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Facebook pauses sharing WhatsApp user info with Hong Kong authorities

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Facebook and its popular WhatsApp messaging service are putting a hold on what information they share with Hong Kong law enforcement, as the company reviews a sweeping new security law from Beijing.

Twitter had similarly paused such sharing last week, a company spokesperson said Monday.

China’s National Security Law, which went into effect Tuesday, is widely seen as a crackdown on Hong Kong’s pro-democracy protesters. The law bypasses Hong Kong’s semi-autonomous status and will grant Beijing the ability to create special police units to target the city’s “troublemakers.”

Like all major American tech companies, WhatsApp and Facebook respond to legal requests from countries around the world if they meet certain criteria. WhatsApp automatically uses end-to-end encryption, meaning the company is unable to see the contents of its users’ conversations. It does, however, regularly share users’ metadata, like location data and call dates and times, when law enforcement requests it.

But the company is putting a pause on that practice when it comes to Hong Kong.

“Privacy has never been more important than now, and we remain committed to providing private and secure messaging services to our users in Hong Kong,” a WhatsApp spokesperson said in a statement Monday. “We will pause reviewing law enforcement requests for WhatsApp user data from the Hong Kong government pending further assessment of the impact of the National Security Law, including formal human rights due diligence and consultations with human rights experts.”

The messaging app Telegram is also refusing such requests, according to Hong Kong Free Press.

The law criminalizes a broad swath of behaviors, including anything that promotes secession and subversion from China’s mainland, and it’s unclear how it will be applied in daily life in Hong Kong. The Hong Kong Police Force has claimed it may criminalize banners and chants promoting Hong Kong independence.

Peter Micek, general counsel at the international digital rights advocacy group Access Now, said the decision was a “smart move” for Facebook and WhatsApp.

“They need a bit of a break to give time to digest the new law and the new powers that authorities in Hong Kong have and how that’s going to impact Facebook and WhatsApp’s ability to respect human rights in its operations there,” Micek said.

In the second half of last year, Hong Kong made 241 legal requests for user data from Facebook and WhatsApp, which processed just under half of them, according to the company’s transparency report.

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Online art marketplace Artfinder raises £830k

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Online art marketplace Artfinder successfully completed its Crowdcube campaign, finishing the raise on £834,056 from 1,320 investors in four weeks.

Investors in the crowdfunding round will receive equity in the business, at a valuation of £10 million. The business remains open for further direct investment by interested parties until the end of September.

Artfinder is a VC funded startup, backed by the investors behind Spotify and Zoopla. Investors include Wellington Partners, Oxford Capital, Cambridge Angels, plus private investors in the UK, the US and Switzerland. In August 2019, Artfinder became the art world’s first B Corp, solidifying its commitment to its values to support artists and make art affordable and accessible.

It’s the first time Artfinder has run a crowdfunding campaign, following a period of exponential growth. Artfinder recorded its best sales quarter in its seven year history in Q2, with 120% sales growth and 15% increase in average order value, compared to 2019.

The campaign also shone a light on the B Corp community, as fellow B Corp Callaly successfully raised on the platform at the same time.

The annual Hiscox online art trade report confirms the art market has seen incredible online growth, with Sotheby’s seeing a 131% increase in the number of lots it has sold online so far this year.

Michal Szczesny, Artfinder CEO, says: “We believe that Crowdcube’s focus on the B Corp movement was really powerful in convincing their community of investors and entrepreneurs to invest in Artfinder.

“It is an honour for us to be serving such a great community and also to have so many of our artists and customers on board as our shareholders, engaging all our stakeholders in the business.”

Money raised will be used to deliver faster artist payments, an improved seller and buyer experience on the platform, improved customer service and scaled up customer recruitment to bring art to a wider audience of collectors and help more artists sell. Lead investor, VC firm Wellington Partners, have invested £5m in Artfinder to date.



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8 simple tips to improve security, privacy of your phone

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By: Tech Desk | New Delhi |

Updated: August 13, 2020 8:17:45 am


android safety, ios safety, android tips, third party apps, malware, smartphone safety, smartphone security, anti virus, data encryptionEncrypting your data helps you prevent data against potential hacking (Getty File Photo)

Even before the Covid-19 pandemic forced many of us to work from home, our smartphones had a huge amount of confidential data store on them. From bank account information, digital wallets, official documents to access to our social media, everything is stored on the smartphone. This makes it essential to prevent confidential information from falling into wrong hands.

Here are eight simple tips that will help you boost the security and privacy of your smartphone.

