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Google Fined $43 Million by Australian Court for Misleading Users Over Data

The Hill reported:

An Australian court has ordered Google to pay roughly $43 million ($60 million AUD) for misleading users about the collection and use of their location data, an Australian competition watchdog said Friday.

The court found Google breached Australian Consumer Law between January 2017 and December 2018 by misrepresenting to some Android users what settings allowed Google to collect and use personal location data, according to the Australian Competition & Consumer Commission’s announcement.

The court found that Google represented to some users that the “Location History” setting was the only one that affected whether Google collected, kept and used data about a user’s location, but another “Web & App Activity” setting also let it collect and use the data when turned on, the watchdog said.

The watchdog estimates that 1.3 million Google account users in Australia may have been impacted.

Nearly Half of All Teens Say They Use the Internet ‘Almost Constantly,’ Survey Finds

CNN Business reported:

Nearly half of U.S. teens say they use the internet “almost constantly,” according to a new survey. The survey of 1,316 teenagers delved into the technology habits of teens and was conducted by the Pew Research Center.

The percentage of teens who reported a near-constant level of online presence was markedly up from a 2015 Pew survey in which only about a quarter of teens reported that level of internet use.

The survey found that the social media platforms most frequently used by teens are changing as well, with video-focused platforms like YouTube and TikTok leading in popularity.

Facebook is no longer such a dominant force in the lives of American teens, according to the new survey. Only 32% of U.S. teens ages 13 to 17 say they now use Facebook. That’s down from the 71% of teens who said they used Facebook in a Pew survey conducted between 2014 and 2015.

CDC: Schools Can End COVID Test-to-Stay Strategy, Quarantines

U.S. News & World Report reported:

Students no longer need to quarantine at home after exposure to COVID-19, according to updated guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that comes as many prepare to head back to school for the fall.

Additionally, under the new guidance, schools no longer need to implement “test-to-stay” policies or cohort students — the practice of keeping students in the same group throughout the day to limit contact with others.

Now, students who have been exposed to the virus fall under the same guidance as adults regardless of vaccination status: Wear a high-quality mask for 10 days and get tested on day five or sooner if they have symptoms.

Quarantine is now only recommended for people in certain high-risk congregate settings like correctional facilities, homeless shelters and nursing homes.

Creighton Students’ COVID Vaccine Mandate Appeal Dismissed

Associated Press reported:

The Nebraska Supreme Court on Friday dismissed an appeal by a handful of Creighton University students who sought to be exempt from the private Catholic school’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate last year, arguing that getting the shots would violate their religious beliefs against abortion.

The state’s high court said it didn’t have jurisdiction, citing its 150-year stance that people can’t appeal orders denying or granting temporary injunctions. In this case, a judge last year declined to issue a temporary injunction that would have blocked Creighton University’s requirement that all students get the COVID-19 vaccination.

Against Vaccine Mandates for Schoolchildren

The Wall Street Journal reported:

In “COVID Vaccine Mandates Heighten School Inequity” (op-ed, Aug. 9), Drs. Eliza Holland and Nikki Johnson argue against school vaccine mandates for children because black children are immunized at lower rates than the general population, and so they would be disproportionately prevented from attending school.

Apparently, racial inequity is today’s cudgel of choice. How about science-based arguments instead? Children are highly unlikely to become seriously ill or die from COVID, especially from today’s less virulent strain. Those five years old and younger are particularly unlikely to benefit from vaccination, but still partake in the risk.

California Bill Targeting Social-Media Giants for Harm to Children Dies in Legislature

The Wall Street Journal reported:

California lawmakers killed a bill Thursday that would have allowed government lawyers to sue social-media companies for features that allegedly harm children by causing them to become addicted.

The measure would have given the state attorney general, local district attorneys and city attorneys in the biggest California cities authority to try to hold social-media companies liable in court for features they knew or should have known could addict minors.

Among those targeted could have been Facebook and Instagram parent Meta Platforms Inc., Snapchat SNAP 2.72% parent Snap Inc. and TikTok, owned by Chinese company ByteDance Ltd.

Its death comes after social-media companies worked aggressively to stop the bill, arguing that it would lead to hundreds of millions of dollars in liability and potentially prompt them to abandon the youth market nationwide. Meta, Twitter Inc. and Snap had all individually lobbied against the measure, according to state lobbying disclosures.

Google Wants to Fix Its Search Engine’s Misinformation Problem

Forbes reported:

Google on Thursday unveiled a handful of new features aimed at combating falsehoods on its search engine, one of the most widely used information tools on the planet. Far from its origins as a simple website that listed 10 links as search results, Google is now a sprawling and cluttered site that highlights news stories, tweets, maps, hotel bookings and more.

As the site has grown — and as misinformation peddlers have become more sophisticated — the search engine has become more vulnerable to spreading lies and wrong information.

Google said it would use its artificial intelligence systems to improve search snippets. The company will use machine learning software, called MUM, or Multitask Unified Model, to check information across multiple reliable sources that agree on the same facts. The process will allow the system to come to a general consensus, Google said, even if the sources don’t phrase the information in the same way.

Facebook and Instagram Apps Can Track Users via Their in-App Browsers

Engadget reported:

If you visit a website you see on Facebook and Instagram, you’ve likely noticed that you’re not redirected to your browser of choice but rather a custom in-app browser. It turns out that those browsers inject javascript code into each website visited, allowing parent Meta to potentially track you across websites, researcher Felix Krause has discovered.

“The Instagram app injects their tracking code into every website shown, including when clicking on ads, enabling them [to] monitor all user interactions, like every button and link tapped, text selections, screenshots, as well as any form inputs, like passwords, addresses and credit card numbers,” Krause said in a blog post.

Ring’s New TV Show Sounds Like a Dystopian America’s Funniest Home Videos

The Verge reported:

Ring, the Amazon-owned home security company that’ll sell you a camera just as swiftly as it will give law enforcement access to that same camera’s footage without a warrant, is producing a television show that sounds an invitation to participate in the surveillance state. You know, as a fun family activity.

Deadline reports that Wanda Sykes has signed on to host Ring Nation, a new America’s Funniest Home Videos-style clip show from MGM Television, Ring, and Big Fish Entertainment, the production company behind Live P.D. Described as a “daily dose of life’s unpredictable, heartwarming and hilarious viral videos” in a press release, Ring Nation will feature footage captured on people’s Ring cameras presented in a way that’s meant to be entertaining.

As one of Ring’s most thinly-veiled attempts at normalizing the idea and practice of people constantly surveilling one another, Ring Nation may also be just the reminder some folks need to avoid that particular instance of our modern-day panopticon.

Hacker Offers to Sell Data of 48.5 Million Users of Shanghai’s COVID App

Reuters reported:

A hacker has claimed to have obtained the personal information of 48.5 million users of a COVID health code mobile app run by the city of Shanghai, the second claim of a breach of the Chinese financial hub’s data in just over a month.

The hacker provided a sample of the data including the phone numbers, names and Chinese identification numbers and health code status of 47 people.

Suishenma is the Chinese name for Shanghai’s health code system, which the city of 25 million people, like many across China, established in early 2020 to combat the spread of COVID-19. All residents and visitors have to use it.

The app collects travel data to give people a red, yellow or green rating indicating the likelihood of having the virus and users have to show the code to enter public venues.