In this edition of AdGuard's Digest: Apple may be legally required to allow third-party app stores, Google is accused of violating data protection law, Amazon's voice assistant raises the dead, a crypto exchange helps the US government to track users, new iOS beta has a hyper-secure lockdown mode, and India delays a controversial VPN law.
- Apple may be forced to open iPhone to third-party app stores in the EU
- Google is not GDPR-compliant and sets a bad example, consumer groups say
- Speaking dead: Alexa spooks users with new eerie feature
- Crypto exchange provides 'geo tracking data' to US government
- Apple's new feature to protect against sophisticated cyberattacks
- India delays VPN rules enforcement after backlash
Since the advent of the digital age, we've been slowly but surely hooked on online services. Hardly an hour goes by without us doing something online: whether it's liking a post on social media, shopping, ordering an Uber, watching Netflix, swiping on Tinder, transferring money or accessing a remote desktop. The names of the companies and the things we do may vary — perhaps, you're more into online trading than shopping and prefer gaming to binge-watching shows — but the fact remains: we have all grown our distinct digital identities that may or may not correspond to our real selves.
We entrust some of the information to the care of governments and private companies. We knowingly and unknowingly share our data with tech giants, who track our digital footprint via increasingly sophisticated tools. That information also becomes part of our digital identity.
One man has famously said, data is the new oil, and another less famously argued that it was rather the new nuclear power to the extent it can be weaponized to cause harm. In a world where everything can be bought and sold, a person's complete digital life — digital identity — has become a hot commodity. If stolen and abused, it may bring its real prototype down.
How to decrease the risks
You cannot unplug yourself from the world, but you can shrink your digital footprint and at least make criminals work hard if they want to lay their hands on your digital identity.
As for the documents that we have to email our employers, professors, insurers and others online, make sure you send them via an encrypted email service and that your mail is password-protected.
- Share less on social media — the internet never forgets. Even if you remove the post afterwards, it can still be screenshotted or retrieved through web archives. Resist the urge to share your purchases and information about your loved ones or where you live. Be mindful when geotagging photos and tagging others in them.
- Do not upload copies of your ID documents, such as passports, drivers licenses to your social media accounts. Do not send your documents, especially your selfie with an ID card, to random third party services “for identity verification” unless absolutely necessary.
- Be wary of "too good to be true" discounts and generous giveaways offered by well-known companies. Make sure you are not on a phishing site, and contact a representative of the company to verify the campaign if you're in doubt.
- Allow only those cookies that are essential to the functionality of the website if you don’t want advertisers to track you across the web and bombard you with ads.
- Use ad blockers that are trustworthy and have not been caught red-handed leaking data. You can also switch to a privacy-focused browser, use a VPN or a DNS server.
- Set strong passwords that are not reused across your other accounts or devices, and use password managers.
- Enable multi-factor authentication where possible — it will help protect you from unsophisticated hackers.
- Install and timely update antivirus software, make sure you have enough space in your device for the updates.
- Give your apps only the most necessary permissions
In this edition of AdGuard's Digest: Chrome can’t say goodbye to third-party cookies, Twitter suffers a breach, European countries deem Google not safe for schools, smart doorbells share data with police (no warrant needed), the UK wants tech companies to scan phones, while the US stockpiles cell phone location data.
- Leading network operators test new cookie-free way to track users
- Denmark and the Netherlands limit use of Google services in schools
- 5.4 million Twitter account details up for sale
- Lingering farewell: Chrome delays phasing out third-party cookies yet again
- It’s an emergency! Google & Amazon let police access doorbell and cam data
- UK pushes for tech giants to scan phones for child sex abuse
- Just Buy It: Data brokers sell location information to US government
In this edition of AdGuard's digest: DuckDuckGo rights the wrong, laptops spy on children, health apps — on women, WhatsApp unveils new privacy features, Messenger expands end-to-end encryption, as Signal suffers in an attack.
- DuckDuckGo will block Microsoft trackers, but not everywhere
- School-issued laptops spy on students after class
- Popular period and pregnancy apps leak data
- WhatsApp's new privacy feature to allow users put on invisibility cloak
- Meta tests default end-to-end encryption in Facebook Messenger
- Police uses Facebook messages as evidence in abortion case
- Nobody's perfect: Signal users' phone numbers exposed in third-party breach
In this edition of AdGuard's digest: Google blocks a parent over his child's medical photo, DuckDuckGo opens up its secure email service, Telegram puzzles users with a poll, Google bans VPN apps that block ads, and the world's most popular password manager gets hit by a hack.
