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Facebook Allowed Some Tech Companies To Read And Delete Users’ Private Messages: NYT

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Facebook reportedly gave some of the world’s largest tech companies access to users’ personal data, including allowing some firms to read and delete users’ private messages and obtain contact information through their friends, without users’ knowledge or consent.

The New York Times on Tuesday detailed how Facebook, through data-sharing “business partnerships,” shared and traded user data with more than 150 companies, including Amazon, Microsoft, Netflix, Spotify, Yahoo and the Russian search engine Yandex.

These partnerships, the oldest of which dates to 2010 and all of which were active in 2017, “effectively exempt[ed] those business partners” from Facebook’s usual privacy rules, the Times reported, citing hundreds of pages of internal Facebook documents. 

Microsoft’s Bing search engine, for example, was reportedly allowed to see the names of nearly all Facebook users’ friends without their consent; Spotify, Netflix and the Royal Bank of Canada were able to read, write and delete users’ private messages; and Amazon, Microsoft and Sony could obtain users’ contact information through their friends.

Yahoo and Yandex reportedly retained access to Facebook user data even after such access was supposed to have been halted. And Facebook gave Apple the power to see Facebook users’ contacts and calendar entries even in cases where users had disabled all data sharing.

In all, the data of “hundreds of millions of people” were sought monthly by applications made by these Facebook business partners, according to the Times. Some of these partnerships reportedly remain in effect today.

Responding to the Times’ report, Facebook, whose privacy policies have come under intense scrutiny in recent months, said it had neither violated users’ privacy agreements nor a deal with the Federal Trade Commission that made it illegal for the social network to share user data without explicit consent.

“None of these partnerships or features gave companies access to information without people’s permission, nor did they violate our 2012 settlement with the FTC,” Konstantinos Papamiltiadis, Facebook’s director of developer platforms and programs, said in a Tuesday blog post. 

Facebook’s primary argument was that it did not need explicit consent from users because its business partners, which it refers to as “integration partners,” were “functionally extensions of Facebook itself,” Times reporter Nick Confessore explained. 

Still, Facebook acknowledged that it’s “got work to do to regain people’s trust.”

“Protecting people’s information requires stronger teams, better technology, and clearer policies, and that’s where we’ve been focused for most of 2018,” Steve Satterfield, Facebook’s director of privacy and public policy, said in a statement, noting that partnerships “are one area of focus.” 

Papamiltiadis said most of the features described in the Times’ article are “now gone.” 

At least two U.S. senators have called for more federal oversight in the wake of the Times report. 

Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) lambasted Facebook’s reported data sharing as “unacceptable” and called for Congress to pass the data privacy bill that she and Republican Sen. John Kennedy of Louisana introduced in April.

Sen. Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii) said he was angered by the report. 

“It has never been more clear. We need a federal privacy law. They are never going to volunteer to do the right thing. The FTC needs to be empowered to oversee big tech,” he tweeted.

An early investor of Facebook told the Times that “no one should trust Facebook until they change their business model.”

“I don’t believe it is legitimate to enter into data-sharing partnerships where there is not prior informed consent from the user,” Roger McNamee said.

Facebook did not immediately respond to HuffPost’s request for comment.

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Ontario’s new automated speed enforcement explained

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(NC) To wage the war against speeding, many municipalities across Ontario have turned to automated speed enforcement. Most recently introduced in Toronto, speed cameras are a high-tech solution to reduce speeding and are considered one of the most effective ways to create safer roads and save lives.  

Recognizing police officers cannot catch all speeders, these cameras fill the gap, providing monitoring in specific locations around the clock. When a car’s speed is even one kilometre over the posted amount, it will take a picture of the offending vehicle’s license plate, using the captured photo as indisputable evidence. A ticket is then served to the vehicle’s owner, regardless of who was driving. 

With a focus on high-risk areas, Ontario’s automated speed enforcement cameras are located in two specific municipal areas: school and community safety zones. School zones are designated streets close to a school, featuring reduced speed limits as dictated by local bylaws. Community safety zones are high-risk corridors and intersections, subject to increased fines and penalties.  

