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Can Facebook’s smart glasses be smart about security and privacy?

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Facebook’s smart glasses ambitions are in the news again. The company has launched a worldwide project dubbed Ego4D to research new uses for smart glasses.

In September, Facebook unveiled its Ray-Ban Stories glasses, which have two cameras and three microphones built in. The glasses capture audio and video so wearers can record their experiences and interactions.

The research project aims to add augmented reality features to smart glasses using artificial intelligence technologies that could provide wearers with a wealth of information, including the ability to get answers to questions like “Where did I leave my keys?” Facebook’s vision also includes a future where the glasses can “know who’s saying what when and who’s paying attention to whom.”

Several other technology companies like Google, Microsoft, Snap, Vuzix and Lenovo have also been experimenting with versions of augmented or mixed reality glasses. Augmented reality glasses can display useful information within the lenses, providing an electronically enhanced view of the world. For example, smart glasses could draw a line over the road to show you the next turn or let you see a restaurant’s Yelp rating as you look at its sign.

However, some of the information that augmented reality glasses give their users could include identifying people in the glasses’ field of view and displaying personal information about them. It was not too long ago that Google introduced Google Glass, only to face a public backlash for simply recording people. Compared to being recorded by smartphones in public, being recorded by smart glasses feels to people like a greater invasion of privacy.

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As a researcher who studies computer security and privacy, I believe it’s important for technology companies to proceed with caution and consider the security and privacy risks of augmented reality.

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Smartphones vs. smart glasses

Even though people are now used to being photographed in public, they also expect the photographer typically to raise their smartphone to compose a photo. Augmented reality glasses fundamentally disrupt or violate this sense of normalcy. The public setting may be the same, but the sheer scale and approach of recording has changed.

A pair of sunglasses

Facebook’s Ray-Ban Stories glasses capture photos and video and play audio, but the company has much bigger plans for smart glasses, including AI that can interpret what the wearer is seeing.
Courtesy Facebook

Such deviations from the norm have long been recognized by researchers as a violation of privacy. My group’s research has found that people in the neighborhood of nontraditional cameras want a more tangible sense of when their privacy is being compromised because they find it difficult to know whether they are being recorded.

Absent the typical physical gestures of taking a photo, people need better ways to convey whether a camera or microphone is recording people. Facebook has already been warned by the European Union that the LED indicating a pair of Ray-Ban Stories is recording is too small.

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In the longer term, however, people might become accustomed to smart glasses as the new normal. Our research found that although young adults worry about others recording their embarrassing moments on smartphones, they have adjusted to the pervasive presence of cameras.

Smart glasses as a memory aid

An important application of smart glasses is as a memory aid. If you could record or “lifelog” your entire day from a first-person point of view, you could simply rewind or scroll through the video at will. You could examine the video to see where you left your keys, or you could replay a conversion to recall a friend’s movie recommendation.

Our research studied volunteers who wore lifelogging cameras for several days. We uncovered several privacy concerns – this time, for the camera wearer. Considering who, or what algorithms, might have access to the camera footage, people may worry about the detailed portrait it paints of them.

Who you meet, what you eat, what you watch and what your living room really looks like without guests are all recorded. We found that people were especially concerned about the places being recorded, as well as their computer and phone screens, which formed a large fraction of their lifelogging history.

Popular media already has its take on what can go horribly wrong with such memory aids. “The Entire History of You” episode of the TV series “Black Mirror” shows how even the most casual arguments can lead to people digging through lifelogs for evidence of who said exactly what and when. In such a world, it is difficult to just move on. It’s a lesson in the importance of forgetting.

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Psychologists have pointed to the importance of forgetting as a natural human coping mechanism to move past traumatic experiences. Maybe AI algorithms can be put to good use identifying digital memories to delete. For example, our research has devised AI-based algorithms to detect sensitive places like bathrooms and computer and phone screens, which were high on the worry list in our lifelogging study. Once detected, footage can be selectively deleted from a person’s digital memories.

X-ray specs of the digital self?

However, smart glasses have the potential to do more than simply record video. It’s important to prepare for the possibility of a world in which smart glasses use facial recognition, analyze people’s expressions, look up and display personal information, and even record and analyze conversations. These applications raise important questions about privacy and security.

We studied the use of smart glasses by people with visual impairments. We found that these potential users were worried about the inaccuracy of artificial intelligence algorithms and their potential to misrepresent other people.

Even if accurate, they felt it was improper to infer someone’s weight or age. They also questioned whether it was ethical for such algorithms to guess someone’s gender or race. Researchers have also debated whether AI should be used to detect emotions, which can be expressed differently by people from difference cultures.

Augmenting Facebook’s view of the future

I have only scratched the surface of the privacy and security considerations for augmented reality glasses. As Facebook charges ahead with augmented reality, I believe it’s critical that the company address these concerns.

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[Over 115,000 readers rely on The Conversation’s newsletter to understand the world. Sign up today.]

I am heartened by the stellar list of privacy and security researchers Facebook is collaborating with to make sure its technology is worthy of the public’s trust, especially given the company’s recent track record.

