Privacy groups call foul on WhatsApp sharing data with Facebook

Specifically, the privacy group says it’s planning to file a complaint against the companies for violating statues of the Federal Trade Commission act that warns against “unfair or deceptive acts or practices.” Here, EPIC is accusing WhatsApp of lying to users when it promised its 2014 sale to Facebook wouldn’t effect it’s privacy policy — which pledged never to share or sell “personally identifiable information” like the phone number, name and profile data shared under the new policy.

WhatsApp says it needs to share limited data with Facebook to test out new features designed to help users “communicate with business,” such as receiving fraud notifications from a bank or flight delays from airline companies. WhatsApp also maintains that all messages will still be completely encrypted, and unreadable by both Facebook and WhatsApp staff.

HILVERSUM, NETHERLANDS - FEBRUARY 2014, 2014: WhatsApp Messenger is a proprietary, cross-platform instant messaging subscription service for smartphones with Internet access founded in 2009.; Shutterstock ID 177177047; PO: aol; Job: production; Client: drone

Users also have up to 30 days to opt-out of the sharing portion of the new terms-of-service, but according to EPIC, that doesn’t protect the companies from the FTC’s consent order. The order apparently requires the company to obtain an opt-in consent before asking them to agree to the new terms. WhatsApp does technically offer an opt-in option, but it’s not clear how to access it: one must click “read” to view the terms-of-service agreement before the opt-in checkbox appears.

It may sound like privacy groups are splitting hairs, but how user data is handled can have unforeseen legal consequences. It’s not just special interest groups who are concerned — The United Kingdom’s Information Commissioner is also investigating the WhatsApp policy change to ensure it complies with the Data Protection Act. It’s a complicated little mess, but Facebook, at least, is confident it’s on the right side of the law. “WhatsApp complies with applicable laws,” a spokesperson said in a Motherboard interview. “As always, we consider our obligations when designing updates like this.”

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How will driverless cars make life or death choices? Google exec admits he doesn’t know

Technically Incorrect offers a slightly twisted take on the tech that’s taken over our lives.

Autonomous autosEnlarge Image

Where on the dashboard is its moral compass?


I think of morality as a feather that shifts in the wind and occasionally brushes your face delightfully as it falls to earth.

I’m still perturbed, however, whether technology has a fine grasp of it. Or whether it can.

I’m moved by the news that Uber has launched its driverless vehicles in Pittsburgh.

It crossed my mind whether these cars have already been programmed whom to kill if they face a moral dilemma.

For example, the car is about to hit another car with three people inside. It can swerve out of the way, but then it’ll hit three children standing on the sidewalk.

How does it make the choice?

Coincidentally, Google’s director of engineering, Ray Kurzweil, offered an answer just this week.

My brief translation: “We don’t know.”

Kurweil was speaking at the Singularity University, the place where they can’t wait until robots become us and we become them. Until one of us thinks the other unbecoming.

Kurzweil explained that the commandment “Thou Shalt Not Kill” was simply wrong. If someone is about to blow up a building or a city, he said, of course it’s morally right to take them out.

When it comes to driverless cars, he said there was a need for “moral programming.” He said that Isaac Asimov’s Three Rules of Robotics was a good “first pass.”

These are:

  1. A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.
  2. A robot must obey orders given it by human beings except where such orders would conflict with the First Law.
  3. A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Law.

Kurzweil does wonder whether an act of omission — when you could have done something to save another person’s life — is the equivalent of killing.

In essence, though, he admitted he had no ready answer at all to driverless cars’ moral character.

“I’m going to think about that more. I haven’t done that analysis yet,” he said.

For its part, Google said that Kurzweil isn’t part of the driverless cars project, as it’s now part of Google X.

The company pointed me to the words of Andrew Chatham, a principal engineer.

“The main thing to keep in mind is that we have yet to encounter one of these problems,” he began.

Is it the main thing? It may not have happened yet, but it would be nice to know how the car might decide who’s going to breathe their last.

“Even if we did see a scenario like that,” Chatham continued, “usually that would mean you made a mistake a couple of seconds earlier. And so as a moral software engineer coming into work in the office, if I want to save lives, my goal is to prevent us from getting in that situation, because that implies that we screwed up.”

A noble goal, perhaps. Or a frighteningly self-regarding one. But what is the current, actual, real-world situation as these cars are rolling down our streets?

Chatham concluded that “the answer is almost always ‘slam on the brakes.'”

Some may be touched by the open-endedness of the word “almost.” And what if it’s too late to brake?

He did concede that this might not always be the right answer, but said that it would have to be an extreme situation if “brake” wasn’t the correct call.

Isn’t the world full of extreme situations?

The implication is that no one is terribly clear when “brake” would be a really bad idea.