- Google deletes man's account for 'child sex abuse' that never happened
- "We're open!" DuckDuckGo says anyone can join its tracker-removing email service
- Share shall I not? Telegram asks Germans what data it should share with police
- US government sues firm selling precise geolocation data
- Ads shall
notpass! Google revs up crackdown on ads-interfering VPN apps
- Password manager with 33 million users suffers a hack
Apple has always styled itself as a paragon of privacy whose profits are not ad-driven. “You are not our product. You are our customer. You are a jewel, and we care about the user experience,” Apple CEO Tim Cook famously said in 2018.
And unlike most of its high-profile competitors, Apple seemed to be walking the talk. While Apple’s ad revenue is expected to reach $5bn this year, it pales in comparison to the ad money Google and Facebook are making. Google earned a staggering $209bn from ads alone last year and Meta crossed the $100bn threshold for the first time, raking in $115bn.
Those figures could be even higher had Apple not launched a sweeping crackdown on tracking last year. Its new privacy feature, known as App Tracking Transparency (“ATT”), required apps to seek users’ permission to track them across other applications and websites, thus making it easier than ever for users to opt out of tracking and personalized advertising — which they overwhelmingly did. Only about 25% of iOS users worldwide now explicitly let apps to track them.
The adoption of Apple Search Ads by advertisers grew 4% to 94.8% year-over-year, while that of Facebook’s decreased 3% to 82.8% and Google’s went down from 96.5% to 94.8%. Perhaps, unsurprisingly, advertisers have begun spending more money on Apple, with its share-of-wallet (SOW) increasing by 5% to 15%. In contrast, Facebook’s share dropped 4% to 28%, while Google’s stayed about the same (from 35% to 34%).
Apple seems to be discovering a new source of revenue it used to proudly shun. And if anyone knows a thing or two about how ads work, it is Apple. For years, Apple has been running ads for hundreds of third-party apps across social media and other platforms so that users would download apps from its store and not from developers’ websites. This way Apple earned a hefty commission from in-app purchases.
Despite carving out quite a big chunk of the ad market for itself already, Apple still has a lot to do to catch up with the frontrunners. And it is not sitting idle.
Apple announced this summer that it will add two more advertising slots to the App Store. Developers will be able to buy ad space on the central “Today” page as well as on individual app pages. Currently, Apple presents ads in the “Suggested” panel on the App Store’s Search page and at the top of the search results relevant to a particular query. Say, if you search “sprint training” in the App Store, Apple will display you an ad for a running app. In September, Apple hinted that new ad placements might be unveiled just in time for the holidays, a traditionally busy and lucrative time for advertisers.
One thing that lets Apple claim moral high ground over competitors is that it only allows ads in the App Store from approved product pages, who are promoting their own apps and not a shaving cream or whatnot.
In this edition of AdGuard’s digest: Google helps remove personal data from its own search, an ad-free Instagram clone feels the wrath of Big Tech, Meta works to outfox privacy protections, Amazon attempts to make surveillance family-friendly, as Chrome delays the transition to Manifest V3.
- Google makes it easier to hide personal info from search
- App that promised ad-free Instagram faces crackdown from Apple & Meta
- Data-grabbing exercise? Google account will be a must to use its fitness tracker
- Facebook accused of skirting Apple’s anti-tracking protection
- Amazon: Surveillance is cool! (it is not)
- Delaying the inevitable: Google lets Manifest V2 extension live a bit longer
Meta, Apple, Amazon, Microsoft, Google — what do these companies have in common? All of them are tech behemoths juggling different assets that are increasingly intertwined. How did they get there? Much can be said for innovation, top talent, but we also should spare a thought or two for all those small and medium-sized fish the sharks of the technical world have swallowed whole: Instagram was not always part of Meta, YouTube was not always part of Google — you get the idea. As a result of these mergers and acquisitions, we are now living in a world where a few companies control our digital lives. And if we are crazy enough to challenge their unchecked dominance, then we need to remember that we front not only one company, but the vengeful ecosystem as a whole, and be prepared to lose an arm and a leg in an unequal battle. The story of an ad-free Instagram client that dared to challenge Meta is a perfect example of how far the tentacles of Big Tech stretch and how fast they can strangle you if need be.
In this edition of AdGuard’s digest: Meta goes after iMessage in the new WhatsApp ad, Germany fines Telegram, DuckDuckGo brings its privacy-focused browser to desktop (Mac for now), Google relabels ads, and Toyota’s carelessness backfires.