But I can only hope that Facebook will tread carefully and ensure that their view of the future includes the concerns of these and other privacy and security researchers.

This article has been updated to clarify that future Facebook augmented reality glasses will not necessarily be in the Ray-Ban Stories product line and that, while the company’s goals include identifying people, the Ego4D research data was not collected using facial recognition technology.

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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.


For the latest tech news and reviews, follow Gadgets 360 on Twitter, Facebook, and Google News. For the latest videos on gadgets and tech, subscribe to our YouTube channel.

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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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Facebook Owner Meta Launches New Platform, Safety Hub to Protect Women in India

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Meta Image

Meta (formerly Facebook) on Thursday announced a slew of steps to protect woman users on its platform, including the launch of StopNCII.org in India that aims to combat the spread of non-consensual intimate images (NCII).

Meta has also launched the Women’s Safety Hub, which will be available in Hindi and 11 other Indian languages, that will enable more women users in India to access information about tools and resources that can help them make the most of their social media experience, while staying safe online.

This initiative by Meta will ensure women do not face a language barrier in accessing information Karuna Nain, director (global safety policy) at Meta Platforms, told reporters here.

“Safety is an integral part of Meta’s commitment to building and offering a safe online experience across the platforms and over the years the company has introduced several industry leading initiatives to protect users online.

“Furthering our effort to bolster the safety of users, we are bringing in a number of initiatives to ensure online safety of women on our platforms,” she added.

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StopNCII.org is a platform that aims to combat the spread of non-consensual intimate images (NCII).

“It gives victims control. People can come to this platform proactively, hash their intimate videos and images, share their hashes back with the platform and participating companies,” Nain said.

She explained that the platform doesn’t receive any photos and videos, and instead what they get is the hash or unique digital fingerprint/unique identifier that tells the company that this is a known piece of content that is violating. “We can proactively keep a lookout for that content on our platforms and once it”s uploaded, our review team check what”s really going on and take appropriate action if it violates our policies,” she added.

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In partnership with UK Revenge Porn Helpline, StopNCII.org builds on Meta’s NCII Pilot, an emergency programme that allows potential victims to proactively hash their intimate images so they can”t be proliferated on its platforms.

The first-of-its-kind platform, has partnered with global organisations to support the victims of NCII. In India, the platform has partnered with organisations such as Social Media Matters, Centre for Social Research, and Red Dot Foundation.

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Nain added that the company is hopeful that this becomes an industrywide initiative, so that victims can just come to this one central place to get help and support and not have to go to each and every tech platform, one by one to get help and support.

Also, Bishakha Datta (executive editor of Point of View) and Jyoti Vadehra from Centre for Social Research are the first Indian members in Meta”s Global Women”s Safety Expert Advisors. The group comprises 12 other non-profit leaders, activists, and academic experts from different parts of the world and consults Meta in the development of new policies, products and programmes to better support women on its apps.

“We are confident that with our ever-growing safety measures, women will be able to enjoy a social experience which will enable them to learn, engage and grow without any challenges.

“India is an important market for us and bringing Bishakha and Jyoti onboard to our Women”s Safety Expert Advisory Group will go a long way in further enhancing our efforts to make our platforms safer for women in India,” Nain said.

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Facebook Adds New Trend Insights in Creator Studio, Which Could Help Shape Your Posting Strategy

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Facebook’s looking to provide more content insight within Creator Studio with the rollout of a new ‘Inspiration Hub’ element, which highlights trending content and hashtags within categories related to your business Page.

Facebook Inspiration Hub

As you can see in these screenshots, posted by social media expert Matt Navarra, when it becomes available to you, you’ll be able to access the new Inspiration Hub from the Home tab in Creator Studio.

At the right side of the screen, you can see the first of the new insights, with trending hashtags and videos from the last 24 hours, posted by Pages similar to yours, displayed above a ‘See more’ prompt.

When you tap through to the new hub, you’ll have a range of additional filters to check out trending content from across Facebook, including Page category, content type, region, and more.

Facebook Inspiration Hub

That could be hugely valuable in learning what Facebook users are responding to, and what people within your target market are engaging with in the app.

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The Hub also includes insights into trending hashtags, within your chosen timeframe, which may further assist in tapping into trending discussions.

Facebook Inspiration Hub

How valuable hashtags are on Facebook is still up for debate, but you’ll also note that you can filter the displayed results by platform, so you can additionally display Instagram hashtag trends as well, which could be very valuable in maximizing your reach.

Much of this type of info has been available within CrowdTangle, Facebook’s analytics platform for journalists, for some time, but not everyone can access CrowdTangle data, which could make this an even more valuable proposition for many marketers.

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Of course, overall performance really relates to your own creative, and thinking through the action that you want your audience to take when reading your posts. But in terms of detecting new content trends, including hashtag usage, caption length, videos versus image posts, and more, there’s a lot that could be gleaned from these tools and filters.

It’s a significant analytics addition – we’ve asked Facebook for more info on the rollout of the new option, and whether it’s already beyond test mode, etc. We’ll update this post if/when we hear back.

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