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(Reuters) – Over the past six years, social networking has been the Internet’s stand-out phenomenon, linking up more than one billion people eager to exchange videos, pictures or last-minute birthday wishes.
The sites, led by Facebook with more than 400 million users, rely in large part on people’s willingness to share a wealth of personal information with an ever-expanding network of “friends,” either ones they actually know and see from time to time, or those they have met virtually through the Internet.
But at the same time it has concentrated vast amounts of data — telephone numbers and addresses, people’s simple likes and dislikes — on the servers of a small number of companies.
In Facebook’s case, the social networking tsunami has spread in barely six years from the Harvard dorm room of founder Mark Zuckerberg, 25, to envelope almost half a billion people — enough to be the world’s third most populous country.
That in turn has raised profound privacy issues, with governments in Europe and North America and Asia concerned about the potential for data theft, for people’s identities to be mined for income or children to be exploited via the Internet.
Data protection authorities from a range of countries held a teleconference this week to discuss how they can work together to protect what they see as a steady erosion of privacy, and the European Union too is studying what role it can play.
They may not be able to hold the social networking wave back, but policymakers are looking at what they can do to limit what they see as the “Big Brother”-like role of some sites. A showdown between privacy and Internet freedom is looming.
“We cannot expect citizens to trust Europe if we are not serious in defending the right to privacy,” Viviane Reding, the European commissioner in charge of media and the information society, said in a speech in January, laying out her concerns.
“Facebook, MySpace or Twitter have become extremely popular, particularly among young people,” she told the European Parliament. “However, children are not always able to assess all risks associated with exposing personal data.”
PRIVACY, MEET THE WEB
The privacy debate has been around as long as the Internet, but the explosive growth of social networking, and deepening concern about the impact it may be having on social interaction, has intensified discussion in recent months.
Incidents such as the Israeli soldier who announced details of an upcoming military raid via Facebook, and the murder conviction in Britain of a serial rapist who posed as a boy on the site, have fueled the fears of both lawmakers and parents.
Facebook has added fuel to the debate, with the company deciding in December 2009 to substantially change its privacy settings, effectively making members’ profiles more openly accessible unless users altered the settings themselves.
Zuckerberg explained the move in January, saying social behavior was shifting as a result of the Internet and that privacy was not the same now as it was even six years ago.
“People have really gotten comfortable not only sharing more information and different kinds, but more openly and with more people,” he told an audience at a technology conference.
“That social norm is just something that has evolved. We view it as our role in the system to constantly be innovating and be updating what our system is to reflect what the current social norms are,” he said.
That may well be the case — and the trend for teenagers to share naked or near-naked pictures of one another online or via mobile phones may suggest mores are changing — but privacy campaigners believe the slope is getting too slippery.
Thomas Nortvedt, the head of digital issues at the Norwegian Consumer Council, a government body, sees Facebook’s alteration of its privacy settings as a turning point.
“The privacy settings on Facebook have raised awareness on … privacy as a whole, not only by the people but also by the governments and the regulating authorities,” he told Reuters.
“They see that this is, if not a problem, then at least a challenge and something has to be done about it.”
As Canada’s privacy commissioner, Jennifer Stoddart, told data protection experts on Tuesday: “We want to send a strong message that you can’t go on using people’s personal information without their consent… Do your testing before, and make sure they comply with privacy legislation.”
FACEBOOK’S GLOBAL TUG-OF-WAR
With government authorities raising their concerns ever more loudly, Facebook and other sites have amended some of their practices, or highlighted the range of measures they say they are already taking to protect members’ privacy and data.
As a result of the Canadian Privacy Commission’s investigation, Facebook agreed to adopt some recommendations, including explaining why users have to provide their date of birth at registration and introducing ‘high’, ‘medium’ and ‘low’ privacy settings for user-published content.
The European Commission, the executive arm of the European Union and its 500 million citizens, does not regulate on privacy issues, leaving it up to the EU’s 27 member states, but it can issue guidelines or directives for corporate practices.
In February, the Commission unveiled its “Safer Social Networking Principles for the EU,” a voluntary pact involving 25 websites that agreed to safety measures for users under 18, including making profiles private and unsearchable by default.
But the agreement was drawn up before Facebook announced the changes to its privacy settings, a move that frustrated the EU.
“I can’t understand that,” Commissioner Reding said on the EU’s Safer Internet Day in February. “It’s in the interests of social network sites to give users control of their privacy.”
