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Are your Dropbox uploads now visible to other users? [exclusive]

What would you do if pictures of teens in bikinis showed up in your Dropbox file for camera uploads? Would you laugh? Panic? Ask Dropbox for help?

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Are your Dropbox files visible in another users’ account?

Imagine opening your private Dropbox account where you keep your highly sensitive client documents, or maybe your banking information, your childrens’ medical records, or God forbid you have inappropriate pictures of yourself. And in that account, you see batches of files that aren’t familiar to you.

You’re searching for some pictures of the time you saw your friend’s band play, but instead, your camera uploads folder is peppered with dozens of pictures of a teen girl with her scantily clad friends. You see screenshots from text message conversations you’ve never seen before in your life and certainly didn’t have.

You haven’t sold any devices that had your Dropbox account on them, and you never got an invitation to view any shared folders in your camera uploads, so confusion sets in.

What do you do?

What then? Do you call the cops? Do you reach out to Dropbox? Do you freak out that your own files, those most sensitive documents, are on someone else’s account?

One user is going through this very same problem, and have been met with silence when protesting to the Dropbox team. He typically keeps a large screen in his office on “random” mode to show pictures from his Dropbox account, which suddenly is swarmed with pictures that any preliminary investigation by Dropbox could see were clearly not uploaded by any of his IP addresses.

So we asked Dropbox, is this glitch isolated? Are other accounts affected? Is this a new problem or a long term issue Dropbox has struggled with? What should other users do if they find content in their account that is clearly not theirs?

Could this be a problem with permissions? Perhaps an issue with iCloud? Maybe a smidge of both? Maybe neither? Maybe an isolated incident?

As of publication, there has been no response, just as there was silence when the user reached out about the issue various times during the last year.

Dropbox has a history of problems

Despite raising $1.1 billion in six rounds of funding, the eight year old brand has over 400 million users and is the clear favorite (even the team here relies upon it). They’re the darling of cloud storage, hands down.

They say that over one billion files are saved to Dropbox every hour and is used by 97 percent of Fortune 500 companies.

Imagine being the CEO of one of those Forutne 500 companies, let’s say Verizon; and you open your Dropbox account to see private photos of Sprint projects co-mingled with your camera uploads. Bingo! But wait, can they see yours? Can AT&T? You probably panic and call in the troops. Sure, there are ways you can protect and back up your cloud data, but not necessarily if a glitch has users’ accounts visible to other users.

Hector Salcedo at the Credeon Blog summarizes Dropbox’s spotty past succinctly:

“Unfortunately for business users, Dropbox is also the most targeted cloud service by hackers and thieves. Remember when hackers held 7 million Dropbox passwords ransom? Not only is Dropbox prone to cyber-attacks, but they also suffer from bugs and leaving open doors. In October 2014, Dropbox released an update with a bug that deleted user files, making backup on Dropbox inadequate for business. File deletion!? Then what’s the point of storing files in the cloud anyway?

Salcedo continues, “Prior to this incident, a cloud-based file locker, Intralinks, found that Dropbox users were unknowingly allowing private data to be read by third parties as their files were being indexed by search engines. Links that you may have shared with other colleagues were being indexed by Google, Yahoo! and Bing, and if competitors searched for a matching keyword on your link, they could click and open your files without you knowing. As you can see saving sensitive company information with Dropbox offers significant risk for business users.”

There are a bevy of reasons this could be happening and could even be isolated, and Dropbox has been provided with the user’s information to investigate. But for now, this serves as a stark reminder that no service is perfect or invulnerable – not Dropbox, not email, not even paper files.

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Business News

Too connected: FTC eyes Facebook antitrust lawsuit

(BUSINESS NEWS) Following other antitrust hearings, we’re expecting to hear more about the FTC’s antitrust lawsuit against Facebook, soon.

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Facebook being crossed out by a stylus on a mobile device.

Facebook might be wishing it had kept the “dislike” button.

On September 15, the Wall Street Journal announced that the Federal Trade Commission was preparing a possible antitrust lawsuit against the social media titan. Although the FTC has not made an official decision on whether to pursue the case, sources familiar with the situation expect a determination will be made on the matter sometime before the end of 2020. Facebook and the FTC both declined to comment when asked about the story.

The news comes following a year-long investigation by the FTC that has looked into anti-competitive practices by the Menlo Park-based company. This past July, the United States House of Representatives held hearings in which they grilled the CEOs of Amazon, Apple, Google, and Facebook regarding their business practices. In August, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg also testified in front of the FTC as part of the department’s antitrust probe into the organization.

The FTC seems to be especially interested in Facebook’s past acquisitions of WhatsApp and Instagram, which they believe may have been done to stifle competition. In internal emails sent between Zuckerberg and Facebook’s former CFO David Ebersman back in 2012, the 36-year-old seemed worried that the apps could eventually pose a threat to the social media conglomerate.

“These businesses are nascent but the networks established, the brands are already meaningful, and if they grow to a large scale the could be very disruptive to us,” Zuckerberg wrote to Ebersman, “Given that we think our own valuation is fairly aggressive and that we’re vulnerable in mobile, I’m curious if we should consider going after one or two of them.”

When Ebersman asked him to clarify the benefits of the acquisitions, Zuckerberg stated the purchases would neutralize a competitor while improving Facebook.

“One way of looking at this is that what we’re really buying is time. Even if some new competitors springs up, buying Instagram, Path, Foursquare, etc. now will give us a year or more to integrate their dynamics before anyone can get close to their scale again.” Zuckerberg said.

