Dating apps are using Capitol images to ban rioters’ accounts #SootinClaimon.Com

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Dating apps are using Capitol images to ban rioters’ accounts

Jan 17. 2021

By The Washington Post · Drew Harwell, Lisa Bonos, Craig Timberg

WASHINGTON – Tinder, Bumble and other dating apps are using images captured from inside the Capitol siege and other evidence to identify and ban rioters’ accounts, causing immediate consequences for those who participated as police move toward making hundreds of arrests.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/video/c/embed/ed2abf27-38f2-4f79-919e-e65682e37661?ptvads=block&playthrough=false

Women and men have in some cases also turned the dating apps into hunting grounds, striking up conversations with rioters, gathering potentially incriminating photos or confessions, then relaying them to the FBI. Using the dating apps to pursue members of the mob has become a viral pursuit, with tips shared on Twitter and some women changing their location on the dating apps to Washington, D.C. in hopes of snaring a potential suspect.

The moves cast a spotlight on how some unlikely sources have helped expand a digital dragnet for participants in a siege with deeply online roots, fueled by viral conspiracy theories, organized on social media and live-streamed in real-time.

They also show how people are attempting to use the same tools to fight back, including by contributing to a wide-scale manhunt for dating-app users who played a part in the violent attack.

Amanda Spataro, a 25-year-old logistics coordinator in Tampa, called it her “civic duty” to swipe through dating apps for men who’d posted incriminating pictures of themselves. On Bumble, she found one man with a picture that seemed likely to have come from the insurrection; his response to a prompt about his “perfect first date” was: “Storming the Capitol.”

“Most people, you think if you’re going to commit a crime, you’re not going to brag about it,” Spataro said in an interview.

After swiping right in hopes she could get more information out of him, she said he responded that he did visit the Capitol and sent more pictures as proof. She later contacted the FBI tip line.

Some onlookers have celebrated the viral hunt as a creative form of digital comeuppance. But some privacy advocates said the episode reveals a worrying truth about pervasive public surveillance and the opaque connections between private companies and law enforcement. Some also worry about people being misidentified by amateur investigators and other risks that can arise when vigilantes try to take crime-fighting into their own hands.

“These people deserve the right to seek a partner in one of the few ways we have to socialize during the pandemic, and seek love,” said Liz O’Sullivan, technology director of the Surveillance Technology Oversight Project, a New York-based nonprofit group fighting discriminatory surveillance.

“It’s one more example of how these tech companies can impact our lives without our feedback,” she added. “What if this was happening to Black Lives Matters protesters? . . . At the end of the day, it’s just so much power.”

Both Bumble and Match Group – which also owns Tinder, Hinge, OkCupid, PlentyofFish and Match – said they were working to remove users known to be involved in the Capitol siege from their platforms.

“We always encourage our community to block and report anyone who is acting against our guidelines, and we have already banned users who have used our platform to spread insurrectionist content or who have attempted to organize and incite terrorism,” Bumble said in an unsigned statement. “As always, if someone has or is in the process of committing a potentially criminal act on our platform, we will take the appropriate steps with law enforcement.”

A Bumble official, speaking on the condition of anonymity because company officials have received violent threats following past policy changes, said app employees have reviewed images taken inside and around the Capitol during the siege and banned accounts that “spread insurrectionist content or who have attempted to organize and incite terrorism.”

Bumble uses software to scan users’ dating profiles and biographies for “text content that promotes the insurrection or related activities,” the official said. Accounts can be banned for promoting racism, encouraging violence or spreading falsehoods about Trump’s election loss.

Dating apps have also worked to ban anyone who has been arrested or publicly identified by law enforcement as having taken part in the attack.

Match Group said it has banned rioters’ accounts based on long-established rules against promoting or inciting violence. Match spokeswoman Vidhya Murugesan declined to say how many had been punished in this way.

“We have, and will continue, to ban any users wanted by the FBI in connection with domestic terrorism from all of our brands, and we always cooperate with law enforcement in their investigations,” Murugesan said.

Many women in Washington over the past two weeks had taken notice of a surge in conservative men on dating apps, many wearing “Make America Great Again” hats or other markers of support for President Donald Trump rarely seen in an overwhelmingly Democratic city.

The FBI has set up an anonymous tip line for reports on people who might have breached the Capitol. In a statement last week, the bureau said they’d received more than 100,000 “digital media tips” from a wide range of sources.

Federal investigators have used airline passenger manifests, video live streams, social media posts, news reports, cellphone location data and other evidence to support their charges and find suspects.

Law enforcement officials would not say how many tips came from dating apps but have said they are reviewing all evidence. More than 100 people have been charged in connection to the riots, and hundreds of other cases are still under investigation.

“Even your friends and family are tipping us off,” FBI Assistant Director in Charge Steven M. D’Antuono said at a recent press briefing. “So you might want to consider turning yourself in instead of wondering when we’re going to come knocking on your door. Because we will.”

The overlapping issues of law enforcement, privacy and user safety are complicated for dating apps. Police or prosecutors seeking data – especially if they have search warrants – give companies little room to object unless they are already encrypting data in ways that can’t be readily retrieved, as Apple and some other companies have done with some kinds of user communications.

Using publicly available data to purge users who may have been involved in a crime – especially one as visible and troubling as the Capitol attack – requires tougher trade-offs.

Some would argue it’s unfair to delete the account of someone merely on the grounds of the Capitol that day, as opposed to someone known to have entered the building or committed other crimes, such as vandalism and theft. But a dating app’s users may reasonably expect to not get connected to somebody known to participate in what many regard as an illegal insurrection designed to disrupt a democratic process.

At the same time, the available identification technologies are imperfect. Privacy experts question whether any company should be taking action against users merely because they are believed to have been at the Capitol on Jan. 6 – before formal adjudication or even arrests by authorities.

“There’s a likely challenge of both false positives and false negatives,” said Ashkan Soltani, distinguished fellow at Georgetown Law Center’s Institute for Technology Law & Policy. “I’m not sure a dating app should be in the business of trying to make these determinations.”