In the coming months, Reding and her team are expected to study the activities of sites such as Facebook and Google, which recently launched its own social network, and pay close attention to any perceived privacy slippages.
Authorities in Canada, Spain, Germany, Britain and the Netherlands are watching closely too.
No one wants to be seen be legislating against the freedom and fun of the Internet. But watchdogs also see privacy as an cornerstone of democratic societies that also needs defending.
“What we’re going to do in the coming months and years is organize ourselves as enforcement agencies in an international way,” Jacob Kohnstamm, the chairman of the Dutch Data Protection Authority, told privacy protection chiefs this week.
“So that the gap between the online market being global and the enforcement being national is going to be filled up by actions like we start today.”
You're reading Privacy Advocates Monitor Facebook, Uneasily
In our previous guidance notes on solutions to comply with the “cookie law” we have covered:
In this article Tim Gurney of Wolf Software takes us through his cookie privacy software solution which uses a modal dialog similar to the one below. Thanks for your detailed response Tim!
We think it’s great this has been made available as a fee free solution if the Wolf Software brand mark is shown – a good option for SMEs? For larger companies the system can use the companies own brand ident for a fee. This is an example of a un-tailored implementation:Question 1. Please describe your solution to cookie opt-in compliance?
Our current solution evolved from our original standalone solution for Google Analytics. This provided a simple drop in compliance solution specifically for Google Analytics. We communicated at great lengths with the ICO in order to be sure this solution was fully compliant before release.
We were then contacted by a number of people, including the webmaster for chúng tôi to see if we could provide a generic or universal solution for cookie opt-in compliance.
The client-side component of the solution works with the server-side component of the solution in order to make the user experience unobtrusive and friendly.
The server side component does the bulk of the work in terms of storing and telling the developer what the end user has and has not consented to. This includes options for the user to only consent for their current browser session, or permanently (so that they don’t get questioned upon each visit).
The client side component displays a modal window displaying their current consent options, with the ability to change whenever they like should they change their mind. This ability to change the settings can also be incorporated by the developer into a page on their website for their users.
The beauty of this split architecture means that in order to provide support for a wider range of development languages, we only have to port the server-side component which we have already written in PHP (and is available for free. We are currently testing an chúng tôi version of the code in preparation for release.
For more information we have included the workflow diagram that we created as part of our standard design/build process in order to allow people to better understand the solution:Question 2. How does it differ from other solutions, what are its benefits?
There are a very limited number of solutions currently available; which offer varying degrees of legal compliance. However a lot of these are based on the creators’ interpretation of the cookie law. We have consulted with the ICO (the regulatory body) to ensure that our solution is unbiased.
We have discovered that while other options are available, they are not quite as user friendly as they could be.
We have yet to see any all-encompassing packages available for developers to download and ‘plug-in’ to their existing code easily; which we are hoping our solution does :).
The immediate benefits to be seen are;
Compliance with the law
Easy Integration into new and existing websites
Cross platform (currently PHP and ASP.NET)
Could be used for turning on/off features of a website which are not related to or bound by cookie law
The first four of which, we feel are very important, we don’t want to look after just end users and company lawyers, we’re developers ourselves – so we’re trying to look after other developers too.
The final benefit is simply the diversity to which this could be used; the same model can be used for user settings and preferences even where cookies are not present.
There is much debate over which is the most user friendly method to use when it comes to gaining consent. In this instance, we have gone for a “you only have to see it once” modal dialog approach which will be displayed on the end user’s first visit to a website.
In our previous offering (for Google Analytics only), we adopted a ’toolbar’ approach as it seemed to fit better.
As far as popularity is concerned, we think it is a little too early to tell. Solutions will evolve as feedback comes in; we are dedicated to keeping our implementation current and will take on all feedback positively.
Companies should evaluate their particular needs for compliance and implement accordingly, for example; if you are only asking for compliance for a single cookie feature, a tool bar works well.Q4. How can the script be integrated with different types of content management platform – isn’t it difficult to stop web services like Google Analytics and the CMS or commerce system placing a cookie when the first page is loaded on a visit – so it’s not really providing opt-in?
Because the hard work of our solution is done on the server, it stops things like Google Analytics as these rely on the HTML containing scripts at the source. If the user hasn’t consented, the developer programmatically omits the scripts required for that feature to work, the same goes for any other feature of a CMS, eCommerce System or web application.
