The Secret Service is starting to really annoy us, but at least Chrome has our back. Also, Facebook is trying to do something *again* — but it may not be such a bad thing.
All Access for a Cost
The Secret Service is willing to pay for your location data, and that freaks us out!
According to Motherboard, “the Secret Service paid for a product that gives the agency access to location data generated by ordinary apps installed on peoples’ smartphones.” This disturbing information was confirmed via an internal Secret Service document and pertains to a contract relating “to the sale of Locate X, a product from a company called Babel Street,” Motherboard continued.
So essentially, law enforcement agencies can now buy the public’s personal information — including location data — that typically would require a warrant or court order to get.
Motherboard continued by reporting that in March, Protocol reported “that multiple government agencies signed millions of dollars worth of deals with Babel Street after the company launched its Locate X product. Multiple sources told the site that Locate X tracks the location of devices anonymously, using data harvested by popular apps installed on peoples’ phones.”
Motherboard added a very important reminder that all sorts of smartphone apps — including weather apps, mobile games and even flashlights (!?) — “collect location data.”
This news piece just serves as another reminder (although I feel as if we get them daily these days) that smartphone apps are, to be honest, terrifying.
Chrome Cares About Web Security
Chrome, Google’s web browser, is taking on insecure — as in “insufficiently, or not sure enough” — web forms.
Engadget reported that “starting in the M86 build, Chrome will raise a red flag on forms that are on secure HTTPS pages, but aren’t actually submitted securely.” Engadget continued that “details sent through these ‘mixed forms’ are potentially visible to lurkers, who might read or change information.”
A lot of “automatically populated” information that pops up in web forms is sensitive or private information.
“If you start entering details on a mixed form, a warning will pop up to tell you it’s not secure,” explained Engadget. “When you try to submit such a form, a full-page alert will explain the potential risks of doing so, and ask if you’d like to continue anyway.”
“We saw that users found this experience unclear and it did not effectively communicate the risks associated with submitting data in insecure forms,” Shweta Panditrao, a Chrome security team member, wrote in a blog post.
Instagram and Facebook Messenger Chats are Merging
According to Engadget, Facebook has always wanted to “unify messaging across its apps.” Well, that day is here… kind of.
“People at The Verge (and likely elsewhere) have received notice through Instagram’s Android and iOS apps that they’ll have the ability to ‘chat with friends who use Facebook’—that is, Messenger,” Engadget reported.
Engadget continued to say that “the signature paper airplane icon for DMs has been replaced with Messenger’s logo. You can’t actually message Facebook friends yet, however, suggesting the announcement might have come early.”
Benefits of this merger would include:
1. More colorful Instagram chats
2. The added option to reply to messages “by swiping on them”
3. Encrypted chat, with a more “private social space”
4. Users having access to all their friends in one app
However, Engadget added that right now, “Facebook is dealing with intense government scrutiny of its practices, including its acquisitions of Instagram and WhatsApp. It may end up uniting the services right as officials are ready to split them apart.”
Abbie Stutzer is a queer, non-binary writer living in Kansas City, MO. You can find them doing witchy stuff at home with their numerous pets or at the local animal shelter saving lives. Contact Stutzer via email@example.com.
Background header image via Unsplash here.