This isn’t the first time the FTC has investigated Facebook either. Last year the agency fined the company $5 billion for the mishandling of user’s personal information, the biggest penalty imposed by the federal government against a technology company. As a part of the settlement with the FTC in that case, Facebook also promised more comprehensive oversight of user data.

If the FTC does pursue an antitrust suit against Facebook, it could end up forcing the social media giant to spin off some of the companies it has acquired or place restrictions on how it does business. Considering how long it will take to file the litigation and prove the case in a courtroom, however, it seems that Zuckerberg will once again be “buying time.”

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Business News

What you need to know about the historic TikTok deal (for now)

(BUSINESS NEWS) No one really knows what’s happening, but the TikTok deal’s impact on business, US-China relations, and the open internet could be huge.

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Male black hands holding app opening TikTok app.

So, maybe you’ve heard that Oracle and Walmart are buying TikTok for national security!

Um, not exactly.

Also, Trump banned TikTok!

Sort of? Maybe?

But then he said he approved the Oracle-Walmart-TikTok deal!

We guess?

The terms of the proposal seem to shift daily, if not hourly. The sheer number of contradictory statements from every player suggests no one really knows what’s going on.

Just one example: Trump said the deal included a $5 billion donation to a fund for education for American youth. TikTok parent ByteDance, said, “Say what now?”

Here’s what we think we know (as of this writing):

Oracle and Walmart would get a combined 20 percent stake in a new U.S.-based company called TikTok Global. Combine that with current US investors in China’s ByteDance, TikTok’s parent, that would give American interests 53 percent. European and other investors would have 11 percent. China would retain 36 percent. (On Saturday Trump said China would have no interests at all. But that does not jibe with the reporting on the deal.)

Oracle would host all user data on its cloud, where it is promising “security will be 100 percent” to keep data safe from China’s prying eyes. But reporting has differed on whether Oracle will get full access to TikTok’s code and AI algorithms. Without full control, skeptics say, Oracle could be little more than a hosting service, and potential security issues would remain unaddressed.

Walmart says they’re excited about their “potential investment and commercial agreements,” suggesting they may be exploring e-commerce opportunities in the app.

The US Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States, which is overseen by Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, still has to approve any deal.

As for the TikTok “ban” – which isn’t really a ban because current users can keep it – the Commerce Department postponed the deadline for kicking TikTok off U.S. app stores to September 27, to give time for the deal to be hammered out. Never mind that it’s still not clear whether the U.S. government has authority to do that. Unsurprisingly, ByteDance says it doesn’t in a lawsuit filed September 18.

Whatever happens with the whiplash of the deal’s particulars, there are bigger issues in play.

According to business news site Quartz, moving data storage to Oracle mirrors what companies like Apple have done in China: Appease the Chinese government by allowing all data hosting to be inside China. A similar move could “mark the US, too, shifting from a more laissez-faire approach to user data, to a more sovereign one,” says China tech reporter Jane Li.

More obvious: Corporate sales and mergers are now part of the parrying between the U.S. and China, which adds a whole new playing field for negotiations among businesses.

In the meantime, TikTokkers keep TikTokking. White suburban moms continue to lip sync to rap songs in their kitchens. Gen Z continues to make fun of the president – and pretty much everything else.

And downloads of the app have skyrocketed.

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Business News

Hobby Lobby increases minimum wage, but how much is just to save face?

(BUSINESS NEWS) Are their efforts to raise their minimum wage to $17/hour sincere, or more about saving face after bungling pandemic concerns?

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Hobby Lobby storefront

The arts-and-crafts chain Hobby Lobby announced this week that they will be raising their minimum full-time wage to $17/hour starting October 1st. This decision makes them the latest big retailer to raise wages during the pandemic (Target raised their minimum wage to $15/hour about three months ago, and Walmart and Amazon have temporarily raised wages). The current minimum wage for Hobby Lobby employees is $15/hour, which was implemented in 2014.

While a $17 minimum wage is a big statement for the company (even a $15 minimum wage cannot be agreed upon on the federal level) – and it is no doubt a coveted wage for the majority of the working class – it’s difficult to not see this move as an attempt to regain public support of the company.

When the pandemic first began, Hobby Lobby – with more than 900 stores and 43,000 employees nationwide – refused to close their stores despite being deemed a nonessential business (subsequently, a Dallas judge accused the company of endangering public health).

In April, Hobby Lobby furloughed almost all store employees and the majority of corporate and distribution employees without notice. They also ended emergency leave pay and suspended the use of company-provided paid time off benefits for employees during the furloughs – a decision that was widely criticized by the public, although the company claims the reason for this was so that employees would be able to take full advantage of government handouts during their furlough.

However, the furloughs are not Hobby Lobby’s first moment under fire. The Oklahoma-based Christian company won a 2014 Supreme Court case – the same year they initially raised their minimum wage – that granted them the right to deny their female employees insurance coverage for contraceptives.

Also, Hobby Lobby settled a federal complaint in 2017 that accused them of purchasing upwards of 5,000 looted ancient Iraqi artifacts, smuggled through the United Arab Emirates and Israel – which is simultaneously strange, exploitative, and highly controversial.

Why does this all matter? While raising their minimum wage to $17 should be regarded as a step in the right direction regarding the overall treatment of employees (and, hopefully, $17 becomes the new standard), Hobby Lobby is not without reason to seek favorable public opinion, especially during a pandemic. Yes, we should be quick to condone the action of increasing minimum wage, but perhaps be a little skeptical when deeming a company “good” or “bad”.

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