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Facebook Aims To Become Privacy-Focused

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Facebook's path to a more privacy-focused platform

Mark Zuckerberg, the founder of Facebook, said in a lengthy statement that it wants its social messaging applications to become more secure and private with the changes it aims to implement.

This sudden idea by the founder follows after Facebook spending the past two years mired in scandals around data privacy, starting with last year’s revelations involving Cambridge Analytica and continuing through the most significant data breach in the company’s history.

“I believe a privacy-focused communications platform will become even more important than today’s open platforms. Privacy gives people the freedom to be themselves and connect more naturally, which is why we build social networks,” Zuckerberg said.

It’s hard to believe that Facebook would take the more secure and private route towards its social media applications. Facebook is famous for creating tools for open sharing within its networks. It is a sharp turn to opting private from public sharing.

Moreover, Facebook has a bad reputation for building protective privacy services, which has apologized for multiple time throughout its hearing with the US Congress in the past two years.

However, in the 3,200-word statement released by Zuckerberg, he aims to mitigate issues revolving around Facebook’s ability to be trusted for secure and private connections.

Zuckerberg plans to integrate WhatsApp, Instagram, and Facebook  — the three social messaging apps will remain as stand-alone apps, but their technical configurations will be unified. This move will allow 2.6 billion of its combined users to communicate across applications

He says that through unifying its primary social media applications, people can have more ease with communicating with each other across applications.

Zuckerberg says, “We want to give people a choice so they can reach their friends across these networks from whichever app they prefer.”

The company aims to start with its services to become interoperable with your devices, specifically through SMS. The Android version of Messenger already allows you to send and receive SMS messages. Meanwhile, Apple doesn’t agree with this, as they have their own social messaging through iMessage.

News circulated that this move would possibly be another play for Facebook to gain massive data collection from its users.

To lighten the situation, Facebook announced along with its statement that, like WeChat, it will incorporate end-to-end encryption across its other applications.

End-to-end encryption is a powerful tool for privacy, Zuckerberg claims. Not only does it prevent other people from gaining access to your conversations, but it also allows Facebook to see what our massages contain. Ultimately, avoiding a data breach. But, this also includes privacy for people doing bad things.

In the Facebook founder’s statement, he argued that certain governments demand access to individuals’ private data information. Initially, there were two options for Facebook, either hand over the information or refuse and get arrested. With encryption, it allows a third party where they can deny and argue that the content is inaccessible.

“When billions of people use a service to connect, some of them are going to misuse it for truly terrible things like child exploitation, terrorism, and extortion. We have a responsibility to work with law enforcement and to help prevent these wherever we can. We are working to improve our ability to identify and stop bad actors across our apps by detecting patterns of activity or through other means, even when we can’t see the content of the messages, and we will continue to invest in this work,” Zuckerberg says.

“Upholding this principle may mean that our services will get blocked in some countries, or that we won’t be able to enter others anytime soon,” Zuckerberg writes. “That’s a tradeoff we’re willing to make. We do not believe storing people’s data in some countries is a secure enough foundation to build such important internet infrastructure on.”

There’s a balance that Facebook needs to master with providing secure and private information, he writes. Working for its consumers and the government would be a challenge they need to tackle to push forward with its ideals.

On the other hand, a more secure exchange of communication will allow Facebook to gain people’s trust with regards to e-commerce, payments, within its service. It will be “a platform for many other kinds of private services,” he writes.

Also, Facebook aims to make most of its content ephemeral, content that people don’t need to worry about what they share coming back to hurt them later.

Zuckerberg writes that ephemeral stories are by far one of the fastest growing areas of online communication. People are more cautious about having a permanent record of what they’ve shared. 

Especially, with how today’s data are collected, we create a personal diary since we started using the platform. People have easy access to this information that we layout to the world.

As we build up large collections of messages and photos over time, they can become a liability, as well as, an asset.

With all of what Facebook promises, we need to take this with a grain of salt. It’s one thing to say something and another to deliver. The company has a history of announcing and promoting privacy-forward features and slow-rolling or canceling its actual introduction.

Facebook does not have the most stellar reputation on privacy, but at least they have taken the first steps in bringing us a new age of its digital communication—private and secure.

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Editors' Pick

AMCA Breach: 20 Million Victims, 19 Class Actions

[bctt tweet=”AMCA previously reported that there were only 200,000 victims in the recent breach, but their partner labs said there were more than 20 million.” username=”Z6Mag”]

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AMCA previously reported that there were only 200,000 victims in the recent breach but the company, but their partner labs said there were more than 20 million.
AMCA previously reported that there were only 200,000 victims in the recent breach but the company, but their partner labs said there were more than 20 million. Photo: cbgrfx123 | Flickr | CC BY-SA 2.0

More than 20 million and not 200,000 have fallen victim to a massive data breach that has seen medical clients using the services of healthcare billing company, American Medical Collection Agency (AMCA), to pay for their laboratory tests in different blood testing labs across the U.S. were confirmed by the SEC filings of affected medical institutions amidst the earlier claims of AMCA that there were fewer victims.