Soltani said that the issues facing the dating apps are difficult ones, with a range of possible solutions. The apps could alert individual users that a person they have expressed interest in may have participated in the Capitol takeover, or they could allow individual users to identify themselves as participants by hitting a built-in button, similar to the “I Voted” tag some social media companies offer on election days. Blocking users outright based on analysis of images, especially before arrest or adjudication, struck him as “over-moderation” by the apps.

Dating apps have a history of using human moderators and automated software to scan for problematic content, thanks in large part to male users with a habit of sending unwanted photos of their genitals. (Such accounts are immediately banned.)

A Bumble spokesman said the dating app also scans users’ profile photos and biographies for weapons, hate symbols or offensive language. Conversations between matched users are not moderated unless one of the users reports the chat for abuse.

Major social media sites, messaging services and discussion forums routinely use automated software to scan for images, video or discussion of sexual abuse, terrorism and other crimes.

Algorithms scan images and video to see whether they match any clips in databases of problematic content, such as child sexual abuse material or child pornography; they also look through user profiles or posts to analyze whether they include hate speech, threatening language or racial slurs.

As the digital hunt for Capitol siege suspects was underway, Bumble on Wednesday removed a feature in the U.S. that allowedpeople to filter prospective matches by their political leanings, saying in a statement that the filter had been used “in a manner contrary to our terms and conditions.”

Some amateur insurrectionist-hunters criticized the company for instituting a change they said only protected rioters. But Bumble said the filter could have been misused to target people, including those who self-identified as “conservative” but did not participate in the siege. Bumble has since restored the politics filter after implementing what it called new “moderation tools and protocols.”

The move could dim the romantic opportunities for people like Brandon Fellows, who posted Snapchat videos of himself as he wandered the Capitol and smoked a joint in a senator’s office.

He later told Bloomberg that his Bumble profile was “blowing up” after he posted his Capitol photos, but did not provide evidence. The company said his account was immediately banned.

Lidar tech on the rise at CES to power future smart cities, autonomous cars #SootinClaimon.Com

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Lidar tech on the rise at CES to power future smart cities, autonomous cars

Jan 17. 2021Seoul Robotics launched a new product to equip urban cities with 3-D vision. MUST CREDIT: Seoul Robotics.Seoul Robotics launched a new product to equip urban cities with 3-D vision. MUST CREDIT: Seoul Robotics.

By The Washington Post · Dalvin Brown

Mobility analysts, urban planners and AI companies bill widespread lidar as a building block for future urban societies, where autonomous vehicles, smart homes and infrastructure work together to create “smart” cities.

Lidar, short for light detection and ranging, is a sensing method that enables devices to glean what an object is based on its shape. In theory, when deployed on traffic lights, in parking lots and on enough vehicles, the technology could help contextualize what’s happening outside so cities can better manage energy and security. It could also manage traffic congestion.

The tech has been around since at least the 1970s. However, it was considered too expensive and complicated for companies in a broad range of industries to utilize. That is until now, according to HanBin Lee, founder of South Korea-based Seoul Robotics, a computer vision company.

Prices have come down so much that the tech is found in the latest model iPhones. It’s how robot vacuums see what’s around your home. It’s at the center of several thought-provoking product announcements to come out of this year’s CES, a large, global tech conference that took place this week.

Seoul Robotics launched Discovery, a software and hardware service to interpret light and radar data for factories, retailers, automakers and more. Other companies announced lidar applications for autonomous consumer cars and robotaxis, with Intel’s Mobileye that passenger vehicles will be self-driving by 2025.

The technology has its limitations, particularly on cars. It produces lower resolution images than cameras and tends to cost more. However, lidar represents a growing market and is projected to triple to almost $3 billion by 2025. Forward-thinking tech companies at CES say they’re hoping to take advantage of it. Here are some of the most innovative lidar products and ideas.

Seoul Robotics says it wanted to take the siloed industry of lidar software and expand it to the masses. Essentially, the software company developed what it calls an easy-to-use “plug-and-play” lidar system that allows a wide range of organizations to benefit from 3-D sensors.

For instance, retail stores could use it to understand where people are moving and whether patrons are social distancing. Cities could use it on highway offramps to detect vehicles going the wrong way.

Its offering is meant to analyze and interpret 3-D data from most available lidar products. It was built to unlock “autonomy through infrastructure,” Lee said.

Seoul Robotics already has a few big-name partnerships under its belt, including BMW and Mercedes-Benz. It also partnered with the lidar company Velodyne on office monitoring tech for Qualcomm. Seoul Robotic’s software has been installed in parking lots to help automate cars. BMW used it to move driverless vehicles via wireless Internet connections.

“So basically, this infrastructure takes over the vehicle. And thousands of vehicles can be automated with just a few sensors,” Lee said.

Intel’s MobilEye said at the trade show that it developed a strategy for making highly automated cars safe enough to use on roads across the globe by 2025.

The company, a leading player in automotive technology, plans to leverage crowdsourced mapping, a camera-based computer vision system and a lidar suite to achieve its goal.

MobileEye, which Intel snapped up in 2017, has been testing its mapping technology in Munich and plans to use cameras built into production vehicles to map the world. The company claims to have already mapped nearly 621 million miles, setting a foundation for autonomous cars to follow.

Pending regulatory approval, Mobileye will expand its fleet of autonomous test vehicles to New York City by the end of the year, the company says.

Its project relies on two independent computer vision systems to ensure that vehicles are safer in self-driving mode than if a human were controlling the car. One is a camera-based system that is advanced enough to power the car autonomously, and the other is a lidar and radar-based system that’s strong enough to do the same thing.

The two approaches are fused along with the 3-D maps allowing “safety-critical performance that is at least three orders of magnitude safer than humans,” according to Mobileye. Pending regulatory approval, Mobileye will expand its fleet of autonomous test vehicles to New York City by the end of the year.

The Munich-based start-up Blickfeld showed two new lidar sensors for cars meant to hit the market in three to four years. The 3-D sensors, dubbed Vision Mini and Vision Plus, are designed to produce a surround-view “that is crucial for automated urban traffic as well as robotic vehicles,” according to the company.

