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Google follows Facebook, Apple with new child safety tools for its apps

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NEW DELHI: After Apple and Facebook, Google has now introduced new child safety features on its platforms. While Facebook made changes to its advertising algorithms, and Apple is going to use automated tools to scan for child sexual abuse material (CSAM), Google’s changes are more widespread, including changes to its policies. The company will limit advertising capabilities of those targeting children, and also make changes to its products to limit childrens’ exposure to explicit content, etc. Most of Google’s new policies will come into effect in the “coming weeks”, though Google didn’t share an exact timeline for the same.

The company said it will now allow anyone under the age of 18, or their parents/guardians to request removal of their images from Google Image results. “Of course, removing an image from Search doesn’t remove it from the web, but we believe this change will help give young people more control of their images online,” noted Mindy Brooks, General Manager, Kids and Families at Google, in a blog post.

The company is also making changes to YouTube, Search, the Google Assistant, Google Play Store and Location Histories on your Google Account. It will set the default upload setting for videos on YouTube to private for users who are aged between 13-17, and will “prominently surface” digital wellbeing features, which request users to cut their screen time.

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YouTube will also have “safeguards and education” about commercial content, and Google will turn off the autoplay feature for children. This allows YouTube videos to keep playing continuously, moving from one video to another, based on algorithmic recommendations. Children under 18 will also get reminds to take a break and for bedtime when spending time on YouTube.

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Google Search will have SafeSearch turned on by default for users under the age of 18, as long as they are signed into their Google account. This feature filters explicit content that may show up when certain items are searched for. It will also be applied to the Google Assistant and Google Workspace accounts of K-12 institutions.

Google will stop allowing children under the age of 18 from turning on location history on their devices, as long as they have Supervised Accounts. This allows parents to add a child account under their account, giving them a level of control on the child’s online activity. The company doesn’t allow children who have such accounts to turn location history on, which is a feature that lets Google track virtually every place you visit for advertising purposes.

Topping off the changes to Google’s apps is a new safety section, which Google had announced last week. This is similar to Apple’s App Transparency protocols and requires app developers to disclose what kind of user data they access and use.

Like Facebook, Google is also limiting what kind of advertising activities can be performed using data from kids accounts. The company said it will block ad targeting based on age, gender or interests of people under 18, in a somewhat different from Facebook’s approach, which allows only age, gender and location data to be used for advertisers who target children on its platform. The blog post said these changes will be coming in the “coming months”.

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Child safety protocols are expected to be a key element of India’s upcoming Personal Data Protection (PDP) bill. The draft bill seen in 2019 set the age of consent for children at 18 years and put the onus on companies to take care of children’s interests. However, the same has been opposed by tech firms.

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Facebook-Meta Earns the ‘Worst Company of 2021’ Title in This Survey

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Facebook has had its share of controversies this year. The company was under more scrutiny after whistleblower Frances Haugen leaked a series of internal documents.

Facebook parent Meta has been named the Worst Company of the Year (2021) by Yahoo Finance respondents. According to the publication, an “open-ended” survey was published on Yahoo Finance on December 4 and 5, where 1,541 respondents participated. Facebook received 8 percent of the write-in vote, but respondents were seemingly mad about the Robinhood trading app as well. Electric truck startup Nikola, which was named last year’s worst company by the same publication also faced respondents ire.

Yahoo Finance notes, “Facebook has had its share of controversies this year.” Starting in January, Meta-owned WhatsApp got caught up in a huge controversy after the messaging app announced a new privacy policy (Terms of Service). WhatsApp said it would collect user information and share it with third-party apps for a better user experience. However, the app gave users no choice but later made modifications to the policy under pressure. Similarly, the company was under more scrutiny after whistleblower and former Facebook employee Frances Haugen leaked a series of internal documents showing the company’s problematic practices. It was revealed that Meta-owned Instagram had a negative impact on teenage girls, but the company did almost nothing to rectify the problem.

Yahoo Finance even highlights, “At the same time, some critics, including conservatives, say Facebook over-policed the platform’s speech and stifled their voices.” Critics also blame Facebook and other social media platforms for not curbing hate speech that led to Capitol Building riots.

