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Twitter goes after spams and trolls, some users to lose followers

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San Francisco, June 27: To address the problem of increasing spam accounts and trolls on its platform, Twitter has introduced tough policies that will soon see some users losing fake followers globally.

In May, Twitter identified and challenged more than 9.9 million potentially “spammy” or automated accounts per week — up from 6.4 million in December and 3.2 million in September 2017.

Twitter said late Tuesday that it will take further action to challenge a large number of suspected spam accounts globally.

As a result of these improvements, some people may notice their own account metrics change more regularly.

“This is an important shift in how we display Tweet and account information to ensure that malicious actors aren’t able to artificially boost an account’s credibility permanently by inflating metrics like the number of followers,” Twitter said in a blog post.

Some people may see their follower counts drop but this does not mean they did anything wrong, the company said.

To make it harder to register spam accounts, Twitter will now require new accounts to confirm either an email address or phone number when they sign up to the platform.

“This is an important change to defend against people who try to take advantage of our openness,” Twitter said in a blog post.

“Due to technology and process improvements during the past year, we are now removing 214 per cent more accounts for violating our spam policies on a year-on-year basis,” it added.

Twitter saw a drop in the average number of spam reports — from an average of approximately 25,000 per day in March, to approximately 17,000 per day in May.

“We’ve also seen a 10 per cent drop in spam reports from search as a result of our recent changes. These decreases in reports received means people are encountering less spam in their timeline, search, and across the Twitter product,” the company said.

Twitter currently has 330 million user accounts.

“We’re also moving rapidly to curb spam and abuse originating via Twitter’s APIs. In Q1 2018, we suspended more than 142,000 applications in violation of our rules — collectively responsible for more than 130 million low-quality, spammy tweets,” the blog post said.

To reduce the visibility of suspicious accounts in Tweet and account metrics, the company said it has started updating account metrics in near-real time.

“For example, the number of followers an account has, or the number of likes or Retweets a Tweet receives, will be correctly updated when we take action on accounts,” it added.

Twitter is also automating some processes where it sees suspicious account activity, like exceptionally high-volume tweeting with the same hashtag, or using the same @handle without a reply from the account a user has mentioned.

Twitter said it will continue to invest in leveraging Machine Learning (ML) technology and partnerships with third parties.

IANS

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Is Alexa recording your bedroom talk?

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Photo Credit- (Ramegowda Bopaiah/Mint)

New Delhi, Feb 19: At a time when digital assistants in smart devices at home or office are talking to us like never before, some users have begun to worry: Is Alexa or Google Home listening and recording personal conversations beyond the “wake” word?

There are multiple triggers to such concerns, the latest one being a person in Germany using Amazon’s voice assistant who received 1,700 audio files from a person he never met.

A woman in the US state of Oregon was in shock last year when the Amazon Echo device at her Portland home recorded a private conversation and then shared it with one of her husband’s employees in Seattle.

Amazon later clarified that Alexa mistakenly heard a series of commands and sent the recording as a voice message to one of the husband’s employees.

The threat is very much real, with more and more Indians being hooked to the always-on and Internet-connected smart home devices.

In a latest Forrester report titled “Secure The Rise Of Intelligent Agents”, Amy DeMartine and Jennifer Wise argue that currently, introductory versions of intelligent agents include Alexa, Cortana, Google Assistant and Siri. However, security is not part of the equation, and unless security pros get involved, the implications are more worrisome for businesses than normal human beings.

“Alexa doesn’t currently authenticate or authorise individuals who access it, leaving a company’s Alexa skills unprotected from anyone who can remember another user’s commands,” reads the report.

“A hacker has already developed a method to install malware on a pre-2017 Amazon Echo that streams the microphone to any remote computer, accesses the owner’s Amazon account, and installs ransomware,” the Forrester report added.

Apple logs and stores Siri queries but they are not associated with an Apple ID or email address, and the company deletes the association between queries and their numerical codes after six months.

Amazon and Google devices, however, save query histories until the customer deletes them, and Microsoft Cortana users must manage their own data retention preferences in the Cloud and on their devices.

According to Puneesh Kumar, Country Manager for Alexa Experiences and Devices, Amazon India, the threat of Alexa recording all your conversations is not real as the company has created layers of privacy protections in all of its Echo device.

“It includes a mute button involving a hardware press that electrically disconnects the microphones and cameras, clear visual indicators when utterances are being captured and streamed, as well as the ability to see and delete voice recording history for their devices,” Kumar told IANS.

Echo speakers use on-device keyword spotting to detect the “wake” word and only the “wake” word. When the “wake” word is detected, the light ring around the top of the device turns blue to indicate that Alexa is streaming audio to the Cloud.

“At any time, you can turn the microphone off by pushing the microphone button on the top of the device and this creates an electrical disconnect to the mic, which will turn on a red ring to visually indicate that the device is muted,” informed Kumar.

According to Amazon, the voice utterances spoken to the device may be used in order to deliver and improve its services.

The users, if needed, can delete specific voice recordings associated with their accounts by going to History in Settings in the Alexa App, drilling down for a specific entry, and then tapping the delete button. You can also delete all voice recordings associated with your account for each of your Alexa-enabled products.

IANS

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Can begin 5G trial within a month of Indian govt’s approval: Huawei

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New Delhi, Feb 19: Amid reports speculating that Huawei may not get the government’s approval for 5G trial in India, CEO Jay Chen on Tuesday said the Chinese tech major can start 5G trial within a month of nod from the government.

“All of my engagements with the government have been positive so far. We are fully prepared. We can start the 5G trial within one month of getting approval from the Department of Telecommunications (DoT),” Chen told news agency IANS on the sidelines of a media workshop on 5G in the national capital.

Chen further stated “We are in talks with all the major telecom operators in India including Bharti Airtel, Reliance Jio and the state-run BSNL for 5G roll-out in India”.

Huawei is leading the 5G race globally with its huge investments in R&D but the tech giant is witnessing the heat from some Western countries, especially the US which alleges that Huawei 5G network could pose a national security threat.

Refuting the allegations as mere “politics”, Chen said that no country has been able to give any proof of wrongdoing on Huawei’s part.

“It would not be logical to exclude Huawei from the 5G trial in India as it would mean losing the benefits of innovative technologies that we can bring to the 5G ecosystem in the country,” Chen pointed.

WeForNews

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Facebook accused of leaking sensitive health data of users

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San Francisco, Feb 19: Social networking giant Facebook has been accused of revealing sensitive health data of users in its groups.

“Facebook has marketed this product as a Personal Health Record and it then leaked the health data that those patients uploaded to the public,” a complaint filed with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) noted on Monday.

According to the Verge report, the issue was first noticed in July, when members of a women’s group with a gene mutation discovered how easily the names and email addresses of members could have been downloaded in bulk, either manually or through a Chrome extension.

During that time, Facebook reportedly claimed to have made changes to “Groups” that stopped the practice and emphasised on the option for join “Secret Groups” – that are, although difficult to join, but have a more limited discoverability.

However, the complaint pointed that public sharing of privately posted personal health information is in violation of the law, which is a major problem with Facebook’s privacy implementation methods.

The complaint further added “Facebook has ignored our requests to fix the specific issues we have identified to the company, and denies publicly that any problem exists. All of this represents unfair, deceptive and misleading interactions between Facebook and its users in violation of the FTC act”.

WeForNews

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