The Mini is small, roughly five centimeters long and is meant to detect closer range objects around a vehicle. It’s customizable to fit within a vehicle’s design scheme, according to the company. The larger Vision Plus can pick up things 650 feet in front of and behind cars with self-driving features. Together, they’re designed to enable cars to handle more than one automated task at a time.

A combination of six sensors are needed for 360-degree views, unlocking level four autonomous capabilities, says Florian Petit, founder of Blickfeld. The company is working with production partners to meet what it sees as a rapidly increasing demand.

“We saw that there’s a huge gap between the cars produced to be autonomous eventually and the number of lidars produced,” Petit said.

Innovative armoury for battle against Covid-19 #SootinClaimon.Com

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Innovative armoury for battle against Covid-19

Jan 15. 2021

By The Nation
Photos by Supakit Khumkun

The King Mongkut’s Institute of Technology Ladkrabang unveiled an innovation on Friday that can be used to help fight the new wave of Covid-19 infections.

The innovative machine includes an emergency breathing device, a closed disinfection system, an AI-based individual screening system, a negative pressure cabinet, mobile positive pressure testing unit and a powered air-purifying respirator suit.

The institute also unveiled RAIBO-X, a robot that can kill different kinds of viruses using UV-C light.

On Friday, Thailand ranked 128th on the global list of most cases, while the US tops the list with 23.85 million, followed by India 10.53 million, Brazil 8.32 million, Russia 3.49 million and the United Kingdom 3.26 million.

Galaxy S21 comes with striking design change, most powerful processor #SootinClaimon.Com

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Galaxy S21 comes with striking design change, most powerful processor

Jan 15. 2021Samsung President Roh Tae-moon showcases Galaxy S21 lineup during a virtual Unpacked show Thursday at midnight. (Samsung Electronics)Samsung President Roh Tae-moon showcases Galaxy S21 lineup during a virtual Unpacked show Thursday at midnight. (Samsung Electronics)

By Song Su-hyun
The Korea Herald/ANN

Samsung Galaxy S21, unveiled Thursday at midnight, boasts a new, striking design and is equipped with the most powerful processor yet. Plus, it comes with a lowered price tag.

Samsung streamed the Galaxy S21 Unpacked show through various online channels to introduce its flagship smartphones for 2021 — Galaxy S21, Galaxy S21+ and Galaxy S21 Ultra — one month earlier than previous years. The Ultra model supports the S Pen stylus for the first time. Samsung also introduced Galaxy Buds Pro with noise cancelling and wind shield capabilities for the first time.

The biggest change made for the S21 series is elevated, new design.

Samsung has introduced what is called “Contour Cut Camera” referring to the rear camera module that seamlessly blends into the device’s metal frame for a sleeker aesthetic.

In addition to the design change, S21 and S21+ will be available in a new range of colors including the signature Phantom Violet color for the new series. And each device is coated with a luxurious haze finish on the back for a more sophisticated look.

Galaxy S21 is designed for those who want a light design with a compact 6.2-inch display, while S21+ sports an expanded 6.7-inch display and a larger battery, which would be perfect for marathon gamers and binge-watchers, Samsung described.

“We are living in a mobile-first world, and with so many of us working remotely and spending more time at home, we wanted to deliver a smartphone experience that meets the rigorous multimedia demands of our continuously changing routines,” said Roh Tae-moon, president of IT and mobile communications business at Samsung. “We also recognize the importance of choice, especially now, and that’s why the Galaxy S21 series gives you the freedom to choose the best device for your style and needs.”

The S21 and S21+ models feature the FHD+ Dynamic AMOLED 2X Infinity-O display with an adaptive refresh rate of 120-hertz for smoother scrolling and viewing.

The 6.8-inch Galaxy S21 Ultra sports the QHD+ Dynamic AMOLED 2X Infinity-O display, which Samsung calls “the most intelligence screen yet.” 

(Samsung Electronics)(Samsung Electronics)
 

Compared with the Galaxy S20, S21 Ultra offers a 25 percent brighter picture at a 1,500 nits of peak brightness, the brightest on a Galaxy smartphone. And with a 50 percent improved contrast ratio, it delivers crystal-clear, immersive images, even when outside.

To help reduce eye fatigue on all three devices, Samsung has newly adopted what they call the Eye Comfort Shield that automatically adjusts the blue light based on the time of day, the type of content users view, and at bedtime.

The Galaxy S21 series camera boasts pro-grade enhancements with increased artificial intelligence capabilities, Samsung said.

Samsung newly introduced a Director’s View that allows users to capture video by using both front and rear cameras simultaneously for real-time reactions, allowing users to preview or change the angle, zoom or go wide without losing any action. Paired with the newly unveiled Galaxy Buds Pro, users can capture both ambient sounds and voice at the same time using multiple mic recording. 

(Samsung Electronics)(Samsung Electronics)
 

Galaxy S21 and S21+ feature an AI-powered triple-lens pro-grade camera system that helps users capture better shots that automatically adjusts in accordance with its surroundings. For example, in Portrait Mode, the AI-powered camera leverages an improved 3D analysis that more accurately separates the subject from the background. It also brings in options for virtual studio lighting and AI background effects to make sure the subject pops from the frame.

With Ultra, Samsung continues to pivot on offering the best-in-class camera experience, it said.

Samsung describes the Ultra camera system as the most advanced pro-grade ever yet.

It has a quad rear camera, consisting of ultra-wide, wide and dual tele-lenses, which features an upgraded 108-megapixel pro sensor, from which users can capture 12-bit HDR photos with 64 times richer color data and more than three times wider dynamic range.

For the first time on a Galaxy smartphone, users can shoot in 4K at 60fps across all lenses including front and rear four lenses.

When zooming in on S21 Ultra, users do not have to worry about sacrificing clarity. The Galaxy S21 Ultra features 100x Space Zoom which is powered by Samsung’s first-ever Dual-tele lens system – one optical 3x and one optical 10x both equipped Dual Pixel autofocus.

Ultra also features an improved Bright Night sensor, the biggest leap yet in low-light photography along with noise reduction and 12MP Nona-binning technology, Samsung said.

