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Facebook adds camera features, moving closer to Snapchat

Thompson Reuters

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SAN FRANCISCO —  Facebook Inc is giving the camera a central place on its smartphone app for the first time, encouraging users to take more pictures and edit them with digital stickers that show the influence of rival Snapchat.

Shares of Snapchat owner Snap Inc <SNAP.N>, which held its initial public offering this month, were down 4.1 percent at $22.85 after Facebook announcement.

With an update scheduled to take effect on Tuesday, Facebook will allow users to get to the app’s camera with one swipe of their finger and then add visual details like a rainbow or a beard of glitter.

Users will be able to share a picture privately with a friend, rather than to all of their friends, and add a picture to a gallery known as a “story,” similar to a feature on the Snapchat app.

Snapchat popularized sharing of digitally decorated photographs on social media, especially among teenagers, and exposed a weakness of Facebook as the companies battle for eyeballs and leisure time.

Snap has recently emphasized its ambitions to build gadgets and has called itself a camera company rather than a social media network. Some analysts have warned that Snap is susceptible to competition from Facebook.

Facebook, which with 1.86 billion users is the industry leader, denies it took its camera ideas from Snapchat and says it got them from its own users.

“Our goal here is to give people more to do on Facebook, and that’s really been the main inspiration,” Connor Hayes, a Facebook product manager, said in a briefing with reporters.

In a glimpse of how the features could tie in with other businesses, one of the first camera effects will be the ability to morph someone in a photograph into a yellow, cartoon “Minion.” The latest Minion movie, “Despicable Me 3,” is due out in a few
months from Comcast Corp’s NBC Universal.

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Facebook has deals to license content from six film studios, as well as from two artists, said design director Kristen Spilman.
Another visual effect allows someone in a picture to “become a laser cat with super powers,” Spilman said.

The effects will vary by location. Spilman said that when Facebook tested the ability to add the phrase “LOL,” the acronym for “laugh out loud,” users in Ireland did not know what it meant.

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Android apps may be illegally tracking children, study finds

Gorkha Post

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Over 3300 free and popular children’s Android apps available on the Google Play Store could be violating child privacy laws, according to a new, large-scale study, highlighting growing criticism of Silicon Valley’s data collection efforts.

Researchers using an automated testing process have discovered that 3,337 family and child oriented Android apps on Google Play were improperly collecting kids’ data, potentially putting them in violation of the US’ Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act, or COPPA law (which limits data collection for kids under 13).

Only a small number were particularly glaring violations, but many apps exhibited behavior that could easily be seen as questionable.

Researchers analyzed nearly 6,000 apps for children and found that 3,337 of them may be in violation of the COPPA, according to the study report. The tested apps collected the personal data of children under age 13 without their parent’s permission, the study found.

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“This is a market failure,” said Serge Egelman, a co-author of the study and the director of usable security and privacy research at the International Computer Science Institute at the University of California, Berkeley.

“The rampant potential violations that we have uncovered points out basic enforcement work that needs to be done.”

The researchers are adamant that they’re not showing ‘definitive legal liability.’ These apps may be running afoul of the law, but it’s up to regulators at the FTC to decide if they are. Without iOS data, it’s also unclear how common this problem is across platforms.

The potential violations were abundant and came in several forms, according to the study. More than 1,000 children’s apps collected identifying information from kids using tracking software whose terms explicitly forbid their use for children’s apps, the study found.

The researchers also said that nearly half the apps fail to always use standard security measures to transmit sensitive data over the Web, suggesting a breach of reasonable data security measures mandated by COPPA. Each of the 5,855 apps under review was installed more than 750,000 times, on average, according to the study.

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Unfortunately for parents, there’s little consumers can do to protect themselves since the policies and business practices of app developers and ad tracking companies are often opaque, Egelman said.

The study also points to a breakdown of so-called self-regulation by app developers who claim to abide by child privacy laws, as well as by Google, which runs the Android platform, he said.

Agencies

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