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Google prepares more Privacy Sandbox trials as early testing shows promise
by João Carrasqueira
About a year and a half ago, Google announced that it was setting out to create a set of standards that would allow advertisers and marketers to promote their products effectively on the web, while also being more conscious of user privacy. Called Privacy Sandbox, the initiative has been in development since then, and the company shared some updates on it today.
Perhaps most notable is that Google has been testing something called Federated Learning of Cohorts (FLoC). This is a way for browsers to assign a user to a cohort based on their interests, without exposing them directly. Essentially, FLoC allows a browser to locally analyze the user's habits without sending them to a server, which then groups the user into a cohort, a set of users with similar profiles. These cohorts are designed to include thousands of people so as to avoid exposing individual users, and only the cohort is exposed to marketers.
Google's testing has shown that advertisers can expect to make at least 95% as many conversions per dollar spent compared to cookie-based advertising, so ads can live on and be effective without violating user privacy. Following the success of Google's testing, Google says it will be opening up an origin trial for the feature starting with Chrome 89, coming in March. It will also begin testing the feature with advertisers on Google Ads in the second quarter.
Google is also pushing forward with other new APIs and proposals that hope to render third-party cookies obsolete. One of the proposals is FLEDGE, which is designed to enable companies to target prior visitors on their sites using a dedicated "trusted server" to store information about ad campaigns. Another proposal would help advertisers measure conversion without using third-party cookies, again preserving the user's privacy. There's also Gnatcatcher, which would help prevent user fingerprinting by websites. Finally, the Trust Token API has been in testing to help prevent ad fraud and will be in an origin trial in Chrome 89.
Google says it will keep working with the W3C and share more of its progress with Privacy Sandbox throughout the year. The goal is for these proposals to eventually become standards for all browsers to follow.
Opera buys GameMaker Studio creator to get deeper into gaming
by João Carrasqueira
Opera, the developer of the web browser of the same name, has announced its acquisition of YoYo Games, a Scotland-based team behind the popular game development tool, GameMaker Studio. The transaction is worth nearly $10 million, and it will help Opera kickstart a new division of its company, Opera Gaming.
This isn't Opera's first venture into the gaming world. In 2019, the company introduced Opera GX, a web browser designed for gamers, offering some performance-focused features such as low power usage and a network limiter to improve online connections in games. Over time, features such as integration with Razer Chroma have also been added, as well as Discord integration. While some might argue a "gaming browser" has no real benefits, Opera claims 7 million monthly active users in December 2020, a 350% growth year-on-year.
GameMaker Studio is a popular tool for indie developers, specifically for 2D games, allowing developers to create games for more platforms easily from a single codebase. Some acclaimed titles, such as Risk of Rain, Undertale, and Hyper Light Drifter, were developed using the tool.
Opera Gaming will bring together Opera GX and YoYo Games, and the company says the new division will focus on innovating in the gaming, game development, and browser spaces. It's not clear exactly how that innovation will materialize just yet, but we're likely to hear more about it in the future.
by Paul Hill
WhatsApp's planned changes have also attracted the attention of Turkish authorities which have launched an antitrust probe. In response to the criticism, WhatsApp delayed the enforcement of its new terms by three months so they won’t be enacted until May 15; ultimately, this will give India more time to pressure the firm over the planned changes.
According to Reuters, the Ministry, writing to WhatsApp head Will Cathcart, said:
Accompanying the letter are several questions that India’s IT ministry would like WhatsApp to answer, they ask about which categories of data WhatsApp collects from Indian users, the permissions sought by WhatsApp and the utility of each of these permissions, whether WhatsApp captures information about other running apps, what user profiling goes on and how WhatsApp’s privacy policies differ from country to country.
WhatsApp has not provided comments to the media about the changes but it previously said the policy wouldn’t affect the privacy of users’ messages with personal contacts. Reuters reports that WhatsApp is running an advertising campaign in India to help quell people’s fears and keep them using the app.
WPD (Windows Privacy Dashboard) 1.4.1765
by Razvan Serea
WPD is a portable tool to manage your Windows 10 privacy and firewall settings, uninstall Windows apps, and decide what apps can access your information. WPD enables you to disable Telemetry, Customer Experience Improvement, Advertising ID, Input Personalization, Cortana, OneDrive and other Windows features that have the potential to invade your privacy. If you're not sure about any tweaks, there's a question mark icon next to each setting so you can be sure what you're changing. There's also an option that allows you to remove anything from the Windows Store that came with Windows 10 including Xbox, Photos, Tips, Get Office, and more.
Privacy management - Customize Group Policy, Services, Tasks and other settings responsible for data collection and transmission. Firewall rules - Block telemetry IP's using firewall rules from the @crazy-max repository. Appx uninstaller - Easy remove pre-installed Windows Store garbage or any other app. Supported OS:
Windows 10 Enterprise 1903, 1809, 1803, 1709, 1703, 1607
Windows 10 Enterprise LTSC 2019, 2016, 2015
Windows 10 Education 1903, 1809, 1803, 1709, 1703
Windows 10 Pro 1903, 1809, 1803, 1709, 1703, 1607
Windows 10 Home 1903, 1809, 1803, 1709, 1703
Windows Server Standard 2016, 2019
WPD 1.4.1765 changelog:
Build-in blocking rules.
Download: WPD 1.4.1765 | 301 KB (Freeware)
View: WPD Homepage
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By Jay Bonggolto
Facebook's Access Your Information tool gets a makeover and a new search tool
by Jay Bonggolto
Facebook today announced a visual redesign for its privacy settings tool called Access Your Information. The tool was first launched in 2018 in the wake of the Cambridge Analytica scandal.
Back then, the tool had two data categories that were rather broad, but the new makeover makes it easier to navigate and use. The latest version removes the data categories "Your Information" and "Information About You". It now breaks those pieces of information into eight categories, namely:
Facebook also added subcategories to each of these categories to help narrow down your search for a specific type of data. On that note, there's now a new search functionality that lets you look for data categories you want to view or modify.
The tool is also now more transparent in showing how Facebook uses your data to personalize your experience on its service such as by serving you an ad for a food delivery app based on your location, for example. Although you can already view this information in the "Why Am I Seeing This" tool, Facebook said it "wanted to make it easier for people to discover".
Facebook is rolling out the redesigned privacy tool to iOS and Android devices from today. In the future, these changes will also go live on other platforms.