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Vodafone successfully trials highly accurate tracking technology
by Paul Hill
Vodafone has trialled a new satellite-based tracking technology that works with its Internet of Things (IoT) platform to track vehicles, drones and cargo with an accuracy of 10 centimetres. The company said that this is a dramatic improvement over current standard satellite-based systems which are accurate to three metres (300 centimetres).
Using Sapcorda’s enhanced satellite navigation system and its own IoT platform, Vodafone says that the tracking technology will be deployable on transport where its necessary to know the precise location of a vehicle. In the case of first responders, the firm said medics will be able to track the location of drones carrying supplies such as blood.
Commenting on the news, Vodafone Business Platforms and Solutions Director Justin Shields said:
By coupling Vodafone’s IoT platform and Sapcorda’s Global Navigation System Service (GNSS) any inaccuracies caused by the curvature of the earth, the atmosphere and clock differences on the satellites can be resolved. Vodafone says that when its new system is coupled with video and on-board diagnostics, vehicle operators will be able to carry out inspections and pause machines remotely when needed.
The firm didn’t announce pricing for the new service, only that it will complement existing solutions that it provides to business customers across 54 countries.
Gartner: 10% of workers to trick AI overlords by 2023
by Paul Hill
The analyst firm Gartner has predicted that by 2023, 10% of workers will try to trick artificial intelligence (AI) systems deployed by their employers that aim to track their behaviour and productivity. It said that due to the coronavirus pushing the need for remote working, employers are also turning to AI to ensure work is being done through the day.
In a warning to businesses seeking to deploy this type of technology, Whit Andrews from Gartner said:
Unsurprisingly, the use of tracking technologies to monitor productivity are not very popular with workers. Gartner’s data already shows that people feared tracking technologies that seemed inevitable before the pandemic and now they’re here on a more widespread scale a “high percentage” of workers don’t like the idea of being tracked.
The firm pointed to the ride-sharing industry as an example of what’s to come in other fields of employment as they switch to become digital-first. It said that AI can be tricked into generating false or confusing data and that some ride-share drivers work for two different services at the same time as a way to boost their earnings. Additionally, Gartner said that workers will evade AI systems by finding metrics that do not capture activity or where accountability is unclear.
iOS App Tracking Transparency will roll out in the spring
by João Carrasqueira
Last year, Apple announced that it would be giving users more control over how apps track their activities across apps and websites on iOS, iPadOS, and tvOS. It's taken some time, but the company has provided a clearer timeline for the rollout of the feature, which will be available in the next beta update for the operating systems.
Called App Tracking Transparency, this new feature means that iOS and iPadOS apps will have to explicitly ask for consent from users in order to track their activity on apps and websites owned by other companies. If the user decides to not allow the app to track their activities, the app won't be given access to the system advertising identifier (IDFA), and Apple will also require apps to respect the user choice beyond that. If apps are found to be tracking the user after they asked not to be tracked, Apple may remove them from the App Store. Additionally, apps are obligated to provide users full access to their features with or without tracking permission.
Facebook heavily criticized Apple's move, stating that it will hurt part of its business as well as publishers' ability to grow through targeted advertising. In a later statement, the social network said Apple's "discouraging prompt" will hurt small businesses the most, taking away as much as 60% of the revenue they could make thanks to targeted ads. However, that doesn't seem to have deterred Apple. The move has also been criticized for potentially giving Apple preferential access to its advertising network, whereas other companies need specific permissions.
After it's available in beta, Apple plans to roll out App Tracking Transparency as part of an update to iOS 14 in the early spring. The announcement comes alongside the release of a report called "A Day in the Life of Your Data", where Apple talks about how its products and services help users maintain their privacy throughout the day. It's worth keeping in mind that some advertising platforms give users at least some control over how ads are personalized. Facebook already provides an option to turn off off-Facebook activity as well as other controls, and Google similarly allows users to turn off ad personalization.
Open letter asks tech firms to stop targeting ads at users under 18
by Paul Hill
An open letter has been signed in the U.K. by a member of parliament (MPs), academics, and children’s rights advocates to bring an end to advertising to users younger than 18 by big tech firms such as Facebook and Google. Among those signing were Caroline Lucas MP, Amnesty International, Privacy International, and Friends of the Earth.
The letter was published just days after a lawsuit was lodged against Google accusing it of breaking U.K. and E.U. data protection laws by targeting under-13s with addictive programming and using their data for advertising purposes. The letter calls on protections to be extended to all children under the age of 18.
A section of the open letter reads as follows:
In the case of Google, it allows all users to disable ad personalisation within a user’s account settings. To address some of the concerns being raised by the signatories, it could automatically set this toggle to disabled for all children’s accounts. While this may not address some of the tracking that Google performs, it will eliminate the problem of behavioural advertising.
Google announces plans to phase out support for third-party cookies in Chrome
by Paul Hill
Photo by Sara Santos from Pexels Google has announced that it’s planning to phase out support for third-party cookies in Chrome within the next two years. Google said the new plans have been sparked by users demanding greater privacy and control over how their data is controlled; both Safari and Firefox have strong measures in place to prevent third-party tracking already, and Google will not want to lose user share because of its privacy practices.
In an announcement, Director of Chrome Engineering, Justin Schuh, acknowledged that several browsers have started blocking third-party cookies but also claimed that this method has “unintended consequences” that hurt the web ecosystem. He said that blocking third-party cookies just encourages opaque fingerprinting practices.
While Google works with others in the web ecosystem to develop privacy-friendly solutions, support for third-party cookies will be gradually removed from Chrome. From February, Chrome will limit insecure cross-site tracking; with this change, third-party cookies will have to use HTTPS and any that don’t, or don’t include a SameSite label, will be treated as a first-party cookie.
In order to detect and mitigate more covert tracking, Google will be developing anti-fingerprinting technologies and deploying them in the browser later this year. It hopes these measures will help discourage fingerprinting.
Going forward, Google is working with other browsers, publishers, developers, and advertisers to develop more privacy-friendly mechanisms to keep the web healthy. Google wants feedback on the web standards community proposals that have been published on GitHub to ensure they meet your needs. To raise an issue just file an issue through GitHub or email the W3C group.