Such improved AI capabilities have been possible with the backing of the latest smartphone chipsets, according to the smartphone maker.

The Galaxy S21 features the latest and most advanced smartphone chipset Exynos 2100 built on cutting-edge 5-nanometer process technology for greater speed and energy efficiency.

In Korea, Samsung will start taking preorders on Friday through Jan. 21.

The official launch date is set for Jan. 29 globally.

The 256-gigabyte Galaxy S21 and S21+ models will retail for 999,900 won ($911) and 1.19 million won each. The Galaxy S21 Ultra will be 1.45 million won for 256GB, and 1.59 million won for 512GB.

Samsung Launches Galaxy S21 Phones With Lower Prices, AirPods Rival in Tow #SootinClaimon.Com

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Samsung Launches Galaxy S21 Phones With Lower Prices, AirPods Rival in Tow

Jan 15. 2021The Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra smartphone at the Samsung Unpacked product launch event in New York Jan. 13, 2021. MUST CREDIT: Bloomberg photo by Nina Westervelt.The Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra smartphone at the Samsung Unpacked product launch event in New York Jan. 13, 2021. MUST CREDIT: Bloomberg photo by Nina Westervelt.

By Syndication Washington Post, Bloomberg · Mark Gurman, Sohee Kim

Samsung Electronics Co. on Thursday debuted three Galaxy S21 smartphones, upgraded earbuds and a gadget to track physical items, setting out its stall to compete with Apple Inc.’s existing and future device range.

The South Korean company’s new flagship handsets are $200 cheaper than last year’s lineup across the board: the Galaxy S21 starts at $799.99, matching the iPhone 12, while the larger S21+ is $999.99 and the upgraded S21 Ultra costs $1,199.99. The price drops are an acknowledgement of the current pandemic-riddled economy where consumers are holding off on non-essential purchases as well as a move to ward off rising competition from the likes of Xiaomi Corp.

Samsung said it sees a “bifurcation” in the smartphone market, between consumers wanting the very latest tech and more cost-sensitive shoppers, which has motivated its new strategy. It’s a similar approach to Apple’s split of the iPhone line into standard, Pro and Pro Max models that differ in cost, materials, size and camera specs.

The Galaxy S21 series come in roughly the same dimensions as last year – going from the 6.2-inch S21 to the 6.8-inch Ultra – though Samsung has reduced the resolution and memory of the two smaller phones, moves likely made to accommodate the lower prices. In the U.S., Samsung will be relying on Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 888 processor while other markets will get its latest in-house Exynos 2100 system-on-chip. Both mark a move to more advanced 5nm manufacturing, catching up with the silicon already inside Apple and Huawei Technologies Co.’s latest devices.

This year, Samsung is emphasizing its cameras both in the design and function of its new devices. The rear camera module dominates one corner of each handset and adds enhancements like steadier video recording, better depth measurement for portrait shots and a smattering of artificial intelligence enhancements to make functions like digital zoom more effective.

Google’s Android 11 serves as the default operating system and Samsung offers 5G wireless connectivity and IP68 water resistance across its trio of new devices.

The pricier S21 Ultra adds support for Samsung’s S Pen digital stylus, the first time Samsung is offering that compatibility for its non-Note phones. The model also differentiates itself with more of everything: it has the biggest screen and battery, highest-resolution display and cameras and more memory and storage options.

“We expect the shipment of S21 series will be around 28 million units by the end of this year,” surpassing the incumbent S20 series’ performance, said Counterpoint Research analyst Sujeong Lim ahead of the announcement. “The biggest factor to impact the shipment will be pricing.”

Agreeing that price will play a pivotal role, IDC analyst Bryan Ma said “Samsung faces pressure from Chinese players like Xiaomi in particular, which has also been picking up share from Huawei and is a rapidly rising threat to Samsung in regions like Western Europe.”

The new $199.99 Galaxy Buds Pro expand Samsung’s lineup of true wireless earbuds, marking an upgrade from the Galaxy Buds of 2019 and Buds+ from last year. The new earphones are more discreet, add improved water resistance and step up the audio quality, according to Samsung. The company also said the Buds Pro can automatically switch between noise-cancelling mode and letting exterior sound in based on whether their user is speaking.

Though the AirPods are the best known example of this category, it has been growing faster – largely on the strength of smaller Chinese upstarts – than even Apple’s successful lineup. The Cupertino, California-based company is planning to release updates to both its AirPods and AirPods Pro variants, Bloomberg News has reported.

Samsung’s $29.99 Galaxy SmartTag Bluetooth dongle attaches to valuables such as keys, bags or pet collars and makes those items trackable via a mobile app. This device anticipates Apple’s long-in-the-works AirTags accessory, which is expected to add similar locator functionality for iPhone users.

The new phones go on sale Jan. 29 and U.S. pre-orders will be incentivized with free SmartTags and up to $200 of Samsung Credit to spend on extra gear and accessories. The Galaxy Buds Pro will be available from Jan. 15.

Why WhatsApp’s new privacy rules are sparking alarm #SootinClaimon.Com

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Why WhatsApp’s new privacy rules are sparking alarm

Jan 14. 2021The Facebook WhatsApp logo in an arranged photograph on April 29, 2019. MUST CREDIT: Bloomberg photo by Andrew Harrer.The Facebook WhatsApp logo in an arranged photograph on April 29, 2019. MUST CREDIT: Bloomberg photo by Andrew Harrer.

By Syndication Washington Post, Bloomberg · Nate Lanxon

Facebook’s WhatsApp has begun alerting its 2 billion users to an update of its privacy policy — and if they want to keep using the popular messaging app, they have to accept it. The new terms, delivered in early 2021, have caused an outcry among technology experts, privacy advocates, billionaire entrepreneurs and government organizations and triggered a wave of defections to rival services. WhatsApp says the change is necessary to help it integrate better with other Facebook products.

