Today’s cache | Facebook’s $5 billion privacy settlement, and more

Today's cache is your daily download of the top 5 updates from the world of technology.

Updated - April 27, 2020 06:09 pm IST

Published - April 27, 2020 06:03 pm IST

A long running privacy settlement between Facebook and Federal Trade Commission was approved, making the social network pay $5 billion for missteps over maintaining users’ data.

Google has released a report on security threats the search giant has identified during the COVID-19 crisis. The company has also shared update on its “Hey, Google” feature.

Facebook has launched a Messenger Rooms feature that can allow upto 50 participants to make group video chat.

Finally, Zoom has been making some updates to its security features.

Fine tuning your Google Assistant

Smart speakers and other smart devices placed on a kitchen counters or on a living room tables are usually accessed by multiple members in the household.

If you’ve been using a Google Assistant to access those devices, and are sharing it with other members at home, you can now tweak each user’s preference for interacting with the assistant.

When you set up Google Assistant, choose ‘voice match’ and train the assistant to recognise your voice to receive personalised results.

Voice match will now prompt you to say full phrases instead of just “Hey Google.” For instance, you can say, “Hey Google, remind me to buy flowers.” And Google can better identify who is engaging with higher accuracy.

The voice matching feature allows a single Google Assistant-powered device to link with six people, tailoring results for each specific users.

With the earlier “Hey Google” set up, noise in the environment affected the responsiveness to key words, making the assistant accidentally activate when it hears something similar to “Hey Google.”

“You can make Google Assistant more sensitive if you want it to respond more often, or less sensitive to reduce unintentional activations,” Natasha Jensen, Product Manager, Google Assistant, said in a blog post.

Facebook launches Messenger Rooms

An increasing number of users opting to real-time video chat has made Facebook enhance its Messenger app and launch new features.

At the beginning of April, the social networking giant introduced a new messenger app allowing users to video chat via desktops.

Now, Facebook has launched Rooms to make people create and join group video call through its Messenger app.

The new feature allows non-Facebook users to join video calls using a link sent by the chat room creator. And each room will soon hold up to 50 participants, without any time limit.

Facebook users can start a video chat room and share it on their News Feed, Group or Events. If the discussion is open, people can join; if closed, a link to the room will give them access.

An invitation to join the chat room can be accessed from phone or PC, and if invitees have a Messenger app, they can play with AR effects like bunny ears and other AI-powered immersive background and mood lighting.

The room creator can choose who can see and join their chat room, so that not all your friends on Facebook can see the chats you host.

Messenger Rooms will be rolled out in some countries this week and will expand to rest of the world in coming weeks, Facebook said in a statement.

The social networking company is also planning to add ways to create rooms from Instagram Direct, WhatsApp and Portal, too.

Facebook’s $5 billion privacy settlement

A settlement worked out between Facebook and Federal Trade Commission (FTC) over privacy missteps by the social networking company was approved on Friday, Wall Street Journal reported.

The deal was finalised last year, in which Facebook would pay $5 billion fine and face restrictions on some aspects of its business. Privacy advocates had asked the court to reconsider the deal as some of Facebook’s illegal actions were brushed aside.

Almost ten months after the deal was announced last July, Judge Timothy Kelly called Facebook’s legal violations stunning and said the complaints from the privacy advocates “call into question the adequacy of laws governing how technology companies that collect and monetize Americans’ personal information must treat that information,” Wall Street Journal cited.

Judge Kelly, however, left it to the discretion of FTC to enter into settlement.

As the Court notes, the historic $5 billion settlement is ‘by far’ the largest monetary penalty ever obtained by the United States on behalf of the FTC,” he said in a statement.

The FTC investigation began more than two years ago after reports revealed that personal information of several millions of Facebook users wound up with Cambridge Analytica, a data firm behind President Trump’s 2016 election campaign.

Online security threats using COVID-19, Google report

While the world has been fighting COVID-19, hackers are using the crisis to making phishing attacks and scams.

Google’s security team has identified over a dozen government-backed attacker groups using coronavirus themes to phish and plant malwares - - trying to get vulnerable users to click malicious links and download files.

The search company’s security systems have detected 18 million malware and phishing Gmail messages per day relating to COVID-19, apart from more than 240 million CIVOD-19-related daily spam messages.

“Our machine learning models have evolved to understand and filter these threats, and we continue to block more than 99.9% of spam, phishing and malware from reaching our users,” Google said in a statement.

One of the phishing campaigns attempted to steal personal accounts of US government employees with phishing lures using American fast food franchises and COVID-19 messaging.

Zoom’s new security features

Zoom has been under scrutiny lately due to its lose security policies. To tighten it, the video-conferencing company has launched some security upgrades.

On Wednesday, the company announced security changes as part of its incremental improvement plan to over the company’s security practices in 90 days.

As part the upgrade, Zoom will offer AES 256 encryption on all meetings. The company used AES 128 earlier. The upgrade means the data will be encrypted with a 256-bit key.

To make user controls on security easily accessible, the company has bundles its security features under the ‘security icon.’

Inside the new icon, hosts can now ‘Report a user,’ make participants wait in virtual rooms before giving access to the meeting room and change password to meet the complexicty requirement.

For users on Zoom’s business, enterprise, and education plans, admins can view how their meetings are connecting to Zoom data centres in their Zoom Dashboard. This includes any data centres connected to HTTP Tunnel servers, as well as Zoom Conference Room Connectors and gateways.

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