While the Ontario Highway Traffic Act outlines the use of automated speed enforcement, municipalities can decide when and where to use cameras to curb speeding. The act does dictate financial penalties for speed violations captured with cameras, which vary depending on the number of kilometres caught over the speed limit.  

Speed enforcement is not new, but part of a broader, integrated road safety strategy that includes infrastructure improvements, awareness campaigns and new uses of technology. City officials hope for a halo effect, inspiring better driving behaviour across entire communities, not only in areas with cameras. A controversial topic, some critics take exception to speed cameras, labelling them as sneaky cash grabs for municipalities. Governments think the opposite. 

Safety advocate and auto insurance provider Onlia is hopeful that the cameras will provide drivers with a reminder to slow down, especially in high-risk areas like school and community safety zones.  

For those who obey the speed limit, automated speed enforcement shouldn’t change anything about your driving style, says Alex Kelly, Safety Ambassador at OnliaDrivers have fair warning as they approach areas with speed cameras, as mandatory signs provide reasonable notice of upcoming automated speed enforcement. Regardless of warnings, the best speed is the posted speed. 

You can start to understand your speeding style by downloading the insurance provider’s new safe driving app that coaches and rewards for you for safe driving habits.

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Online banking: How to protect yourself from fraud

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(NC) Since the start of the COVID-19 crisis, a growing number of consumers are regularly using mobile and online banking to paybill payments, transfer money and make purchases.

Although these tools can give you easy access to your personal finances on demand, there are also some risks involved. For instance, your banking information—such as your debit or credit card number, user name, or personal identification number (PIN)—could be stolen. If criminals have access to your online banking information, they can steal your money, which is why it’s so important to be  vigilant when you bank online.

Follow these tips to help protect your personal and banking information:

  • For your online bank accounts, use a strong password that can’t be easily guessed, and never share your user name or password with anyone.
  • Check your accounts regularly to make sure there are no transactions you didn’t make or authorize.
  • When making online purchases, never authorize a website to save your credit card information, password or other personal information. Giving websites this permission will save you some time the next time you access the site, but it poses a real threat if a hacker manages to access your information.

Most financial institutions have policies to protect you from transactions that you didn’t make.

However, you are responsible for protecting your online and mobile banking information. If you give your details to anyone—including your spouse or partner, a family member or a friend—your financial institution may hold you responsible for any unauthorized transactions in your account, and even strip you of protection from unauthorized transactions in the future.

If you suspect your information may have been compromised, change your passwords immediately, and check your account and credit card statements for anomalies and report any suspicious transactions to your financial institution.

The Financial Consumer Agency of Canada has created resources to help you protect your online banking information.

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Payday loans: Not the best way to borrow money

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(NC) Payday loans are a very expensive way to borrow money. Even if you’re struggling financially, think twice—and crunch the numbers—before getting this type of loan.

Depending on the rules in your province, payday lenders can charge fees of $15 to $25 per $100 that you borrow.

As an example, let’s say you borrow $300 for home repairs. The payday lender charges you $51 in fees, or $17 for every $100 borrowed. Your loan balance is therefore $351, which amounts to an interest rate of 442 per cent.

There can be serious consequences if you don’t repay your loan by the due date. These may include the following:

  • The payday lender may charge you a fee if there isn’t enough money in your account.
  • Your financial institution may also charge you a fee if there isn’t enough money in your account.
  • The total amount that you owe, including the fees, continues to increase.

There are better options out there

Payday loans should be your last resort to borrow money. Consider cheaper ways of borrowing money, such as:

  • Cashing in vacation days or asking for a pay advance from your employer.
  • Getting a line of credit, a cash advance on a credit card or a personal loan from your financial institution.
  • Getting a loan from family or friends.

Before getting a payday loan and to avoid getting stuck in a debt trap, consider other, less expensive ways to borrow money.

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