1. What does the policy say?

WhatsApp is now reserving the right to share data it collects about you with the broader Facebook network, which includes Instagram, regardless of whether you have accounts or profiles there. Much of the policy, which is about monetizing WhatsApp, is broadly in line with what came before, and states that “WhatsApp receives information from, and shares information with, the other Facebook Companies. We may use the information we receive from them, and they may use the information we share with them, to help operate” and market services. For long-time users, the option to share data with Facebook was made available in 2016, but it was just that: optional and temporary. From Feb. 8 it’s mandatory for everybody.

2. Can Facebook read my WhatsApp now?

No. Conversations with your friends are encrypted end-to-end, meaning not even WhatsApp itself can access them. However, by using WhatsApp you may be sharing with it your usage data, as well as your phone’s unique identifier, among other types of so-called metadata. These may be linked to your identity, according to WhatsApp on its listing in Apple’s App Store, and it’s this data the privacy policy stipulates must now be agreed can be shared with Facebook.

3. Why does Facebook want the data?

It says it needs it to help operate and improve its offerings. More broadly, almost all of the $21.5 billion in revenue Facebook generated in the third quarter of 2020 came from ads, and there are none in WhatsApp. The company wants to be able to serve more targeted ads to people on Facebook and Instagram by also knowing their usage habits on WhatsApp, and let businesses take payments in WhatsApp for items that, for instance, were clicked on in Instagram ads.

4. What’s the fallout?

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s media office and his country’s defense ministry said they’re dropping WhatsApp. Technology billionaire Elon Musk endorsed rival app Signal to his 42 million Twitter followers. The registration service for Signal crashed after an influx of new users overwhelmed its servers. On Jan 10., it tweeted: “We continue to shatter traffic records and add capacity as more and more people come to terms with how much they dislike Facebook’s new terms.”

5. Is the policy the same globally?

No. There’s a difference in the text for Europe compared with the rest of the world. In the U.S., for instance, WhatsApp explicitly says it wants to be able to let users start connecting their Facebook Pay account “to pay for things on WhatsApp,” and let them chat with friends on other Facebook products, such as Portal, “by connecting your WhatsApp account.” This text does not appear in the version applicable to Europe.

6. Why is Europe being treated differently?

European data protection authorities, which under the European Union’s strict privacy laws are empowered to fine companies as much as 4% of global annual revenue if they breach the bloc’s rules, in 2016 had expressed “serious concerns” about the sharing of WhatsApp user data. EU antitrust authorities in 2017 fined Facebook 110 million euros ($134 million) for misleading regulators during a 2014 review of its takeover of WhatsApp but stopped short of overturning the merger approval. Facebook had told EU regulators during the review it technically wasn’t possible to combine WhatsApp data with its other services.

7. Who benefits from the privacy policy changes?

Businesses, mainly. WhatsApp says companies will be able to use new tools to communicate with, and sell to, customers on Facebook’s platform. It also said that specifically for the messages exchanged between a user and a company, that business “can see what you’re saying and may use that information for its own marketing purposes, which may include advertising on Facebook.” But other beneficiaries include rival services such as Signal, the messaging app run by a foundation created by WhatsApp co-founder Brian Acton after he sold that company to Facebook. Signal, which relies on donations rather than advertisers for money, said it’s seen a surge in downloads following WhatsApp’s privacy policy update.

When the going gets tough, ‘cartoonify’ yourself #SootinClaimon.Com

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When the going gets tough, ‘cartoonify’ yourself

Jan 12. 2021

By The Nation

Thai netizens have found the perfect way to take the hard edge off Covid-19 reality – by using an app that turns them into cartoons.

The Toonme website and smartphone app allows people to convert photos of themselves into cartoons in different styles, and is proving popular among Thai youngsters.

People can upload their pictures at https://toonme.com/ or on the smartphone app downloaded from Google Play Store or Apple Store. Super-smart AI then converts the pics into cartoon characters within minutes.

The smartphone app version is free for the first three days, after which it costs US$4.99 (Bt150) monthly or Bt300 annually.

Bans on Parler and Trump show Big Tech’s power over web conversation #SootinClaimon.Com

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Bans on Parler and Trump show Big Tech’s power over web conversation

Jan 12. 2021The Parler logo on a laptop computer arranged in Brooklyn, N.Y., on Dec. 18, 2020. MUST CREDIT: Bloomberg photo by Gabby JonesThe Parler logo on a laptop computer arranged in Brooklyn, N.Y., on Dec. 18, 2020. MUST CREDIT: Bloomberg photo by Gabby Jones

By Syndication Washington Post, Bloomberg · Sarah Frier

As Facebook Inc. and Twitter Inc. banished users and groups supporting the violent mobs at the U.S. Capitol last week — including President Donald Trump himself — downloads surged for a less restrictive social media app called Parler. But in an effort to prevent further riot organizing, Google Inc. and Apple Inc. booted Parler from their app stores, and Amazon.com Inc. shut off its web services.

“We will not cave to pressure from anti-competitive actors!” John Matze, Parler Inc.’s chief executive officer, said on his site Friday. “We WON’T cave to politically motivated companies and those authoritarians who hate free speech!”

In reality, Matze doesn’t have much choice. His free-speech-centric network, where some extremists turned to rally insurgents and organize future uprisings, was deemed an “ongoing and urgent public safety threat” by Google. Apple quickly rejected as insufficient a Parler plan to moderate its content. Amazon employees asked that the web giant “deny Parler services until it removes posts inciting violence, including at the Presidential inauguration.”

Access to the website appeared to be cut off after midnight Sunday in California when Amazon shut down access to its servers. With an internet ecosystem dominated by a few big players, the app has little chance of survival without access to these mainstream channels.

The Parler restrictions underscore how technology companies have increasingly been held accountable for the potential consequences of what happens on their services, where they have greater visibility than governments do — and the ability to take quicker action. For years, large tech companies avoided such debates by claiming to be content-neutral. Meddling and misinformation campaigns in the 2016 presidential election made it clear that these companies, and their software algorithms and content moderation, had real-world impact.

Now, pressured by lawmakers, civil rights advocates and even their own workers, the big tech companies are realizing just how much power and responsibility they have over public conversation — including over apps they didn’t create.

Such monopoly-like powers are already under scrutiny by U.S. regulators, with Google and Facebook battling government antitrust lawsuits. At the same time, the companies have come under fire for their lackadaisical practices on content moderation, when being too permissive on incendiary speech can lead to real-world violence or illegal activity.

