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| July 19, 2019

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Funnyman Steve Martin gets his price and more in the Beverly Hills Post Office area

July 18, 2019 |

Funnyman Steve Martin has sold the house next door to his main estate in the Beverly Hills Post Office area for $ 2.22 million.


L.A. Times – Business

TMZ

Wendy Williams Gets Sung Happy Birthday by Paparazzi

July 18, 2019 |

Wendy Williams’ last year has had a lot of ups and downs … but some paparazzi just gave her a big up singing “Happy Birthday” to her a day before she hits a milestone. The talk show host was looking like a princess Wednesday — quite literally –…

TMZ.com

FaceApp gets federal attention as Sen. Schumer raises alarm on data use

July 18, 2019 |

It’s been hard to get away from FaceApp over the last few days, whether it’s your friends posting weird selfies using the app’s aging and other filters, or the brief furore over its apparent (but not actual) circumvention of permissions on iPhones. Now even the Senate is getting in on the fun: Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) has asked the FBI and the FTC to look into the app’s data handling practices.

“I write today to express my concerns regarding FaceApp,” he writes in a letter sent to FBI Director Christopher Wray and FTC Chairman Joseph Simons. I’ve excerpted his main concerns below:

In order to operate the application, users must provide the company full and irrevocable access to their personal photos and data. According to its privacy policy, users grant FaceApp license to use or publish content shared with the application, including their username or even their real name, without notifying them or providing compensation.

Furthermore, it is unclear how long FaceApp retains a user’s data or how a user may ensure their data is deleted after usage. These forms of “dark patterns,” which manifest in opaque disclosures and broader user authorizations, can be misleading to consumers and may even constitute a deceptive trade practices. Thus, I have serious concerns regarding both the protection of the data that is being aggregated as well as whether users are aware of who may have access to it.

In particular, FaceApp’s location in Russia raises questions regarding how and when the company provides access to the data of U.S. citizens to third parties, including potentially foreign governments.

For the cave-dwellers among you (and among whom I normally would proudly count myself) FaceApp is a selfie app that uses AI-esque techniques to apply various changes to faces, making them look older or younger, adding accessories, and, infamously, changing their race. That didn’t go over so well.

There’s been a surge in popularity over the last week, but it was also noticed that the app seemed to be able to access your photos whether you said it could or not. It turns out that this is actually a normal capability of iOS, but it was being deployed here in somewhat of a sneaky manner and not as intended. And arguably it was a mistake on Apple’s part to let this method of selecting a single photo go against the “never” preference for photo access that a user had set.

Fortunately the Senator’s team is not worried about this or even the unfounded (we checked) concerns that FaceApp was secretly sending your data off in the background. It isn’t. But it very much does send your data to Russia when you tell it to give you an old face, or a hipster face, or whatever. Because the computers that do the actual photo manipulation are located there — these filters are being applied in the cloud, not directly on your phone.

His concerns are over the lack of transparency that user data is being sent out to servers who knows where, to be kept for who knows how long, and sold to who knows whom. Fortunately the obliging FaceApp managed to answer most of these questions before the Senator’s letter was ever posted.

The answers to his questions, should we choose to believe them, are that user data is not in fact sent to Russia, the company doesn’t track users and usually can’t, doesn’t sell data to third parties, and deletes “most” photos within 48 hours.

Although the “dark patterns” of which the Senator speaks are indeed an issue, and although it would have been much better if FaceApp had said up front what it does with your data, this is hardly an attempt by a Russian adversary to build up a database of U.S. citizens.

While it is good to see Congress engaging with digital privacy, asking the FBI and FTC to look into a single app seems unproductive when that app is not doing much that a hundred others, American and otherwise, have been doing for years. Cloud-based processing and storage of user data is commonplace — though usually disclosed a little better.

Certainly as Sen. Schumer suggests, the FTC should make sure that “there are adequate safeguards in place to protect the privacy of Americans…and if not, that the public be made aware of the risks associated with the use of this application or others similar to it.” But this seems the wrong nail to hang that on. We see surreptitious slurping of contact lists, deceptive deletion promises, third-party sharing of poorly anonymized data, and other bad practices in apps and services all the time — if the federal government wants to intervene, let’s have it. But let’s have a law or a regulation, not a strongly worded letter written after the fact.

Schumer Faceapp Letter by TechCrunch on Scribd

TechCrunch

Qualcomm gets U.S. support to pause FTC antitrust ruling

July 17, 2019 |

The Trump administration urged a federal appeals court to put on hold an order that would force Qualcomm Inc. to change how it licenses its patents.


L.A. Times – Business

Alan Turing Gets New Purchase Power

July 15, 2019 |

Alan Turing was persecuted for being gay by the country he helped win World War II and ultimately died by his own hand before his 42nd birthday. Almost seven decades later, England is honoring its native son and the father of artificial intelligence by putting his image on the 50-pound…
Newser

TMZ

Beth Chapman’s Memorial Service Gets Emotional Speech by Dog

July 13, 2019 |

Duane “Dog” Chapman just delivered a gut-wrenching speech about his late wife, Beth … and made some interesting revelations along the way. Dog suggested Beth knew her time was almost up in the final days of her life, but he says he refused to let…

TMZ.com

Serena Gets Rocked in Wimbledon Final

July 13, 2019 |

Clutching her trophy 20 minutes after becoming Wimbledon’s champion, Simona Halep checked out the board inside Centre Court that lists tournament winners. Below all of the mentions of Serena Williams, her opponent in Saturday’s final, there already was inscribed: “Miss S. Halep.” Halep was not concerned with preventing Williams from…
Newser

TMZ

Wendy Williams’ Son Kevin Hunter Jr. Gets Dismissal in Assault Case

July 9, 2019 |

Wendy Williams’ son is walking out of a New Jersey courthouse with a resolution in his assault case, and it’s a very good one for him … the case has been dismissed. Prosecutors said they’d reviewed the case and decided to no longer pursue charges…

TMZ.com

Synagogue Arsonist Gets Face Full of Fire

July 8, 2019 |

An Anti-Semitic extremist who set fire to a British synagogue—and, partly, to himself—has been sentenced to remain in a hospital indefinitely, CNN reports. Tristan Morgan, 52, was seen on CCTV footage setting fire to a synagogue in Exeter, England, last July with a flammable liquid. Video shows his…
Newser

Outfielder Gets Suspended for the Season

July 6, 2019 |

Philadelphia Phillies outfielder Odúbel Herrera accepted a suspension for the rest of the season under Major League Baseball’s domestic violence policy, the AP reports. The commissioner’s office announced his decision Friday, two days after domestic assault charges against Herrera in Atlantic City, New Jersey, were dismissed. He had been charged…
Newser