Tuesday June 18, 2019
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US Lawmakers Accuse Facebook of Exposing Sensitive Health Data

A Facebook spokesperson, however, denied the social network giant was misleading users about closed groups

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Facebook , FTC
FILE- In this March 29, 2018, file photo, the logo for Facebook appears on screens at the Nasdaq MarketSite in New York's Times Square. A report says Facebook and the FTC are negotiating a "multibillion dollar" fine for the social network's privacy lapses. VOA

A day after Facebook was accused of exposing sensitive health data of its users in “closed” groups, US lawmakers have written a letter to CEO Mark Zuckerberg, asking him to brief them about the latest privacy concerns.

A complaint filed by a security researcher and others with the US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) on Monday alleged that “Facebook lures users into sharing their personal health information in closed groups”.

“Facebook marketed this product as a Personal Health Record and it then leaked the health data that those patients uploaded to the public,” said the complaint.

On Tuesday, the House Committee on Energy and Commerce sent a letter to Zuckerberg on this, saying “the consumer complaint raises a number of concerns about Facebook’s privacy policies and practices”.

“Facebook’s systems lack transparency as to how they are able to gather personal information and synthesize that information into suggestions of relevant medical condition support groups.

“Labelling these groups as closed or anonymous potentially misled Facebook users into joining these groups and revealing more personal information that they otherwise would have,” wrote the lawmakers.

Facebook
Facebook’s CEO Mark Zuckerberg. VOA

The lawmakers said they want a staff briefing from Facebook on this issue no later than March 1.

A Facebook spokesperson, however, denied the social network giant was misleading users about closed groups.

“Facebook is not an anonymous platform; real-name identity is at the center of the experience and always has been.

Also Read- US Hate Groups Increases by 7% in 2 years, Hit Record

“It’s intentionally clear to people that when they join any group on Facebook, other members of that group can see that they are a part of that community, and can see the posts they choose to share with that community,” the spokesperson said in a statement.

The issue was first noticed last July, when members of a women’s group with a gene mutation discovered how easily the names and email addresses of members could have been downloaded in bulk, either manually or through a Chrome extension, The Verge reported. (IANS)

Next Story

No one Would Buy a Huawei Smartphone Sans Google or Facebook

Despite all this, there is no respite seen for Huawei in the near future and the company is likely to witness its smartphone business dwindle

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FILE - A member of the media tries out new Huawei Honor 20 series of phones following their global launch in London, UK, May 21, 2019. VOA

By Nishant Arora

Be honest and ask yourself: Would you buy a smartphone that neither supports Android operating system and Google apps nor comes pre-installed with Facebook, WhatsApp and Instagram? This is the scenario which Huawei (and its sub-brand Honor) smartphones stare at in the near future – and an imminent fall if the issue does not get resolved in the next one-two quarters.

Although the Chinese communications giant aims to launch its own operating system called “Hongmeng” to replace the Android OS on its smartphones but ‘abhi Dilli door hai’ as the OS has to see the light of the day and then users’ approval, which is the most critical part.

The absence of apps like Facebook or WhatsApp that truly define user experiences is a double whammy for Huawei.

Currently the second largest smartphone player in the world (powered by stupendous growth in non-US regions like Europe and Asia), Huawei has sensed the tough road ahead. A recent report in Nikkei Asian Review claimed that Huawei has “downgraded its forecast for total smartphone shipments in the second half of 2019 by about 20 per cent to 30 per cent from the previous estimate”.

According to Navkendar Singh, Research Director, Devices and Ecosystem, India and South Asia, IDC, almost half of Huawei’s smartphone volumes come from outside China with its wide smartphone portfolio which runs on Android with Google Mobile Services (GMS) – a collection of Google applications and application programming interfaces (APIs) that help support functionality across devices.

“China has its own ecosystem of apps which are hugely popular but only in China. Outside it, almost all popular Android apps are from Google or from US-based companies. These apps are the heart of experience of any smartphone user these days,” Singh told IANS.

“Without these apps present on its own OS, it will be very very tough for Huawei to pull in demand for its phones running on its own OS,” he added.

Sandwiched between the ongoing US-China trade war, Chinese telecom equipment major Huawei is frantically looking to salvage its prestige and fast cover the lost ground.

The company is also looking at the Indian smartphone market which has touched 450 million smartphone users and has a great potential to grow.

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Huawei smartphones are seen in front of displayed Google Play logo in this illustration picture, May 20, 2019. VOA

“In India, they have never been really able to scale up to be a major player. But considering the growth potential in India, the decision by Google and Facebook has put a spanner in the Huawei’s possible aggressive plans for the country as the next growth market in next two-three years outside of China,” Singh told IANS.

Huawei pipped Apple as the second largest smartphone seller in the first quarter of 2019 after Samsung. It clocked 17 per cent market share in the global smartphone market, according to Counterpoint Research.

The Chinese tech giant, meanwhile, has denied reports that it has cut down smartphone manufacturing.

The company, however, is reassessing its target to become the world’s top-selling smartphone vendor by 2020, after the US trade ban was put in place.

On May 15, US President Donald Trump effectively banned Huawei with a national security order.

Huawei has filed a motion in a US court challenging the constitutionality of the US President Donald Trump’s order to ban it.

Also Read- Samsung Galaxy M40 Tech Review: Stunning Display, Better Chipset

According to reports, Google has also discussed with the US government about an exemption from the Huawei ban, saying it is bad for the company’s technology business.

Despite all this, there is no respite seen for Huawei in the near future and the company is likely to witness its smartphone business dwindle.

Unless, a miracle happens. (IANS)