The tech companies’ moves were mostly applauded by government officials and critics, and many openly asked why it took so long to crack down. But their subjective nature worried some advocates.

“It should concern everyone when companies like Facebook and Twitter wield the unchecked power to remove people from platforms that have become indispensable for the speech of billions — especially when political realities make those decisions easier,” Kate Ruane, senior legislative counsel at the American Civil Liberties Union, said in a statement after Trump was banned on the platforms. “It is our hope that these companies will apply their rules transparently to everyone.”

Parler already faced major hurdles. The company is seeking to take on much larger services with established user bases, including Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. The Henderson, Nevada-based upstart network gained some traction in 2020 as it capitalized on fears of anti-conservative bias by the main platforms, and it worked. Backed by Trump supporter Rebekah Mercer, the daughter of hedge fund investor Robert Mercer, Parler was the top program on Apple’s App store Saturday before it was banned, with millions of total downloads. The app functions similarly to Twitter, where users post short messages in a feed where others can follow and interact.

As Twitter and Facebook became increasingly willing to label or fact-check Trump’s content in recent months, some Republican lawmakers and media figures, like South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem, R, and conservative radio personality Mark Levin, encouraged supporters to follow them on Parler. Yet because of its narrower focus on right-wing users seeking more freedom from the big tech company’s rules, some Parler users complained that it felt like an echo chamber of like-minded people rather than a place to engage in the debate — or conflict — that has become a hallmark of Twitter’s service. Trump himself doesn’t have a Parler account.

While Facebook and Twitter have stricter content policies, those networks were also found to have hosted users planning the mob violence at the Capitol, including those who directed large followings to shift over to Parler. When it permanently axed Trump’s account, Twitter said it saw evidence of new riots planned for Jan. 17, while Facebook said it has taken down 600 militarized social groups so far and was banning posts from those saying they planned to take weapons to government buildings.

The platforms’ artificial intelligence has been improving at catching offending posts, in some cases before they are seen by a significant number of users. Even if the mainstream apps didn’t aggressively take down such content, the overwhelming volume of posts and users also probably means they’d be unlikely to face Parler-level scrutiny from app stores.

“Perfect moderation is impossible but there’s a difference between trying and not trying,” wrote Benedict Evans, an independent technology analyst and former partner at venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz, on Twitter. “And these problems are independent of business model — they apply to every network and model.”

Parler CEO Matze encouraged users to find workarounds, like using the website on a browser or installing the app on Android phones through online stores besides Google Play. He also told them to cancel their Amazon subscriptions, dump Apple, and to “call, write and email your congressman and senators and expose this anti-competitive behavior.”

On Sunday, after the crackdown on his app, Matze issued a statement to clarify his earlier comments.

“In an interview this week, some believe I gave the impression that I somehow did not care whether Parler is used to incite violence. I want to set the record straight: That interpretation could not be further from the truth,” he said. “We do not condone or accept violence on our platform and we never will.”

He said Parler’s community guidelines expressly prohibit threats of violence or incitement, and the company has been working to enforce the rules.

Even as its technological backbone is disabled by the tech giants, Parler may continue to exist on a smaller scale. Google restricted Gab, another “free speech”-branded site popular with right-wing extremists, in 2017 for violating its hate speech policy. In 2018, Gab was banned by domain provider GoDaddy.com and PayPal after an anti-Semitic user shot 11 people at a Pittsburgh synagogue. Since the Capitol insurrection, Gab has been tweeting about such bans as a badge of honor, and noting that it’s seen a surge in users and job applications, necessitating new servers to keep the site running. “The paradigm shift to new platforms that support free speech will happen overnight,” Gab’s account tweeted. To Parler’s Matze, Gab said, “Best of luck, sincerely.”

A small group of sleuths had been identifying right-wing extremists long before the attack on the Capitol #SootinClaimon.Com

#SootinClaimon.Com : ขอบคุณแหล่งข้อมูล : หนังสือพิมพ์ The Nation.

A small group of sleuths had been identifying right-wing extremists long before the attack on the Capitol

Jan 11. 2021Abner Hague, who runs Left Coast Right Watch, a website that monitors hate group activity, works from home. MUST CREDIT: Photo for The Washington Post by Nick OttoAbner Hague, who runs Left Coast Right Watch, a website that monitors hate group activity, works from home. MUST CREDIT: Photo for The Washington Post by Nick Otto

By The Washington Post · Robert Klemko

Before a mob of Trump supporters staged a riot in the U.S. Capitol and thousands of Americans became amateur detectives working to identify the culprits, a loosely connected group of seasoned online sleuths were ringing alarm bells and picking off extremists online, one by one.

For a nationwide network of left-wing activists who seek out and publish the identities of those they believe to be violent “fascists,” some investigations can take months, years even.

Or it can take 10 minutes.

That’s how much time Molly Conger spent on her laptop last month searching for the man who used the right-wing social media site Parler to share that he was a police officer and pledge support to a member of the Proud Boys extremist group, advocating violence against Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts Jr.

Turns out the man was a Prince William County, Va., sheriff’s deputy. Fifteen-year law enforcement veteran Aaron Hoffman acknowledged he was behind the profile picture of a sheep holding a machine gun, though he maintained in an interview with The Washington Post that his account had been hacked. Alerted to Hoffman’s online presence by Conger’s tweets, the Northern Virginia county’s sheriff fired Hoffman the next day.

Conger, 30, a freelance journalist in Charlottesville who live-tweets local government meetings and posts pictures of her miniature Daschunds under the handle @socialistdogmom, has made doxing “Nazis” her day job – and she is part of a small coterie of left-wing activists who monitored far-right violence long before it arrived at the forefront of the American conscience. They follow online clues to learn the hidden identity of perpetrators. Some go so far as to infiltrate the messaging groups of their targets by impersonating new members.