Developers simply need to include our client and server side code into their existing website and have a simple one line check to do before any feature which requires consent is included.
This approach will allow developers to be confident in their site compliance and provide them with a simple and generic method for handling any type of cookie consent.
We have produced technical documentation which is included with the package (and is available on its own from the download site) and we are more than happy to help with support via our website.
If further consultancy is needed to assist with the integration of the solution into any site then this is also a service we are able to offer.Q5. You’ve released the script recently. How do you see it or related services evolving?
We were caught between two sides of an argument when we were discussing creating our PECR solution. On one hand, you have people saying “Wait and see what the big boys do first, they can’t prosecute everybody”, and on the other – it’s a law, you have to comply.
As a result of this, we decided we’d take action and relieve some of the stress of the people in the first group by giving them a viable solution well before the law comes in to full force.
We will keep both of these products up to date and support them the best we can with new features, amendments and bug fixes should any be found.
The U.S. Federal Communications Commission should cap the participation of carriers AT&T and Verizon Wireless in upcoming spectrum auctions to ensure mobile competition going forward, representatives of consumer groups and smaller carriers said.
Contrary to the assertions by the two largest U.S. mobile carriers, a limit on their participation in auctions of the television spectrum in 2014 or 2023 will not lead to lower spectrum prices, said speakers at a Thursday spectrum forum sponsored by the Competitive Carriers Association (CCA) and the Computer and Communications Industry Association (CCIA).
“There’s no inconsistencies between a policy that maximizes the revenue of an incentive auction and one that promotes competition in wireless markets,” Besen said. Without limits on bidding, “the result is you end up with the worst of both worlds; you end up with a situation where the dominant firms get a large amount of spectrum, and they pay too little for it, because their presence discourages other, smaller firms.”
The FCC needs to ensure a competitive marketplace moving forward, said Chip Pickering, a former Republican congressman from Mississippi and now a partner in Capitol Resources, a lobbying firm. “Functioning, free, competitive markets give us greater growth, greater investment, greater innovation, greater consumer benefits, and they cause our economy to grow much more than monopoly … markets,” he said.
Even though the spectrum auction may be two or more years away, and it’s unclear how much spectrum television stations will voluntarily give up, consumer groups and small carriers have been working for months to get the FCC to limit participation by AT&T and Verizon. The debate heated up last month, when the U.S. Department of Justice jumped into the fray by also calling for auction rules that encourage smaller carriers to acquire the vacated TV spectrum.
AT&T, in a response to the DOJ letter, said the DOJ is encouraging rules that would “rig” the auction results for Sprint Nextel and T-Mobile USA. Bidding limitations that favor the two smaller carriers are “at odds with the competitive bidding process” required in U.S. law, wrote Wayne Watts, AT&T’s senior executive vice president and general counsel.
Sprint and T-Mobile sat out other recent auctions for low-frequency spectrum, and both companies are likely to have significant resources to bid in the future, Watts wrote. If the two smaller carriers “now conclude that they desire or need spectrum in the upcoming auction, they are perfectly capable of bidding for it and paying the market price like every other auction participant,” Watts added. “Certainly it would be news to the American taxpayers that they are expected to subsidize spectrum purchases by two large companies … that are perfectly capable of funding their own businesses.”
Sprint and T-Mobile both have significant spectrum holdings already, Watts wrote.
But AT&T and Verizon control 78 percent of the spectrum below 1GHz available for mobile service, said Mark Cooper, director of research for the Consumer Federation of America. Spectrum below 1GHz is considered the best for high-speed data services because the signals travel farther and penetrate buildings easier than spectrum in higher frequencies, participants in the Thursday forum said.
It would take eight cell sites in the 1.9GHz band to cover the same area as one cell site in the 700MHz band, and 13 or more cell sites to cover the same area in the 2.5GHz band, according to information from CCA and CCIA.
AT&T and Verizon have “got all the good stuff,” Cooper said. “They ought to be restricted where they’re already fat.”
Best Prices Today: Arlo Essential Indoor Camera
The Arlo Essential Indoor camera is the latest smart security camera in the Arlo family, offering a budget-focused approach to smart home security with the signature Arlo flair. It’s unquestionably a well-built smart security camera in a portable form factor and a handy privacy shield, but with key features locked behind an additional paywall and an expensive price tag compared to similarly specced competition, it’s a bit of a hard sell.
