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Google, Facebook Have Been Using “Dark Patterns”: Report

The privacy intrusive defaults in Facebook and Google make users who want the privacy-friendly option to go through a significantly longer process

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Google Pixel 3 XL could come with 6.7-inch display, 3430mAh battery. Pixabay
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Tech giants Google, Facebook and Microsoft have been using “dark patterns” around privacy settings to discourage users in the European Union from exercising their privacy rights, according to a new report by the Norwegian Consumer Council.

The popups from Facebook, Google and Windows 10 have design, symbols and wording that nudge users away from the privacy friendly choices, said the study.

The consumer watchdog studied the privacy settings of the firms and found a series of “dark patterns”, including intrusive default settings and misleading wording, the BBC reported on Thursday.

“The use of exploitative design choices, or ‘dark patterns’, is arguably an unethical attempt to push consumers toward choices that benefit the service provider,” the Norwegian Consumer Council said in its report.

It picked Facebook, Google, and Microsoft for the study as they are some of the world’s largest digital service-providers.

In this study, the Norwegian group looked at user settings updates in the three digital services that relate to the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) which came into force in May.

European service providers gave users a wide array of GDPR updates. Among these services, users of Facebook, Google’s services, and Windows 10 had to click through and approve update messages as part of the companies’ attempt to comply with the new legislation.

These popups contained references to new user terms, and presented a number of user settings related to the ways that the companies may collect, process, and use personal data.

This is not a problem in itself, but analysis of a sample of settings in Facebook, Google and Windows 10 by the group showed how default settings and “dark patterns” were used to nudge users towards privacy intrusive options.

Facebook mobile app
Facebook mobile app. Pixabay

The privacy intrusive defaults in Facebook and Google make users who want the privacy-friendly option to go through a significantly longer process, the report said.

They also obscure some of these settings so that the user cannot know that the more privacy intrusive option was pre-selected.

“At the same time, we find that the service providers employ numerous tactics in order to nudge or push consumers toward sharing as much data as possible,” the report, titled “Deceived by Design” said.

Besides privacy intrusive default settings and hiding away privacy-friendly choices, the service providers were found to be using “misleading wording”, giving users “an illusion of control”, and having a “take-it-or-leave-it” approach.

Also read: Google Rolls out Training for Game Startups From India, Southeast Asia

The three companies said user privacy was important to them, the BBC report said. (IANS)

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Microsoft Planning for Next version of Smart Glasses in Order to Monitor Blood Pressure

The aim is to shrink the device to such an extent that it could become a clip-on that works with anyone's regular glasses, the report added

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Microsoft developing next version of BP-monitoring smart glasses. Pixabay

Microsoft is developing the next version of its smart glasses, called Glabella, that can work as a cuff-less, wearable and unobtrusive blood pressure measuring device, according to a new report.

The device incorporates optical sensors, processing, storage, and communication components, all integrated into the frame to passively collect physiological data about the user without the need for any interaction, according to a paper published on Proceedings of the ACM Journal of Interactive, Mobile, Wearable and Ubiquitous Technologies.

Glabella continuously records the stream of reflected light intensities from blood flow as well as inertial measurements of the user’s head.

From the temporal differences in pulse events across the sensors, this prototype derives the wearer’s pulse transit time on a beat-to-beat basis.

Microsoft
Logo of Microsoft outside it’s office. Pixabay

A person’s pulse transit time — the time delay following each heartbeat as the pressure wave travels between two arterial sites — provides an indirect measure of blood pressure, according to a report in IEEE Spectrum.

 Although the glasses did well in a test run, they are not yet ready to hit the store shelves as the Microsoft researchers plan to evaluate the Glabella glasses in a clinical setting.

The team is also developing a next version of the device to make it more power efficient while making the frame smaller, the report added.

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Currently, a small chargeable coin battery keeps the device running.

The aim is to shrink the device to such an extent that it could become a clip-on that works with anyone’s regular glasses, the report added. (IANS)