Children, Parents and Teachers Unaware of Educational Apps Collecting Data on Children

A new report has found that millions of students had their personal data collected and online behaviors tracked by websites, applications and other educational programs. The programs did not have the student-users’ consent and in some cases allow third-party companies like advertisers access to the data.

International advocacy organization Human Rights Watch published their findings from an investigation they completed between March 2021 and August 2021. The investigation examined educational services that students, world-wide, used when learning went all online.

Human Rights Watch investigated 164 products used in 49 countries. They found 146 of them (89%) appeared to be engaging in data practices that infringed or even risked children’s rights. These practices included activity like monitoring or monitoring children without the students ‘or parents’ consent, the collected a range of personal data like identity, location, online activity and behavior and even information about family and friends.

HRW stated that children, parents and teachers were largely unaware of the risky behavior. However, they wanted to emphasize that even if anyone had been aware they likely would have had little choice but to use the apps as it was either log-on or be marked absent.

Uber Reveals Rating Data to Riders

Uber made an announcement that riders will now have an option so they can see ratings left by drivers—how many one-star ratings, how many five-star ratings, and all those between. Previously riders could only see their average rating.

To find these rating breakdowns requires several maneuvers within the app. First riders must navigate to the Settings menu, then to Privacy and then to the Privacy Center. Once inside the Privacy Center, riders must swipe to the right and choose “would you like to see a summary of how you use Uber?” Next riders must scroll to “browse your data” and then “view my ratings.” Alternatively, riders can access the data through the Uber website.

Not exactly immediately accessible but the feature is intended to offer riders a better understanding of their average rating and to encourage good behavior during rides.

Uber has made all identifying information is kept anonymous for the safety of drivers.

Uber has relied on this two-way rating system since its inception to hold riders and drivers accountable for their behavior. Both riders and drivers can be deactivated from the platform if their average rating drops too low. The threshold for banning is different for different cities and many factors are taken into account when calculating the point of termination.

Uber released average ratings for riders by city and found that New York had the lowest average rider rating with Seattle and D.C. right behind. San Antonio, Texas was number one for best average rider rating.

 

 

New Tech Extends Range of Deep Sea Exploration Robots

For much of human history we have explored and lived in some of the most extreme environments on the planet—mountains, jungles, deserts. However, the largest environment on Earth composing 70% of the Earth’s surface, the ocean largely remains a mystery to us.

Only about 20% of the ocean bed has been mapped.

A fuller picture of the ocean would bring many benefits including safer navigating ships, creating more accurate climate models, laying new telecommunication cables, the building of offshore windfarms and of course protecting marine species.

Many refer to this as the “blue economy” and it could be worth an astonishing $3 trillion by 2030.

While underwater robotic vehicles equipped with various equipment have been in service for quite a while and have increased the amount of data we collect and at a lower cost, many of these robots rely on batteries and have to return to the shore or a boat to recharge making it impossible for them to ever map the most remote parts of the ocean.

Yi Chao’s Seatrec startup is working on solving this challenge by channeling the natural temperature differences in ocean waters.

The technology can be attached to existing robots or Seatrec’s own ocean explorers. The device is a float that moves between warm and cold parts of the ocean. The materials inside the module the either solidifies or melts. This causes pressure that turns to thermal energy that power’s the robot’s generator.

 

Has this ever happened to you?

You are browsing the Internet and maybe you look at some items and then it seems every where you go you are seeing the same things or related items that you just looked at. Maybe you abandoned a shopping cart or changed your mind about the purchase. Maybe you started filling out a form and stopped in the middle of it. They can’t possibly know what you typed, right? Or can they?

In an article by Motherboard.com, they cite a study done by Princeton University about boundaries. Or rather “No Boundaries.” How do you think Pinterest or Facebook or other social media sites get the information? There are sites such as FullStory that allow website owners to capture every keystroke a user makes. They use “session replay” scripts to capture what the customers are doing on their sites. You can see some of the major companies who use fullstory.com here.

Now more than ever it is important to read websites’ terms and conditions. They may collect things like medical conditions, personal data, credit card info. Passwords may even be “accidently” included in the data.

So what can you do? Run AdBlock Plus in your browser. According to the Princeton study, AdBlock has been updated to block all these scripts, thanks to the study.

This video shows FullStory capturing a user’s data as it is being entered into a form.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l0Yc8s0DTZA

Equifax Breach – What you can do

By now you’ve heard about the Equifax breach. Something you may want to do by November 21 is put a security freeze on your account. Until then, they are waiving fees to do this.

A security freeze is supposed to block outsiders from opening an account in your name. This is different from a fraud alert which will only notify you if someone opens an account in your name (even you).

A security freeze has you adding a PIN in order to make any changes. The three major credit monitors are TransUnion, Experian, and Equifax.
Right now you can only put the freeze on Equifax for free. TransUnion and Experian will charge $10 for each. Currently there is legislation pending on making this free. If you are planning to buy a car or house you don’t want to freeze your credit just yet.

Equifax will not be calling you so if you get a call saying it is from them, it is most likely a scam.

If you enroll in their monitoring program, you would waive rights to sue if you are impacted by the breach.

Here are some links:
Equifax blog with explanation of the problem
How to put on and remove a freeze from your account
Form to fill out to get a PIN to freeze account

What do you do when you think you lost your phone?

There is nothing more discouraging than to think you’ve lost your smart phone. All your personal information could be out there! So what to do?

Safeguarding yourself:

Android:
Make sure you have installed the Device Manager app from the Play Store. It’s not enough to just download it. You need to make sure it is connected to your Google account and that your phone is verified through it. If you stil have trouble, you may need to check your location settings. They must be turned on. You must also go into your Google settings app and turn on the settings there to find your device. When I tested mine it found it and said “Right here in your hand,” so we know this will work.
Make sure you have some sort of security in place for the lock screen. Yes it’s a hassle but it’s worth it. You may have capabilities for fingerprint reading as well.
Don’t keep files with lists of passwords in your cloud drives.

iPhone:
Download and install the Find iPhone app from the App store. Make sure you do everything to set it up. Also you will need your location services on. You should be able to find your devices from your other Apple devices or from icloud.com.
Use whatever lock methods are available to lock your iPhone.
Don’t keep lists of sensitive data available.

In the case of loss or theft:

See if your carrier allows you to suspend service (with or without billing) temporarily so you can try to locate your phone.
Log into Google or iCloud.com and you should be able to either ring your device or erase the data.
Remember, even if you suspend the data plan, it can still be used through wi-fi to wipe it to factory condition and a new number installed.

Hopefully this won’t happen to you.

Jody Victor