The majority of people who do this work are anonymous, like their targets, though a handful have been outed and continue to dox others. They often describe themselves as antifascists and are eager to present a faction of the movement that works behind the scenes to prevent violence. They’re tech-savvy, meticulous and incensed by the rise of the far right. They reject the idea that antifa’s methods are steeped in violence – a narrative advanced by President Donald Trump and his supporters.

Conger lives off donations from a growing audience of social media users who want to see consequences for anonymous members of far-right groups who plot violence online and carry it out at demonstrations across the country.

“I’ve just always been very nosy,” said Conger, a former project manager at an education software company. “If you’ve ever stayed up way too late trying to find your ex’s wedding pictures on Instagram, you can dox a Nazi. It’s the same skill set.”

For many, the “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville in 2017, where Heather Heyer was killed by a white nationalist demonstrator, was a tipping point.

“I was not super politically active prior to that,” Conger said. “I was very invested in my job and had my head down and things just got progressively worse until someone got murdered by a Nazi in my neighborhood. This is not a couple of guys on 4chan. These are people who were willing to come together in real life and do real violence. That sort of changes your perspective.

“So now my life is about making it a little bit harder to be a Nazi online.”

– – –

If Hoffman’s goal was to keep his Parler identity anonymous, his biggest mistake was easily avoidable. Last year he commissioned an artist using the freelance services website Fiverr to draw the armed sheep, and upon completion, Hoffman was nice enough to leave the artist a positive review on the site.

Conger, who had been forwarded the account’s comments by fellow activists monitoring a Proud Boy’s activity on Parler, used a reverse image search to find other instances of the drawing online, leading to the Fiverr page. Hoffman posted his review under the stage name Grant Tucker.

Conger then matched the photo on the reviewer’s account to a Facebook profile for a local country music musician, Grant Tucker. In one of the photos shared on the page, the man going by Tucker is pictured in his Prince William sheriff’s uniform with his name tag visible: “Hoffman.”

Conger shared the revelation on Twitter with more than 95,000 followers. Hoffman was fired hours later.

“That tells me they already knew,” Conger said of the timing. “They already knew, and because it was publicly embarrassing they had to do something about it. And if they already knew, how many more are there?”

Maj. Terry Fearnley of the Prince William County sheriff’s office told The Post the department was not aware of Hoffman’s social media activity until Conger’s posts.

“That type of behavior is not tolerated at the Prince William County sheriff’s department,” Fearnley said. “Never has been, never will be. And we want to stress to the community, if you see anything that looks like conduct unbecoming of our officers, please let us know.”

Conger says she shares less than 10 percent of the identities of the far-right agitators she identifies online. Some aren’t prominent enough in the movement for her to “dilute the discourse” by sharing their names, Conger said. Hoffman, she said, was a “white whale,” though, as a law enforcement officer.

The goal is not to bring physical harm or harassment upon the doxed, she says; she doesn’t post addresses, phone numbers or names of loved ones. The goal is humiliation and the accountability that comes with it.

“I’m interested in disincentivizing this behavior,” Conger said. “I’m interested in raising the cost of being a white nationalist, raising the cost of being a Nazi, raising the cost of making these threats anonymously online, and making it clear that these people are not as hard to find as they think they are.”

Conger, who began researching the far right in 2017, is a relative newcomer to the doxing scene. Most point to Daryle Lamont Jenkins, the founder of One People’s Project, as the father of the practice. In the early 2000s, Jenkins retaliated against fundamentalist Christian groups who were doxing abortion providers by doxing them back.

The 52-year old Jenkins has been an online mentor to many, including Richmond resident Kristopher Goad, whose interest in the far right began in 2013 when the Virginia Flaggers, a pro-Confederate flag group, began regularly demonstrating on a street corner blocks from his home. Goad, a lanky, mulleted restaurant cook who goes by @GoadGatsby online, responded by drowning out their protests with rap music pumped through stereo speakers, “because I figured rap music would upset them,” Goad said.

Goad was one of several counterdemonstrators assaulted by prominent white supremacist Christopher Cantwell at Unite the Right (Cantwell was later convicted of pepper-spraying Goad and fellow activist Emily Gorcenski).

“After that, I met Emily and we began putting our heads together trying to figure out who all these knuckleheads were,” Goad said.

That effort to identify violent Unite the Right attendees turned into a vocation for both Goad and Gorcenski. Goad has gone so far as to impersonate a hate group applicant to gain access to private social media chats in numerous far-right groups, which he monitors for plans to do violence. He says the desired outcome of a good dox is a “self-deplatforming,” in which a hate group member deletes his accounts and disappears from the far-right networks.

“This narrative exists that we just want to ruin lives,” Goad said, referring to criticism in conservative circles. “In reality, we want to protect lives from what seem to be like the most dangerous people that are given great authority in our country. We want to challenge that, and we want other people to know about it so they also challenge them.”

When Cantwell was facing criminal and civil charges for his actions in Charlottesville, part of his legal strategy was to shift blame to other masked men in his group, using their anonymous online handles as identifiers in court documents. Goad and Gorcenski saw it as a challenge.

“We wanted to be able to say, ‘Everything you’ve put in this lawsuit is now incriminating this other person,’ ” Gorcenski said.

She dug into cached webpages and online social media remnants until she identified each person Cantwell cited anonymously in 2017, then presented that evidence to police. Sitting across from Gorcenski in a police station conference room, University of Virginia police Sgt. Casey Acord was astonished, Gorcenski said.

“Do you want a job?” Acord asked, according to Gorcenski.

Acord did not respond to an email requesting comment.

Instead, Gorcenski spent the next three years doxing on her own.

“The story of what happened in Charlottesville has not fully been told,” Gorcenski said. “Part of our ongoing community defense is to leave a persistent reminder that there’s no way to do violence and get away with it.”

A 2017 memorial at the site in Charlottesville, Va., where Heather Heyer was killed in a car attack. MUST CREDIT: Photo for The Washington Post by Evelyn Hockstein

A 2017 memorial at the site in Charlottesville, Va., where Heather Heyer was killed in a car attack. MUST CREDIT: Photo for The Washington Post by Evelyn Hockstein

Abner Hague, who runs Left Coast Right Watch, a website that monitors hate group activity and identifies far-right demonstrators, says he bought a gun after receiving daily threats. But it’s not the threats that wear you down, Hague says. It’s the research, listening to hours of YouTube videos and podcasts of men making sexist, homophobic, racist and anti-Semitic remarks.