Not everyone wants to rest at Google’s incomplete level of certainty.

Researchers at MIT recently created the Moral Machine. This seeks to see what real human beings — as opposed to engineers — would do in certain driverless car dilemmas.

The researchers don’t merely want to know how humans might make such choices. They’re looking for “a clearer understanding of how humans perceive machine intelligence making such choices.”

This seems rather wise.

Uber didn’t respond to a request for comment, so it’s unclear where its moral compass might be.

At some point, one of these catastrophic events may happen.

When it does, how many people will look to see what the machine decided to do and ask: “Why?”

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Bloomberg: Spotify buries artists with Apple and Tidal exclusives

Bloomberg’s sources also indicate that artists who have released new materials exclusively on Tidal are being treated similarly by Spotify, but specific names were not disclosed. The outlet does cite one unnamed artist who didn’t debut a new song on Zane Lowe’s Beats 1 show on Apple Music for fear of retaliation from Spotify. While Apple looks to continue to gain ground on Spotify’s 30 million subscriber tally, exclusive releases have provided it with a way to keep pace. This summer alone Apple Music debuted new albums from Drake, Chance the Rapper and Frank Ocean before they were available anywhere else.

Any added turmoil over exclusives couldn’t come at a worse time for Spotify. Today’s Bloomberg report reiterates that the company is still in negotiations with labels over new licensing deals and need those in place before filing for an IPO. A key point of contention between the two sides is having music released for paying subscribers only rather than having everything also available on the ad-supported free tier. Those record labels may be getting fed up with the exclusive debuts as well. At least one of the three major imprints in the US feels that way, based on a Billboard report.

Universal Music Group CEO Lucian Grainge reportedly told his label heads that it would no longer allow platform exclusives just days after Frank Ocean released Blond independently with Apple. Ocean fulfilled his contractual obligations to Def Jam (a Universal label) just 24 hours prior with the Endless visual album.

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Resident Evil 7 weapons, story details confirmed by ESRB rating

Resident Evil 7 has been a bit of a mystery since it was revealed at E3 this year, but new details have emerged thanks to a posting on the ESRB site, spotted by Twitter user Wario64. And surprise, surprise: it’s rated M for mature.

One aspect of the upcoming Resident Evil game that we’re uncertain of is just how much combat the game will contain. According to the now-removed ESRB rating summary, players will use weapons like “pistols, shotguns, flamethrowers, explosives, and chainsaws” against mutated creatures. That’s quite the armory compared to the axe that was included in the Resident Evil 7: The Beginning Hour demo.

The summary also mentions a couple scenes of pretty intense-sounding graphic violence. These include dismemberment by chainsaw and shovel, in addition to a shovel getting impaled through a character’s face. There are also areas that include mangled corpses with guts hanging out, exposed to the whole world. On top of that, you’ll be exposed to naughty words like “f**k” and “s**t,” so get your earplugs ready if you don’t want your ears debased.


Additionally, we learn the name of the protagonist and part of his story. You’ll take control of Ethan, who’s looking for his wife in a dilapidated mansion. As for story details we already know, there’s some kind of cult-like family that shares a sorted past. No other details have been revealed, but we’ll likely find out more in the near future, as Capcom reveals the purpose of the Resident 7 demo’s dummy finger.

Resident Evil 7’s demo was compared to PT, the playable teaser for Silent Hills, which was eventually canceled. Resident Evil 7 director Masachika Kawata said his team was “actually creating Resident Evil 7 before PT was announced.”

“[W]hen they announced it, it was kind of like, ‘Oh, they’re doing first-person too?” he said. “”However, now that we’ve come this far, we can see that the content of this game is completely different from what the content or the direction that [PT] was moving in.”

Kawata said he was “very disappointed” that Silent Hills was canceled, adding that he “really loved it.”

Resident Evil 7 launches on January 24 for PS4, Xbox One, and PC. The Beginning Hour demo is currently only available on PS4 for PlayStation Plus subscribers.

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Russia’s free, PC multiplayer Halo game has been cancelled

According to the Halo Online page on VK, Russia’s largest social network, the future of the game was in question for the last six months — with both the team and fans waiting on Microsoft for an announcement. The post says that Microsoft failed to make a decision during the past six months, but said it knows now that “the current form of the game will not be released.” Players have until the end of the month to use any in-game currency they might still have.

The game’s social pages are also being shut down, with staff stating that it doesn’t want to give the community false hope for a revival. “This decision was not easy for us,” the staff wrote on VK. “But we understand that there is nothing worse than uncertainty.”

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Homeland Security investigating Leslie Jones website hack

The attack that saw the ‘Ghostbusters’ star’s personal information leaked to the web is now under investigation by US authorities.

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