Facebook prompts Apple users to accept device tracking

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San Francisco, Feb 2 (IANS): Amid the ongoing Facebook-Apple war over privacy changes in iOS 14, the social networking giant is showing a prompt to iPhone and iPad users, urging them to allow tracking of their devices to deliver personalised ads.

According to CNBC, As part of this test, Facebook is explaining why it wants to track this activity and asking users to opt in.

These prompts will appear on Apple users’ screens immediately before the Apple pop-up appears, the report said on Monday.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has argued that the iOS 14 privacy changes will impact the growth of millions of businesses around the world.

The upcoming privacy changes in Apple iOS 14 update will inform users about tracking by third-party advertisers and ask them if they want to allow it.

Facebook at Apple are at the loggerheads for quite some over the upcoming privacy changes.

Taking aim at Facebook last week, Apple CEO Tim Cook called for greater scrutiny of businesses built on “data exploitation”.

“If a business is built on misleading users, on data exploitation, on choices that are no choices at all, then it does not deserve our praise. It deserves reform,” Cook said in his keynote speech at Europe’s Computers, Privacy and Data Protection (CPDP) conference.

His remarks came amid fierce arguments with Facebook over upcoming privacy changes in iOS that that will require app developers to seek permission from users to track them for ad targeting.

Apple postponed the full enforcement of privacy practices in iOS 14 after Facebook went out in public against those changes.

Facebook in December published full-page newspaper ads to criticise Apple for the upcoming iOS privacy changes.

Facebook had complained about the feature, saying it would impact its ad business.

Facebook acknowledged that full enforcement of these changes may lead to huge decline in its Audience Network advertising business.

Facebook Audience Network is an in-app advertising network for mobile apps.

Cameras, crime and the use of Covid-tracking data

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While the Government has made it known that TraceTogether data may be tapped under the Criminal Procedure Code for investigations into serious offences, the operational reason for doing so has not been offered.

What is known is that the Government plans to introduce a new law today to specify that personal data collected through digital contact tracing solutions, which comprise the TraceTogether and SafeEntry programmes, can be used for only contact tracing, but with an exception - when there is a “clear and pressing” need to use that data for investigations into seven serious offences including murder, terrorism and rape.

Reports from overseas might offer a clue to the need for the new law - face coverings, made mandatory amid the Covid-19 pandemic, have resulted in a decline in the efficacy of security cameras, including those which use technologies driven by artificial intelligence (AI), such as facial recognition.

In the United States, a government agency reported last July that facial recognition algorithms used by AI cameras were misidentifying people wearing face coverings, with error rates as high as 50 per cent.

US media reports showed criminals have capitalised on face coverings to hide their identity.

Efficacy of PolCams

To be clear, the authorities in Singapore have access to, and tapped various sources of information in tackling law and order issues here. For instance, the police work with banks, which flag unusual transactions and block transfers to protect unsuspecting clients from being the victims of scams. There are also online platforms, such as i-Witness, to enable the public to discreetly provide information in a criminal investigation.

The police also rely on the tens of thousands of police cameras (PolCams) that have been installed since 2012. As at end-2017, footage from these cameras have helped solve more than 2,300 cases, including theft and molestation. Housing Board blocks fitted with cameras also saw fewer unlicensed moneylending harassment cases.

But with mandatory face coverings, the police will need to supplement their intelligence gathering, and TraceTogether data may offer information at critical junctures.

While it is a stretch to imagine data from the programme alone could lead to crime solving, the mandatory use of the app or token for entry into public venues by more than 4.2 million participants, or about 78 per cent of residents here, means the police have a wider pool of information they can draw on when all else fails in cracking serious crimes.

Use of IT for security

Technology has shaped the history of criminal investigations. Breakthroughs such as finger printing and DNA testing have helped bring about justice and closure to countless people.

So when new technology comes along that could be added to the crime-busting toolkit, they should not be dismissed on first sight. The fact of their availability can make a great deal of difference.

Consider the case of the Little India riots, which was cited by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong when he made the case in 2017 for greater use of information technology (IT) to enhance public safety and security.

In outlining a plan to build an integrated national sensor network comprising, among other things, 95,000 “smart” lamp posts and AI technology to analyse video footage collected by government agencies, PM Lee said the additional information could help the authorities to respond promptly, or even pre-emptively, in case of emergencies.