A strong passcode for your phone and social media apps

As we live in a world where wearing masks has become almost mandatory and unlocking the smartphone becomes a problem. You should have a passcode not just for your smartphone but separate passcodes active social media apps, banking apps logged in it as well. Even if someone finds your phone accidentally unlocked, he/she will not be able to access the apps.

Update your software regularly

You should not ignore notifications for software updates like you ignore notifications from shopping or gaming apps. Updating your smartphone’s software (Android or iOS) helps you reduce the risk of malware malfunction.

Turn off Bluetooth when not in use

Most of the smartphone users have Bluetooth turned almost 24/7 whether it’s connected to wireless earphones, wearable fitness trackers, or while using the hands-free option in your car. However, if it’s not connected to a device you should turn off Bluetooth as others can try and access your information, intercept your calls, and misuse media.

Avoid rooting, jailbreak your device

Even though rooting your android device or jailbreaking your iPhone has its own perks including options for customisation, downloading unapproved apps among others, it may make your device vulnerable to hacking. Sticking to the original operating system may be a good idea after all.

Encrypt your data

From passwords to our bank accounts to office documents to personal information, almost everything is store on a smartphone these days. This gives you all the more reason to encrypt data on your device. Both android and iOS have the option where you can encrypt data on your phone. Even if a hacker or a thief gets hands on your phone, accessing your data will not be easy at all.

Use an anti-virus

Like you used to install anti-virus on your personal computers and laptops, they can be installed on your smartphone as well. The anti-virus can prevent your device from malware, malicious websites, viruses, and hacking attempts. There are various options available for you to choose an anti-virus. Few include free access to the VPN as well.

Don’t just download any app

You should be skeptical about which apps to download on your devices even if it is from the official app store. Try looking at reviews and official websites of these apps to find out its legitimacy.

Beware of third-party apps

Don’t just download any apk file sent to you to android a particular app or suggested on a particular website. These apps may work as a breeding ground to steal your confidential information. Sometimes, these apps demand updates that are of malicious intent as well. Downloading these third-party apps should be avoided.

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Big Tech met with govt to discuss how to handle election results

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Nine major U.S. tech companies met with federal government officials Wednesday to discuss how to handle misinformation during this month’s political conventions and election results this fall.

“We held the latest in a series of meetings with government partners today where we each provided updates on what we’re seeing on our respective platforms and what we expect to see in the coming months,” companies including Google, Facebook, Twitter and Reddit said in a joint statement after the meeting.

“Specifically, we discussed preparations for the upcoming conventions and scenario planning related to election results,” they said.

The companies did not elaborate on what scenarios they discussed and whether they reached any decisions.

But the discussion, one in a series of monthly meetings between the government and tech companies, lasted less than two hours and included both presentations by the companies and back-and-forth conversation on a variety of topics, according to two sources familiar with the meeting who were not authorized to speak publicly.

Election results this year are expected to come in later than in previous elections in part because the pandemic has led to a surge in interest in voting by mail. That means the focus on discussion of results could go on for days after in-person voting ends Nov. 3.

President Donald Trump has declined to say whether he will accept the results of the election, and the potentially long count has added to worries about whether he will use the delay to sow doubts.

Company representatives declined to comment further. The statement also included Microsoft, Verizon Media, Pinterest, LinkedIn and the Wikimedia Foundation, which operates Wikipedia and other sites.

Absent from the meeting was the popular social media upstart TikTok, which Trump has threatened to ban and was recently the subject of an executive order because he says its Chinese ownership makes it a security threat. The company has previously said it plans to fight election misinformation on its platform.

The meetings are designed to fill a gap in information-sharing after tech companies such as Facebook said they were taken off guard by security threats and the lack of information coming from federal officials in 2016. Regular meetings started in 2018, and the companies say they’re necessary to protect the integrity of this year’s election.

The traditional news media has long been scrutinized for how and when it reports election results because those decisions can have wide implications for how Americans and the world interpret an election.

But now there’s similar interest in the influence of social media and online platforms, especially after alleged Russian government agents quietly manipulated internet services during the 2016 presidential campaign.

Democrats are due to hold their convention next week and Republicans the week after, almost all virtually because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Some tech companies have already said they’re thinking about how to handle a drawn out election. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg told The New York Times this month that his company was considering new rules regarding premature claims of victory or other statements about the results.

According to the industry statement, participants in Wednesday’s meeting also included representatives from the FBI’s foreign influence task force, the Justice Department’s national security division, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence and the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency.

The companies said they would continue to meet regularly before the November election.

Ken Dilanian contributed.

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