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FCC chairman preemptively doesn’t care about your privacy, blocks new rule

(TECH NEWS) The FCC chairman preemptively shuts down a rule that could cost you your online privacy – are you paying attention?

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How important is your Internet privacy?

We’ve all seemed to adjust to the targeted ads on sites such as YouTube and Amazon. But could you imagine if those things were everywhere on the Internet? Your Internet Service Provider (ISP) seems to think you wouldn’t mind.

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It also seems to think you wouldn’t mind if it shared the rest of your private information with third parties. I mean, sharing social security numbers seem to be all the rage these days.

Ok, ok, maybe that last sentence was a bit overdramatic. But still, it is a bit unnerving- and third parties gaining access to it is entirely within the realm of possibility.

Is your information for sale?

Last year, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) established rules as to what private information ISPs can access and sell to advertisers without customer consent. The rule requires that ISPs explicitly ask customers whether they are allowed to share their private data — things such as geographic location, browsing history, app usage, etc.– to third parties.

Data that is not considered “sensitive”, however, ISPs need not ask about before sharing, as long as customers are given the option to “opt out.”

As one would expect, major providers have been rallying against the rule since its inception.

The basis for their argument?

Companies such as Facebook, Amazon and Google need not abide by it. They are instead subject to a much more lax set of privacy rules because they are regulated by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). The reasoning for this, as explained by proponents of the rule, is that these sites have access to only a specific amount of data.

This thinking also follows the idea that individuals have control over what sites and apps they access and use.

ISPs, on the other hand, have access to a much wider range of data: they can see everything a customer accesses over their Internet connection.

Don’t bring logic into this…

Providers are undoubtedly excited about the new Chairman of the FCC, Ajit Pai. A long-term opponent to the rule, Pai argues that it is not the role of the government to show “favoritism” between companies. Instead, he believes that the FTC’s “technology-neutral framework for online privacy” should apply to everyone. Though he does not have the power to completely dismantle the regulations set in place, he has requested the commission to vote on a stay regarding a specific section of the rules — relating to data security and data breach notification — before its implementation on March 2.

If commissioners Michael O'Rielly and Mignon Clyburn agree to vote by that time, the full commission's vote will be required to determine the fate of the stay request.Click To Tweet

However, if they do not agree to vote then one of the commission’s bureaus will at least stay that portion of the rule: in essence, it seems, Pai seems surely positioned to block that portion of the rule.

Ad anarchy

This new development in the ongoing battle over online privacy does not mean a complete dismantling of the rules previously established. Again, this a specific portion of the rules being blocked. However, Pai’s request is especially important as major ISPs and marketing agencies are currently lobbying Congress to repeal the entire set of rules through use of the Congressional Review Act. Whether they will be successful is anyone’s guess in today’s political climate. However, it seems certain that they currently have a friend in the FCC, which is something worth being wary of.

#ISPy

Andrew Clausen is a Staff Writer at The American Genius and when he's not deep diving into technology and business news for you, he is a poet, enjoys rock climbing, monster movies, and spending time with his notoriously naughty cat.

Tech News

Brave: A whole new browser with user privacy in mind

(TECH NEWS) Brave is boldly going where most web browsers are not: actually private internet browsing, with slick features in tow.

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You’re probably paranoid about your internet privacy. And if you aren’t: you should be. Hackers can hack your camera, your doorbell and even your lightbulbs without much effort.

And even the most paranoid end users are still painting a picture themselves as a consumer to advertisers. Though it’s through legitimate means (although that fact is iffy according to the EU), it’s still invasive enough to make you want to live off the grid. But these days, that’s almost impossible, considering so much of our modern work and personal lives exist online.

That’s why the newest browser to enter the field is going where no other web browsers have gone before. Brave is the first web browser to offer complete and automatic tracker ad and tracker blocking.

No more will you have to find an Adblocker – one that doesn’t happen to be malware – and install that separately from your browser. Or futz around in settings hoping to configure it correctly to block the cookie tracking in the way you want. Brave starts that way, out of the box. Another bonus? Brave offers private browsing with teeth. For computer based browsing, you can open a private window with Tor to keep your connection completely encrypted and secure.

And if you’ve ever used Chrome, you’ll have a great head start on understanding how to use this browser. Brave runs on Chromium, which is why it’s end-user experience is reminiscent of Chrome. And because it runs on Chromium, it also means it supports most Chrome extensions right out of the gate. (Although, those browser extensions can put your data at risk and counteract some of what Brave is trying to do for you.)

Of course, all talk around privacy and ad blocking in the internet browser community is a hot button item. One perpetual ethical question: is it okay to block ads, especially from publications trying to raise revenue? Brave thinks so. That’s because of one of its features designed to support quality content: the Brave Wallet. Its Patreon meets Ko-Fi. Creators can sign up with the program and users can decide to give tips via cryptocurrency to their creator page, all done through the toolbar. You can also earn cryptocurrency through consuming Brave’s ads and choosing to send that to a trusted creator.

Another question: will people hop on the Brave train now that everyone is getting serious about privacy? Firefox, Safari and Edge are all implementing better privacy features in their current and future updates. What’s going to be the thing that causes people to stick with it?