Is the Arlo Essential Indoor camera worth $99/£119? Carry on reading to find out.Design and build
The Arlo Essential follows the same design language as other cameras in the Arlo collection, sporting a similar rounded shape and a classic glossy white plastic body.
On the front you’ll find the camera sensor, capable of recording 1080p footage with a 130-degree field of view, an indicator LED and a mic, while the rear houses the micro-USB socket required for power and a speaker for two-way talk.
One of the main talking points of the Arlo Essential Indoor Camera is the inclusion of a privacy shutter, which covers the camera when not in use, as well as deactivating motion control and audio capture too. The contrasting white cover on the black front plate makes it easy to tell if it’s covered at a glance, and it’s easily activated via the Arlo app – but more on that later.
The dinky-looking Arlo Essential is one of the more compact indoor cameras on the market, measuring in at 52 x 49 x 113mm, but it can’t quite beat the Ring Indoor Cam and its dinky dimensions. Still, if you’re on the lookout for a small camera that’ll blend into your home, the Arlo Essential Indoor Camera should do the job.
Like the Ring Indoor Cam and other smart cameras, the Arlo Essential utilises a ball and socket joint on a stand connected to a circular base plate. The joint allows you to angle the camera with ease, while the circular base plate can be used to stand the camera on a shelf.
There is a mounting kit in the box if you want to secure the camera higher up, but with the relatively short 2m cable required to power the unit, you don’t get the same freedom that you would from a battery-powered camera.Features and performance
Setup is a fairly simple process, requiring no more than downloading the Arlo app from the App Store or Google Play and following the on-screen instructions to connect the camera to your Wi-Fi network. While some smart cameras are quite complex (and at times frustrating) to connect, the Arlo Essential Indoor was connected and streaming video within a few minutes of being taken out of the box.
Once the camera has been set up, you can simply leave it to do its thing; it’ll automatically start monitoring for motion, and you’ll get an alert on your smartphone once movement is detected.
With that in mind, you’ll be greeted by a home menu listing all currently installed cameras complete with a thumbnail previewing the last captured option event. Tapping on the camera provides direct access to the live feed with the ability to communicate with those nearby using two-way talk, along with access to motion events and a Settings menu to tweak camera preferences.
There’s also a Library tab that’ll let you view footage from multiple cameras in chronological order, and there’s also a Mode tab that’ll let you customise how and when the system operates.
Captured events offer a great snapshot, thanks to the 1080p capture and 130-degree field of view, though it’s not quite as expansive as competing cameras that can offer up to 160 degrees.
Generally speaking, the quality of video captured (and streamed in real-time from the app) is great both during the day and night, even retaining some of that quality when digitally zooming, though it’s worth noting that night vision is limited to black and white capture. It can’t compete with more expensive options in the Arlo family, with the Arlo Pro 3 shooting in 2K and the Arlo Ultra going all the way up to 4K, but it should suffice for simple home monitoring.
While it’s frustrating that some features are locked behind a paywall, rather than simply offering cloud storage, but the £2.49/$2.49 a month subscription is more palatable than most, and you get a three-month free trial too.
What about when you don’t want the Arlo Essential Indoor to capture motion? That’s where the privacy shield comes into play. It’s activated via the Arlo app whenever you ‘disarm’ the system, and it’ll retract once the system is armed. There’s also a geofencing feature that’ll automatically arm and disarm the system based on your location which should make things feel more seamless.
There is a catch though; if you’ve got multiple Arlo products on the app, you’ll have to disarm everything to enable the privacy shield. With this in mind, a physical switch on the camera itself would’ve been helpful, allowing you to quickly disable the indoor camera without, for example, disarming an outdoor camera monitoring your garden.
You can set custom scenes via the Modes menu that’ll allow you to disable the indoor cam while keeping other products active, but it is a bit of a headache for existing Arlo users.Price
Take the Ring Indoor Cam for example; it costs half the price at £49.99/$49.99, it offers a wider 140-degree FOV and colour night vision, plus none of the smart features (aside from cloud storage) are locked behind a monthly subscription.