“Everybody has to take vacations from this,” said Hague, 31. “We do this for as long as we can take it, and then the trauma makes us cease to function in a healthy way and we stop for a week or two and then jump back into it.”

Often, jumping back in means seeing the targets up close and in person.

On Wednesday, Conger made the 115-mile drive from Charlottesville to Washington to document what she suspected would be a day of right-wing violence inspired by President Donald Trump’s address at the Ellipse.

She wore a longhair wig as part of a disguise (Conger normally sports a buzz-cut) to avoid detection – after her last appearance at a far-right gathering in Washington, she says, a member of the Proud Boys “put a hit” on her.

She spent the day on the Capitol grounds filming, zeroing in on exposed faces. Her lens captured the last breaths of one of the three Trump supporters who suffered medical emergencies during the short-lived insurrection and died. She drove home and submitted what must be a rare Google query: “how to get tear gas out of a wig.”

The nation’s collective shock at Wednesday’s events annoyed her. She saw it coming. Why didn’t everyone else?

“These people wanted blood, and we should be at least as clear about that when we talk about what they did – as they were when they talked about what they planned to do,” Conger said. “There should be no rationalizing or excusing this, no weaseling around with language about politically frustrated blue-collar Trump supporters caught up in the moment and expressing their beliefs or whatever nonsense people are bandying about.”

That authorities in Washington appeared to be as unprepared in the face of violent right-wing extremists as police in Charlottesville were in 2017 comes as no shock to Michael German, a retired FBI agent and fellow for the Brennan Center for Justice’s liberty and national security program.

German, who investigated domestic terrorist groups in the 1990s, says he’s seen a shift in how police handle right-wing violence.

“When I worked these cases, law enforcement knew that when a white supremacist group was discussing having a public event, that their purpose was to instigate violence,” German said. “So they made it more difficult for them to accomplish that objective of injuring people. We’ll make it so that you can come out and say your piece, but you’re not going to get within 100 yards of someone you can hurt, rather than the way we’ve seen over the past several years where we seem to be friendly to the far-right groups and aggressively violent towards the anti-racist protesters.”

Police have more “intrusive” information tools including databases not available to the public, German says, and the opportunity to arrest hate group members with outstanding warrants for unrelated charges, yet rarely take advantage.

“They could do far more,” German said. “How much of it is a lack of understanding of this intelligence and how much is a lack of interest in actually doing it?”

Activists who spoke to The Post lean toward the latter.

Christian Exoo, a 39-year-old library building supervisor at a college in Upstate New York, says he grew up with a childhood reverence for police officers until his late mother, Diane Exoo, a child advocate attorney and law professor, let him in on her work advocating for abused children and women.

“Cops constantly victimize marginalized communities,” Exoo said. “That disgusted me as a young person, that these guys don’t protect people from violence and, in fact, they do quite a bit of violence to people.”

In 2019, Exoo was responsible for the doxing of East Hampton, Conn., police officer Kevin Wilcox, then a dues paying member of the Proud Boys. Exoo stumbled upon Wilcox after realizing various chapters of the Proud Boys were paying their group dues openly on Venmo.

Exoo teaches a weekly seminar on doxing via video conference, sharing his methods with a vetted group of activists. In December, he identified three members of the Georgia Three Percent Security Force, an extremist militia group, who Exoo believes attacked unarmed protesters in Atlanta. One of the men was using the same profile picture he used on Zello as on Facebook under the alias “Drake Remora,” a reference to the sitcom “Friends.” Digging into the profile, Exoo found the man had shared his phone number on Facebook years ago while arranging for his house to be power washed. Caller ID data led to his actual identity.

After Exoo released the identity of the three attackers, he learned that at least two were fired from their jobs.

“These people need consequences,” Exoo said. “The consistent ideology across the far right is that human hierarchy is natural and desirable, that some people should have power over other people. And they all think violence is a path to power for them.”

Exoo has no qualms about discussing past doxes and tactics because he’s already been outed by hate groups and conservative journalists. It was inevitable: Exoo has joined hate groups in person and via video chat, performing well enough in interviews to gain access to private chats on websites like Zello and Gab. He wears his hair in a style that some in hate groups call “fashy” – tight-cropped sides with a side-sweep on top.

He faces daily death threats from people who describe murdering his family, too. He isn’t alone. One of Conger’s opponents hosted a podcast featuring a regular segment during which the hosts imagined new ways to rape her. Last year, Gorcenski moved from Charlottesville to Germany to continue her work with an ocean between her and people who threaten her life online. She has plans to soon retire from doxing.

“I want to go back to life,” Gorcenski said. “Before I was doing this, I was always against Nazis, but I didn’t spend 60 hours of the week opposing Nazis.”

Conger has trouble imagining doing anything else.

“It’s damaged my brain for sure,” Conger said. “We all have our own ways of getting through it. But ultimately, you’re not ok. Looking deep into the abyss at the worst parts of humanity on a regular basis is not good for you. But I need to know. I need to understand why these people are like this.”

Chiang Mai University goes green with 40 new electric buses #SootinClaimon.Com

#SootinClaimon.Com : ขอบคุณแหล่งข้อมูล : หนังสือพิมพ์ The Nation.

Chiang Mai University goes green with 40 new electric buses

Jan 10. 2021

By The Nation

Chiang Mai University on Sunday rolled out 40 new electric buses, bought at a cost of over Bt50 million. These buses will be used instead of the old electric buses, which had provided services to 5.7 million people.

Clinical Professor Niwes Nantachit, president of Chiang Mai University, said lithium iron phosphate batteries enabled the buses to provide services with a daily one-time charge.

He said these electric buses would provide services throughout the univesity area every day from 7am to 10pm, adding that it could help reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 1,650 tonnes of carbon dioxide.

“Each electric bus can accommodate up to 16 passengers, while passengers can check the electric bus locations, routes, and number of passengers inside via CMU Mobile smartphone application,” he said.