- Meta dumps on Apple in a PR stunt for WhatsApp
- Google will make ads more (or less) obvious
- Germany fines Telegram for failure to follow its laws
- No love lost: Telegram CEO calls WhatsApp ‘surveillance tool’
- DuckDuckGo’s privacy-focused browser arrives to Mac
- Oops! Toyota says 300,000 customers’ data might have leaked due to security blunder
In this edition of AdGuard’s digest: Apple’s privacy opt-out does not seem to work, programmers sue Microsoft for using their code to train AI, Signal reinvents Stories, Siri may lose ‘hey’, as Google brings its own VPN to desktop.
- GitHub users say Microsoft & partner leeched off their work to train AI
- Schrödinger’s opt-out: Apple keeps tracking you even with privacy settings on
- Instagram vibes: Signal launches end-to-end encrypted Stories
- Google expands its limited VPN service to desktop
- Nothing can go wrong, right? Apple may drop ‘Hey’ from ‘Hey Siri!’
In this edition of AdGuard’s digest: Elon Musk criticizes App Store, a tracking tool sends sensitive financial info to Meta, Apple’s tracking accusations escalate, stolen data of millions of Twitter users surfaces up for free, as WhatsApp may or may not have leaked user data.
- Elon Musk takes on Apple’s 30% tax and ‘censorship’
- Meta employees used internal tool called ‘Oops’ to hijack user accounts
- Meta’s tracking tool sends user financial info to… Meta
- Apple collects personally identifiable info despite promises not to
- Someone is selling 500 million WhatsApp users’ phone numbers… maybe
- Over 5.4 million Twitter user records offered for free on dark web
Whether you’ve already got back to the grind or are still vacationing, we want to keep you in the loop. So, here we are, with our first news digest of the year. It features all the usual suspects: Meta, Apple, TikTok, and Twitter. May this year bring us more positive security and privacy news than bad (though who are we kidding).
- Meta to pay a record $725 million to settle Cambridge Analytica lawsuit
- Apple axes controversial plan to scan all photos on users’ phones
- More good news from Apple: end-to-end encryption comes to iCloud backups
- Twitter reportedly wants you to either share more data or pay up
- TikTok admits its employees tracked journalists
In this edition of AdGuard’s Digest: Google comes under fire for its flawed attempt to reinvent ad targeting, Twitter makes a U-turn on third-party clients and criticizes its own ad policies, hackers continue to exploit search ads, while a telecoms giant runs into bad luck for the eighth time.
- Google’s replacement for third-party cookies is put on blast
- ‘End of an era’: Twitter bans third-party clients
- Musk vows to tackle icky ads, teases ad-free Twitter plan
- Google search is infested with malicious ads, researchers find
- Not again... Personal data of 37 million T-Mobile customers stolen
In this edition of AdGuard’s digest: Americans want control of their data back, Reddit suffers a hack, researchers prove AI is a privacy threat, the US government wants Apple to open up, and Google search ad bandits target Amazon.
- Americans do not want to ‘pay’ for services with their data — survey
- Hackers leave Reddit red-faced after source code stolen in a phishing attack
- AI image generators can ‘reproduce’ training images, but there’s a catch
- US govt takes on Big Tech, wants Apple to allow sideloading apps
- Cybercriminals use ‘fake’ Google ad to steal Amazon Web Services credentials
- US govt takes on Big Tech, wants Apple to allow sideloading apps
In this edition of AdGuard’s digest: Twitter makes 2FA through SMS part of its paid subscription, Apple TV may add an ad-supported plan, OpenAI promises to stop using customer data to train AI, AI-generated image copyright claim fails in the US as LastPass spills all the beans about its latest breach.
- Twitter makes the most common 2FA option a paid service
- Apple’s romance with advertising gets steamier
- No, you cannot copyright AI-generated images, US government says
- OpenAI stops using customer data to train AI… but not users’
- All roads lead… to a home PC: LastPass spills the beans on mega-breach
In this edition of AdGuard’s digest: Microsoft sacks AI ethics team, mental health platforms leak data, Firefox expands anti-tracking protections, while Germans oppose chat control.
- No ethics — no problem? Microsoft gets rid of AI ethics team
- Better Help NOT: Mental health app shared user data with Facebook
- 3.1 million patients data leaked, the culprit — a tracking pixel
- One more reason to love Mozilla: Firefox steps up tracking protections
- Germany opposes EU Commission plan to scan messages client-side