If the privacy shield is enough to tempt you, you can buy the Arlo Essential Indoor from retailers including Arlo and Amazon in the UK and Amazon in the US.Verdict
There’s also a privacy shield that’ll disable monitoring as well as audio capture when you’re at home, giving you peace of mind, though enabling it will disable any other Arlo products by default.
best security camera chart.Specs Arlo Essential Indoor Camera: Specs
1080p@30fps video recording with 130-degree FOV
Night vision (B&W)
Motion detection with optional AI object recognition
Wired w/ 2m microUSB cable
1x LED light
12x digital zoom
Wall/ceiling mount included
If you’re an avid photographer, you’ve probably shot tons of photos, investing a large chunk of your time and disposable income in a digital SLR camera. And you’ve spent even more time learning the ins and outs of photography, including lighting, composition, and image editing. So why don’t your photos look better than they do?
Maybe it’s your monitor.Why Should You Calibrate?
Calibrating your PC display is an important step, for one simple reason: You want the colors and black levels to look as accurate as possible. The most obvious benefit of proper calibration is that it ensures the best results when you’re editing or viewing photographs. But accurate colors and black levels also make videos and games look better on your monitor–you’ll be viewing content in the way the content’s creators intended.
In this article, I’ll talk about how you can use Windows 7’s built-in tools to perform a quick calibration. Then I’ll mention a website or two that can aid in calibrating your display. Finally I’ll discuss a low-cost hardware tool, to give you a feel for how you might use something similar to calibrate your monitor.Consider the Monitor’s Capabilities
Before diving into the minutiae of monitor calibration, I’ll talk a bit about displays themselves. At first blush, it’s a great time to be a computer user: Big, bright displays with very fast response times cost a couple hundred dollars. What’s not to like?
Well, they may not be very good. Most low-cost LCD screens use TN (twisted nematic) technology. The response time of TN displays can be fast, but most of these monitors are limited to a color depth of 6 bits per pixel. With three pixels representing the red, green, and blue primary colors, this means the number of simultaneous colors on screen is limited to 262,144. Such displays simulate higher color depths via dithering–a process that digitally simulates greater color depths than are really available. That’s why, if you’re looking at an image with finely shaded color gradations, you may see color banding.
You really want a monitor with a color resolution of 8 bits per pixel, since such a display is capable of showing over 16 million simultaneous colors. A few monitors capable of 10 bits per pixel are shipping now, too.
Most of the higher-end displays that support 8 bits per pixel use either a version of IPS (in-plane switching) or some flavor of PVA (patterned vertical alignment). Both technologies are more costly to manufacture, but you can find relatively good, 24-inch IPS-based displays for around $400. The point isn’t to focus on the LCD tech as much as it is to pay attention to better color depth.Set the Color Gamut
A good rule of thumb is to set your monitor’s color gamut to match your target output device. If you’re mostly editing photos that go up on websites, good old sRGB works just fine, even though it’s “only” 78 percent of the NTSC color gamut. If your printer is the target device, you may want to set a higher color gamut, depending on the printer model. But then you have to worry about the color settings on the printer. Calibrating for printer output is a whole other topic that requires its own article.
I want to focus on monitor calibration for everyday use and for uploading photos to the Web. I’ll mention calibrating for video in passing, but the assumption is that you’ll view the video on your monitor, rather than burning it to a Blu-ray Disc for playback on an HDTV.
Next page: Understanding monitor settings, and starting Windows 7 color calibrationUnderstand the Monitor Settings
Before diving into the act of calibration, it’s worth discussing monitor settings. The display I’ll be using as an example is the HP ZR30w. This monitor lacks a built-in video processor, so the only physical adjustment you can make on such a model is the brightness of the backlight. You handle any other adjustment through the graphics card’s software controls. AMD, Nvidia, and Intel all offer software controls to tweak color balance, contrast, and so on.
Most monitors do have built-in video processors, and give you a host of physical controls for the display. This can lead to adjustment confusion: Do you use the monitor controls for brightness, contrast, gamma, color, and so on? Or do you use the graphics card control panel?
My personal preference is to avoid relying on the monitor controls. I prefer to put the monitor at some standard setting; if, for instance, it has a default setting for D6500 (which means a color temperature of 6500 kelvins), I use that. I turn the brightness and contrast down fairly low, as well; if I have the option, I’ll set the brightness level to roughly 200 cd/m2 (you may see this setting reported on some sites as 200 nits, though the units aren’t exactly the same).
If you’re working with an automated calibration tool, such as the Spyder 3 Express I’ll use as an example later, typically it will load all the calibration data into the graphics card instead of the monitor. Some professional calibration tools coupled with certain professional-grade displays can actually adjust the LCD panel itself, but those combinations are often very pricey–though they do ensure very accurate calibration.