For this end-user of Brave, one thing that keeps me going so far is being told how effective it is. I’ve only used the browser for two days across all my devices and I’ve blocked over 3,000 different trackers. And there’s a certain amount of trust I’m willing to place with a browser that claims to be hypervigilant about my privacy.

Brave truly is the browser answer in our Brave New World.

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Tech News

Why building apps without knowing how to code is increasingly common

(TECH NEWS) No-code app building tools are becoming more available to the everyday user, which could lead to more inventive, and original apps.

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“Learn to code” is a common, frustrating refrain often hurled at job-seekers, entrepreneurs, creative professionals, and others. Depending on who’s saying it, the intent could range from well-meaning to willfully hurtful.

It does, in a way, make sense. Computer programming is the foundational language that modern life is built on. And while many people use technology that they don’t understand every day—from microwaves to cars—there’s something a little different about programming. It’s omnipresent for just about anyone, just about everywhere, whether they use it for work or not. And more people use it for work than ever. It’s the single most sought-after skill in the job market.

But “learn to code” isn’t practical for everyone. Not everyone with an app idea has the time to learn how to build an app from scratch, or the money to hire people to do it for them. That’s where the low-code/no-code movement comes in. It’s all about giving the people the tools they need to execute on an idea without having to learn an entire new skill set. When you bake a cake, you probably don’t grind wheat into flour, and when you build an app, you don’t have to start with Python.

No-code isn’t really a new idea.

The fact that computers have menus and icons is the result of early programmers realizing that non-programmers would have to use a computer sometimes. You could look to tools like RPG Maker that let people build their own video games back in 1992. RPG Maker was like a Lego kit for making a video game. And not only is it still going strong, it proved itself prophetic. It turns out that giving people tools and a sand box is a great way to enable creativity.

This has been the long arc of the Internet, too. There was a time when participating in the World Wide Web in a meaningful way meant learning to program. Places like Geocities gave you real estate to set up a website. But you had to build that site yourself. We’ve moved away from that as the Internet commodified. Sites like Facebook and Twitter remove customization in the name of uniformity.

But creative tools persist. Consider “WYSIWYG,” or “What You See Is What You Get” web editors. These are tools like WordPress that reclaimed some of that Internet customization. They give you assets to build a website, and you plug them in where you want.

It’s a middle ground between building from scratch, and having everything handed to you. It’s the sweet spot of accessible creativity. (If you’ve never heard anyone say “WYSIWYG,” that’s probably because these web development tools are so common that they don’t really need a special name anymore.)

Right now, one of the biggest areas of no-code design is in app development. These app dev tools are similar to building a WordPress site. They give you the raw materials, and you customize and assemble them however you want to. Adalo, a no-code platform for building apps, lets your bring assets and ideas to the table, and gives you a framework to organize those ideas into an app.

They aren’t alone. AppOnboard, a no-code software development suite, recently purchased Buildbox, a leading no-code game development platform. Their combined resources represent a stunning library of assets, full of potential.

What does this mean for coders? Probably not much. Specialized skills are still in high demand. But for the rest of us, a slow democratization of development is taking place, and it’s exciting to watch it take shape.

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Pope Francis’ plea to tech giants: Children must be kept safe online

(TECHNOLOGY) Children should be safe online, Pope Francis pleas with tech giants like Google, Apple and Facebook to help curb child exploitation

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Whether you’re looking for pornography or not, it seems to be a law of the universe that stumbling across porn on the internet is inevitable. This ease of accessibility is controversial, especially when children are involved.

Recently, Pope Francis weighed in on the debate over regulations, calling tech companies like Apple, Google and Facebook to be held accountable for their protection (or lack thereof) of children from pornography.

Pope Francis argued that companies should prioritize keeping children safe, rather than increasing profits. He referenced studies that show children’s first exposure to porn happens when they are 11, as well as studies that reveal potential risks to children’s emotional and sexual growth when exposed to pornography.

It’s not just children viewing pornography that’s worrying, however. With the explosion of digital messaging, the FBI reports an influx of sexual predators online. Minors are getting groomed and exploited by predators and the availability of child porn on the internet is increasing. Not to mention, with the push for privacy on the internet – such as Facebook’s encrypted messages – it can be difficult to track down sexual predators.

While tech companies might not intend to be involved in child porn, their technology is being used for these purposes anyway. As such, Pope Francis insists these companies should be held accountable. Some suggestions presented at the “Promoting Digital Child Dignity” conference included strengthening artificial intelligence (AI) capabilities to safeguard against child pornography and implementing age verification for certain platforms.

Some believe this push for child protection might stem from the Catholic Church’s own troubled history with sexual abuse: over the decades, there have been thousands of cases of child molestation. Pope Francis promised “decisive action,” when he took power in 2013. According to the BBC, this has included releasing a letter condemning clerical sexual abuse and creating a panel to deal with offenses within the church.

Pope Francis’ recent remarks were not the first time he’s suggested technology creators have some hand in protecting children. Rather than simply accuse companies of taking advantage of children, however, Pope Francis extended a plea: “I make an urgent appeal to them to assume their responsibility towards minors, their integrity and their future.”

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