Former Facebook and Google employees fight tech ‘addiction’

Two former employees of Google and Facebook have launched a campaign to fight what they see as the addictive nature of the technology they helped to create.

 

technology
The campaign will back legislation to look at impact of technology on youngster’s health

(Source: BBC News)

The Center for Human Technology aims to “reverse the digital attention crisis” and “realign technology with humanity’s best interests”.

It warns that technology is currently “hijacking our minds and society”.

Facebook said it is “is a valued part of many people’s lives”.

“We know Facebook, and the industry more broadly, can help bring people closer together through technology,” it said in response to the campaign’s launch.

“It’s a responsibility we take seriously, particularly as we think about younger generations. These are important discussions and we’ve already taken meaningful steps.

“For instance, we changed our News Feed ranking to ensure people have more opportunities to connect with the people they care about, knowing it might reduce time spent on Facebook. Moving forward we’re committed to being part of the conversation.”

Behind the campaign – dubbed The Truth about Tech – are Roger McNamee, an early backer of Facebook and Tristan Harris, a former design ethicist at Google.

On its website, the campaign states that Snapchat, Instagram, Facebook and YouTube are “not neutral products” but instead “are part of a system designed to addict us”.

The campaign has received $7m (£5m) in funding from non-profit media watchdog Common Sense Media.

It will focus on 55,000 US schools, aiming to teach students, parents and teachers about the side-effects of too much technology use.

It will also lobby politicians on two forthcoming pieces of legislation, one looking at the impact of technology on children’s health and one requiring digital bots to be identified.

The campaign seems to reflect growing disquiet in the industry about how the digital world is influencing society, particularly in the light of questions about fake news and the impact such reports may have had on the US election.

There is also mounting evidence from health professionals that spending too much time on devices has a negative impact on the mental and physical wellbeing of children.

In December, former Facebook executive Chamath Palihapitiya said he felt guilty about helping create tools that “are ripping apart the social fabric of how society works”.

He said he had banned his own children from using Facebook.

His remarks followed similar criticism from Facebook investor Sean Parker who said in November that he had become a “conscientious objector” to social media, adding that Facebook and other firms were exploiting “a vulnerability in human psychology”.

And in January, two big Apple investors asked the firm to make it easier to limit children’s use of iPhones and iPads.

Meanwhile, a group of 100 mental health experts have asked Facebook to close its messaging service aimed at children.

Pre-Tech is four years old today!

Pre-Tech PC Services turns four today!

four
Pre-Tech is four today!

Today marks four years of Pre-Tech PC Services. Four ago Pre-Tech started with next to nothing and is now servicing local schools and businesses with their IT needs as well as many home users with their computer woes.

We helped set up charity and websites for small businesses, local pre-schools and even local artists.

Pre-Tech has even started to dip its toe into game and app design.

Exciting times ahead ūüôā

Knife-threatening app banned by Google

An app aimed at children that featured a voice over making threats to cut them with a knife, has been banned by Google.

Google
The app was not an official Nickelodeon one but used the same characters

(Source:BBC News)

Blaze and the Monster Machines was removed from the Google Play Store following complaints from parents.

There is mounting pressure on firms to make their platforms safer for children.

One firm that offers real-time blocking software said Google “failed egregiously in its duty of care”.

The unofficial app was based on a Nickelodeon show, also called Blaze and the Monster Machines.

The voiceover starts off in a friendly manner: “Hi kids, I’m your new friend! You see, I want to play with you kiddo. Maybe we could perform some fun games together.”

It then takes a sinister turn: “You look afraid, is it this knife in my hands? Making you a little nervous? This knife is going to improve your look when it’s sticking right out of you.”

Following horrified reactions from parents, Google pulled the app, saying: “We have a set of policies designed to provide a great experience for users and developers and we act quickly to remove apps from Google Play that violate those policies.”

Richard Pursey is chief executive of SafeToNet, a UK firm which offers to protect children from issues such as cyber-bullying, grooming and trolling with software that blocks such content in real-time.

He said: “While we applaud Google’s response of taking the app down, it is simply too late. By the time content has been flagged to Google or any other app store, it will have been seen by millions of children.

“Unfortunately, this forms a fairly common trend. For example, recently, YouTube removed a children’s cartoon called Paw Patrol that showed children sleepwalking to their deaths.

“This was viewed over three million times before it was removed. We have also seen clips of Peppa Pig drinking bleach and Elsa from Frozen using automatic weapons.”

Children’s charity the NSPCC urged parents to set up parental controls on their childrens’ phones and have “regular conversations” with them about staying safe online.

The government is keen that social networks and other technology platforms take more responsibility for the content they carry.

In a speech at the World Economic Forum, Prime Minister Theresa May said that making tech firms into publishers was “very complicated” but asked whether there could be a new definition for them, which might make it possible to make them legally responsible for their content.

HP laptops found to have hidden keylogger

Hidden software that can record every letter typed on a computer keyboard has been discovered pre-installed on hundreds of HP laptop models.

 

HP
Hundreds of HP laptop models were affected

 

(Source: BBC News)

Security researcher Michael Myng found the keylogging code in software drivers preinstalled on HP laptops to make the keyboard work.

HP said more than 460 models of laptop were affected by the “potential security vulnerability”.

It has issued a software patch for its customers to remove the keylogger.

The issue affects laptops in the EliteBook, ProBook, Pavilion and Envy ranges, among others. HP has issued a full list of affected devices, dating back to 2012.

‘Loss of confidentiality’

Mr Myng discovered the keylogger while inspecting Synaptics Touchpad software, to figure out how to control the keyboard backlight on an HP laptop.

He said the keylogger was disabled by default, but an attacker with access to the computer could have enabled it to record what a user was typing.

According to HP, it was originally built into the Synaptics software to help debug errors.

It acknowledged that could lead to “loss of confidentiality” but it said neither Synaptics nor HP had access to customer data as a result of the flaw.

In May, a similar keylogger was discovered in the audio drivers pre-installed on several HP laptop models.

At the time, the company said the keylogger code had been mistakenly added to the software.