If a monitor doesn’t offer a specific color temperature number, I usually use the ‘warm’ setting. I also alter the preset to something like ‘photographs’ or ‘video’ if those presets exist. Beyond that, I rely on the graphics card control panel.
Since we’re trying to keep it simple, let’s look at how you can easily make changes without getting too intimate with either the graphics control panel or the monitor display controls.Set Up Windows 7 Color Calibration
In this example, since I have an HP ZR30w LCD screen without a built-in video processor, I need to use the graphics card control panels for adjusting color. Also note that I’ve set the viewing conditions profile to ‘WCS profile for sRGB viewing conditions’. This selection uses the ZR30w profile–installed from the driver CD-ROM packaged with the monitor–rather than the system default.
Now that you have your gamut settings in place, it’s time to calibrate the display.
Next page: Calibrating a monitor in Windows 7
The tools built into Windows 7 for monitor calibration are simpler versions of those that shipped with the original Windows Media Center. You can use them to adjust the contrast, brightness, color balance, and gray levels. Since the HP ZR30w I calibrated doesn’t offer on-screen controls, I need to use my graphics card control panel to adjust contrast (the display has a brightness control).
Above is the AMD graphics control panel for adjusting color, brightness, and other calibration settings. Nvidia and Intel offer similar panels with their graphics hardware.
When you start up Windows 7 calibration, you get a simple gray screen, with a ‘Next’ button and a link to a help file. All you need to do is walk through the steps, reading the instructions as you go along. What you see with each step is a basic instruction screen, with examples of good and bad images. You want to try to replicate the ‘good’ image as closely as possible.
First up are your gamma settings.
Then you move on to brightness.
After brightness comes contrast.
The last actual calibration setting is color balance, which turns out to be more of a grayscale adjustment.
Once you finish calibrating, Windows (if you wish) will walk you through ClearType setup, an optional antialiasing technique that makes on-screen text easier to read.
Next page: Some useful tools
Web-based calibration tools are also available, though most of them require even more manual adjustment than the Windows method does. Websites such as Display Calibration let you work with test patterns and examples of what a correct image should look like; to calibrate from them, however, you’ll need to become intimately familiar with either your monitor controls or your graphics card control panel.
Whether you use the Windows method or Web-based tools, the process is manual and requires heavy use of your own eyes. Of course, the problem with eyes is that they vary in capability–and if you’re even slightly color blind, visually calibrating your display becomes difficult.
Thankfully a host of automated calibration tools exist, ranging in cost from $80 to thousands of dollars. Certainly, if you’re a professional photographer or videographer, you’ll spend what you need to get the tools necessary for precise calibration. Most people, though, can get by with less expensive tools such as Datacolor’s Spyder 3 Express.Buy an Automated Tool for Simple Calibration
The Spyder 3 Express costs from $80 to $100, and fully automates the calibration task. It’s just one example of a simpler tool; if you want more precision and a higher level of control, you need to invest more money.
For now, ensure that your monitor is warmed up (leave it running for at least 30 minutes) and that you have installed the latest drivers for your graphics card.
Using the Spyder 3 is quite easy. First, install the calibration software (check the Datacolor website for the most recent version). Launch the software, and let it walk you through setup and calibration. Connect the puck to a USB port, and hang the puck from the top of your display, aligning the puck with the outline that the SpyderExpress calibration software displays. The puck has a suction cup for attaching to the surface of your monitor; you should occasionally tap it to maintain the suction.
Once installed with the puck in place, the calibration software measures the output from the display, and sets it accordingly.
The calibration process adjusts your monitor to settings that the tool determines are accurate. This basic tool doesn’t allow any manual tweaks, so you’ll need to choose a more expensive model if you want to be more involved.
In my experience, the photographs I’m editing these days look correct, now that I’ve done a proper monitor calibration. Having a correctly calibrated monitor helped me discover that Photoshop’s Camera Raw application often blows out the highlights of my photographs by setting the brightness too high. Now I can see how garish the changes are, and dial them back accordingly.
The bottom line: If you’re interested in photography or video, calibrate your display. Even if all you do is the basic Windows calibration, it’s still better than simply staring at weird-looking images and wondering what’s wrong.
The dreaded move has finally been completed — starting February 8th, WhatsApp will share all its user statistics with its parent company, Facebook. Facebook, despite being the leading social media service in history, hasn’t had the cleanest of records when it comes to data security and transparency. So, it’s hardly surprising that the entire tech community is concerned with WhatsApp’s new policy.