This would avoid a repeat of the chaos and security shortcomings of the 2013 Little India riots, when more than 400 people went on a rampage, attacking police and Singapore Civil Defence Force officers responding to a fatal traffic accident near Tekka Lane. PM Lee noted that a lack of data then caught the authorities flat-footed. “There were too few CCTV cameras monitoring Little India. We had to rely on footage posted by the public on social media.”

The security cameras old and new are placed in housing estates and high foot traffic areas such as town centres and linked walkways.

But the efficacy of this network in fighting not just major outbreaks of crime, but relatively smaller ones such as theft and assault, has been compromised by the mask mandate.

Safety versus privacy

Privacy concerns in the use of TraceTogether data in criminal investigations were recently raised in Parliament, an issue that had been flagged in 2018 over data collected by PolCams.

In its reply then, the Government spelt out data protection safeguards which the police employ and the controls put in place on access to such data.

The Government also cited survey findings in which respondents indicated that cameras had contributed to their perception of feeling safer. This mirrored the findings in a 2014 survey by multinational professional services company Accenture, which reported that Singaporeans were comfortable with the police using predictive technologies (96 per cent of respondents) and security cameras (91 per cent).

Those with misgivings over the use of TraceTogether data for criminal investigations should consider how much they are prepared to give up in terms of security, in exchange for privacy.

They must also examine the paradox: That while raising privacy concerns over data collection, they are voluntarily giving up their personal information through searches on mobile phones and other devices, and through social media posts as well as online purchases with credit cards. Data brokers and big tech companies like Google and Facebook mine such information to feed their bottom line.

Not binary options

The argument for the use of TraceTogether in crime fighting is not about the dismissal of the importance of privacy concerns, but to avoid treating privacy and security as binary options.

Mr Muhammad Faizal Abdul Rahman, in the Lowy Institute’s publication The Interpreter, calls for a balanced approach, with states assessing how they use surveillance tools even as they battle the virus and its socioeconomic impact, both of which are likely to linger for years.

“Covid-19 may be a turning point that causes states to make tougher choices to better prepare for both man-made and biological threats.

“Public health unpreparedness has already resulted in severe harm to national interests. Keeping people safe and economies functioning is fundamental for a state’s political legitimacy,” said the research fellow with the Centre of Excellence for National Security, a unit of the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies.

But he added that states must also acknowledge that concerns over privacy and civil liberties will continue to characterise the “post-pandemic zeitgeist”, and that states must also demonstrate how surveillance protects citizens, not only institutions and elites.

When the new law is introduced in Parliament, the Government needs to elaborate on the challenges it may be facing with mandatory face coverings and the role big data can play to keep people in Singapore safe.

Greater clarity on this will help foster public acceptance of technology that can fight both crime and the deadly virus.

Budget for healthcare 2021: Post-Covid, all’s vial as health gets a big boost

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NEW DELHI: With Covid-19 providing the impetus to boost health infrastructure , finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman announced a 137% hike in the health and wellness budget for 2021-22, including a new scheme — PM Atma Nirbhar Swasthya Bharat Yojana — to ramp up primary, secondary and tertiary healthcare.She also announced a dedicated allocation of Rs 35,000 crore for Covid-19 vaccinations, as well as allocations for pollution and improvements in urban sanitation besides a new nutrition initiative — POSHAN 2.0. The FM announced an outlay of Rs 64,180 crore over six years for the new scheme, over Rs 10,000 crore a year, though typically the expenditure quickens as infrastructure comes up or is progressively modernised.“I have provided Rs 35,000 crore for Covid-19 vaccine in this year 2021-22,” Sitharaman said. She said investments in health infrastructure have significantly increased, and as institutions absorb more funds, the government will commit more.The outlay for ‘health and well-being’ increased to Rs 2,23,846 crore in 2021-22, against Rs 94,452 crore last year. The main interventions under the new atmanirbhar scheme are to strengthen over 17,000 rural and 11,000 urban health and wellness centres, setting up integrated public health labs in all districts and 3,382 block public health units in 11 states, establishing critical care hospital blocks in 602 districts and 12 central institutions.An important aspect is strengthening the National Centre for Disease Control , recognising its key role in tracking the pandemic. There will be expansion of the integrated health information portal to all states and UTs to connect public health labs, operationalisation of 17 new public health units and strengthening of existing units at points of entry i.e. at 32 airports, 11 seaports and 7 land crossings.To strengthen nutritional outcomes, an allocation of Rs 20,105 crore has been made for Saksham Anganwadi and POSHAN 2.0 programme.