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However, around 30 percent of Yahoo Finance readers said that Facebook or Meta could redeem itself. One respondent suggested that the company could issue a formal apology for negligence and donate a sizable amount of its profits to a foundation to help reverse its harm.

On the other hand, respondents chose Microsoft as the Company of the Year (2021). The Satya Nadella-led company touched the trillion-mark this year and introduced notable upgrades. The most notable is the Windows 11 OS update that succeeds Windows 10.

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Facebook pays 1.7 Cr fine to Russia after failing to delete content Moscow deems illegal

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In the latest legal tussle with Russia over controversial social media regulation laws, Facebook paid 17 million roubles (Rs 1.7 Crore) for failing to remove content deemed illegal by Moscow. With a threat of potential larger fines looming, Facebook parent company Meta, owned by Mark Zuckerberg, is scheduled to face court next week over repeated violations of Russian legislation on content, Interfax News Agency reported. As per the latest updates, the social media giant could be fined a percentage of its annual revenue.

In October, Moscow sent state bailiffs to enforce the collection of 17 million roubles. Meanwhile, as per Interfax report citing a federal bailiffs’ database, on Sunday, there were more enforcement proceedings against the company. Apart from the popular social media app, Telegram has also paid 15 million roubles in fines for failing to comply with the Russian social media legislations that came into force in 2016.

Facebook pays $53k to Russia for refusing controversial social media laws

It is pertinent to mention that Facebook has locked horns with Moscow earlier in November, resulting in it paying 4 million roubles ($53,000) over its refusal to adhere to Russian data localisation laws, the Moscow Times reported. The Moscow court on November 25 had said that Facebook paid the fine levied in February, following which all proceedings against the US-based social media giant. The payment comes against the litigation filed against the company in 2018, alongside Twitter. The tech companies were also forced to pay an additional 3000 rubles ($40) for failing to comply with user data sharing rules as per the law. The Russian authorities have also previously blocked LinkedIn, owned by Microsoft, for failing to abide by the laws.

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Russian social media laws

As per Moscow Times, under the Russian social media regulation laws, all foreign technology companies are required to store data related to Russian customers and users on servers located in Russia. Additionally, the Russian tech companies will also have to share encryption data with the federal authorities as well as record user calls, messages and civil society group conversation records. The apparatus is said to be a severe breach of privacy rights and unfettered back-door access to personal data that could be used to harass Kremlin critics.

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Facebook Messenger Is Launching a Split Payments Feature for Users to Quickly Share Expenses

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Facebook Messenger Is Launching a Split Payments Feature for Users to Quickly Share Expenses

Meta has announced the arrival of a new Split Payments feature in Facebook Messenger. This feature, as the name suggests, will let you calculate and split expenses with others right from Facebook Messenger. This feature essentially looks to bring an easier method to share the cost of bills and expenses — for example, splitting a dinner bill with friends. Using this new Split Payment feature, Facebook Messenger users will be able to split bills evenly or modify the contribution for each individual, including their own.

The company took to its blog post to announce the new Split Payment feature in Facebook Messenger. 9to5Mac reports that this new bill splitting feature is still in beta and will be exclusive to US users at first. The rollout will begin early next week. As mentioned, it will help users share the cost of bills, expenses, and payments. This feature is especially useful for those who share an apartment and need to split the monthly rent and other expenses with their mates. It could also come handy at a group dinner with many people.

With Split Payments, users can add the number of people the expense needs to be divided with and, by default, the amount entered will be divided in equal parts. A user can also modify each person’s contribution including their own. To use Split Payments, click the Get Started button in a group chat or the Payments Hub in Messenger. Users can modify the contribution in the Split Payments option and send a notification to all the users who need to make payments. After entering a personalised message and confirming your Facebook Pay details, the request will be sent and viewable in the group chat thread.

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Once someone has made the payment, you can mark their transaction as ‘completed’. The Split Payment feature will automatically take into account your share as well and calculate the amount owed accordingly.


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Tasneem Akolawala is a Senior Reporter for Gadgets 360. Her reporting expertise encompasses smartphones, wearables, apps, social media, and the overall tech industry. She reports out of Mumbai, and also writes about the ups and downs in the Indian telecom sector. Tasneem can be reached on Twitter at @MuteRiot, and leads, tips, and releases can be sent to tasneema@ndtv.com.

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