the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development to develop a framework it expects to provide further details on in the next budget. It expects the new measure will result in $3.4 billion in new tax revenue over the next five years once it is introduced sometime in 2022. 

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RevoluGROUP Canada Inc. RevoluPAY To Pursue Dubai Financial Services Authority PSP License

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VANCOUVER, British Columbia(GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — RevoluGROUP Canada Inc. (TSX-V: REVO), (Frankfurt: IJA2) (the “Company”) is pleased to announce that it has dispatched Company advisor Erik A. Lara Riveros to pursue the petition of a Payment Service Provider (“PSP”) Money Service Business License in the Dubai International Financial Centre (“DIFC”) from the Dubai Financial Services Authority.

Corporate Rational For a PSP License in Dubai

In May 2020, RevoluPAY was granted the European PSD2 license. In September, RevoluPAY received Pan-European passporting approval to operate in 27 E.U. countries. The Company has further expanded its international open banking reach through definitive agreements (“DA”) with BBVA, Flutterwave, and Thunes. Additionally, via direct PSD2 SEPA passporting, the Company added sixty-eight countries and territories to its financial operations roster. In November, the Company submitted petitions for both the analogous United States MSB licenses and the Canadian FINTRAC license. The MEASA region of the Middle East, Africa, and South Asia is a significant financial hub that necessitates exposure for both financial operations and a strategic base for the region’s operations. The Company considers the DIFC an excellent regional hub, having introduced robust legislation for payment services providers (“PSP”) like RevoluPAY.

Furthermore, DIFC conveniently fills the timezone gap for a global financial center between London and New York’s leading financial centers in the West and Hong Kong and Tokyo in the East. Company advisor Erik A. Lara Riveros is duly accredited with the Dubai Financial Services Authority, which should aid the Company’s plans to obtain the Dubai PSP license and establish a corporate financial hub in the region. The Company has diligently prepared all required documentation, and Mr. Lara Riveros arrives in Dubai on the 4th of December 2020 to initiate the license petition process. The global operations of RevoluPAY expect to benefit from the multi timezone capability garnered from a supplementary and PSP licensed subsidiary domiciled in the MEASA region.

License Sought in Dubai

The Company intends to pursue the Category 3D license, which covers the following activities, “Providing or Operating a Payment Account, executing Payment Transactions or Issuing Payment Instruments, including creating and maintaining accounts for executing payment transactions, issuance of personalized sets of procedures agreed upon by the users and the provider, for initiation or execution of payment instructions.”

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