Amidst the chaos and confusion, a privacy-centric messaging app — Signal — has started making rounds as the worthiest alternative to WhatsApp. It doesn’t compromise on features and promises to give you the peace of mind you most definitely deserve. Today, we’ll take a closer look at the messaging application — discuss the privacy options it provides and the permissions it asks for.
Related: How Does Signal Make Money?
The origin of Signal
Before we go deeper into the app and check out its privacy features, let’s take a step back and learn when and why Signal was created in the first place.
So, if you were concerned about trusting a “new” unproven application, we’d like to assure you that Signal is far from the newest kid on the block. It has a proven track record for being a reliable messenger service and is proudly endorsed by the likes of Edward Snowden, Elon Musk, and Jack Dorsey.
Related: Is Signal Actually Safe?
How Private is Signal?
Signal isn’t the most pleasant-looking app out there and it could certainly use some polish. However, when it comes to keeping your chats private, there’s hardly a better service out there. Listed below is Signal’s cheat-sheet that helps it give you maximum privacy.
This is considered to be the gold standard in the world of encryption protocols. Having E2EE makes sure the message you send can only be read by the intended recipient. No one else — including the messenger developers or the government — is allowed to snoop. Additionally, Signal happily encrypts your profile info, call history, and more — something no other messenger provides.
WhatsApp also provides E2EE, of course, but that’s only for messages and calls. The logs it generates through limitless tracking is still up for sale.
Peer review system
Having E2EE is awesome, but making the source code transparent and letting independent developers review them is truly out of the world. Unlike WhatsApp, Signal has a peer-review system, which makes sure nothing unethical is taking place. Even if Signal wished to implement something dodgy, the security experts and independent developers would be able to sniff it out in an instant by analyzing the open-source code.
Signal — the open-source genius — only requires your phone number to get up and running. It doesn’t create your profile and send it up to the cloud. It stores all of your personal data on your device and no one — not even the developers — is allowed to access your stuff.
Greed is often the driving factor behind big privacy breaches. So, it’s indeed encouraging that Signal doesn’t have a revenue model like Facebook’s WhatsApp. This open-source messenger service runs purely on donations from fans, which means that it won’t be selling sensitive information to unknown third-parties just to increase its stack of cash.
Related: Who Owns Signal App?
What permissions must you grant Signal?
Signal doesn’t need a lot of permissions to get going, and it follows a strict policy when it comes to safeguarding the information you provide. You, of course, have to put in your contact number to get started, but you might not even need it in the future.
Below is the list of permissions that Signal may “bug” you for.
This is an optional permission and it doesn’t come into play until you ask Signal to show you the list of friends that are already on the platform. Even if you allow Signal to check out your contacts, rest assured that all information is cryptographically hashed before transmission takes place.
Signal comes with the ability to make phone calls through VoIP. Allow Signal to make and manage phone calls to use the service.
Gallery and camera
Another optional permission that doesn’t affect the way you use Signal, at all. Partial access is still not available on Android, so, you’ll need to give Signal access to your entire gallery. However, since no third-party transaction is involved, your data remains as secure as possible.
The same goes for your camera as well. Grant access to your camera to send quick snaps over Signal.
Similar to the gallery information, you will need to allow Signal to fetch your location if you wish to share it with another Signal user. It’s optional, of course, and you should feel free not to use this feature.
Is Signal the right tool for you?
After years of reigning supreme, WhatsApp believes it has enough firepower to bring its userbase over to the dark side. The service is used by pretty much everyone we come across, which can make the transition to a different messenger service quite challenging. Still, if you are someone who knows a thing or two about privacy and security on the internet, you must take the leap and switch to a messenger service that’s yet to sell its soul.
As we have seen, Signal is an open-source, peer-reviewed, donation-driven messenger application that can take care of all your needs. Not only does it encrypt the messages you send, but it also masks even the most minute details such as profile information, call history, and more.
Signal, in its current form, is a transparent, easy-to-use, feature-rich messenger service that doesn’t have the reach of WhatsApp. If you are willing to compromise on reach and focus solely on improved privacy and security, Signal is most definitely the go-to option. Else, for convenience and familiarity, consider sticking with the current champions, WhatsApp.
Related: How to Delete Whatsapp Account and All Your Whatsapp Data
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