The data breach was a result of a cyber attack that aims to phish for financial information from the website of the AMCA. The exposed data belongs to Americans who paid laboratory services at several clinical and blood testing labs and institutions and used the AMCA billing portal.

What happened in the AMCA breach?

Data that were stolen from the victims include their names, phone numbers, dates of birth, home addresses, social security numbers, credit card numbers, and other bank details. The said information was auctioned off by the hacker in several financial hacking forums.

According to DataBreaches.net, the organization who first reported about the incident, AMCA officials, following the notification of the breach confirmed that their system has been compromised and has remained undetected for more than eight months. AMCA corroborated that the breach took place between August 1, 2018, and March 30, 2019.

Notifications have been sent by several of AMCA’s corporate partners and clients to their customers following the disclosure of the security breach that has seen information from millions of Americans compromised.

Related: Hospitals Only Spend 5% Of Its Budget For Cybersecurity Amidst 82% Of Them Reporting To Have Been Attacked

The list of impacted testing laboratories includes Quest Diagnostics (11.9 million patients), LabCorp (7.7 million patients), BioReference Laboratories (Opko Health subsidiary, 422,600 patients), Carecentrix (500,000 patients), and Sunrise Laboratories (undisclosed number of patients).

However, neither the AMCA nor its five clients have yet to notify ALL impacted citizens by the breach making them vulnerable to a lot of cyber crimes and their financial data could be used by anyone who gets hold of the information against the persons of those who still don’t know that their financial information is floating around the internet.

The companies involved in the breach are facing several lawsuits

Appropriately, the lawsuit came into the direction of AMCA, Quest, and LabCorp regarding the incident. More than 11 class-suite actions have been filed against the three companies for their inability to protect consumer data. The 11 lawsuits were recorded at The United States Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation (JPML) on June 3. Since then, eight more lawsuits were filed against the companies in federal courts from New Jersey, New York, and California.

According to litigation experts, “If many cases are filed in federal court, any of the lawyers on any of those cases can file a motion with the JPML [..] to centralize the various federal cases that have been filed by sending all of them to a single judge for coordinated pre-trial proceedings.”

“Healthcare companies are especially susceptible to data breaches not only because they aggregate a tremendous amount of important and sensitive data, but also because they tend to be less focused on cybersecurity protection than other industries,” said John Yanchunis of Morgan and Morgan, one of the firms who filed lawsuits against Quest Diagnostics.

“These companies, like Quest Diagnostics, know they are at an increased risk and yet have not taken the proper steps to protect their patients’ data. We will fight for justice on behalf of those impacted by this breach,” added Yanchunis.

Lawmakers are demanding an explanation

The U.S. government, led by attorneys general from Connecticut and Illinois has also opened an investigation on the matter. Furthermore, lawmakers and other politicians have sent letters to the responding companies to ask for an explanation of why an eight-month data breach remained undetected and to demand accountability from them.

In Washington, US Sen. Mark Warner (D-VA) also sent a letter to Quest Laboratories demanding the company explain its vetting process for selecting AMCA as a billing vendor, and what requirements a third-party vendor has to pass. Democratic New Jersey Sens. Cory Booker and Bob Menendez also sent letters to AMCA, Quest, and LabCorp, seeking official answers on how a breach of this severity went undetected for eight months.

“The months-long leak leaves sensitive personal and financial information vulnerable in the hands of criminal enterprises. Moreover, such breaches force victims to contend with identity theft that may lead to irreparable harm to their credit reports and financial future,” said the letter sent by the NJ senators.

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Arts & Entertainment

‘The Hunger Games’ Is Launching A Prequel And A Possible Movie

[bctt tweet=”Suzanne Collins is releasing a prequel to The Hunger Games storyline and Lionsgate is already looking forward in turning it into a blockbuster movie” username=”Z6Mag”]

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Source: Scholastic

Almost fours years after the last The Hunger Games movie (The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part II) and almost nine years after the first book from the trilogy was released, Suzanne Collins is returning with the famed trilogy — but this time in a form of a prequel.

Scholastic, the publishing company that distributed Collins’ The Hunger Games trilogy, announced today that it is publishing a prequel novel to the series, currently untitled, which will hit shelves on May 19, 2020.

“Suzanne Collins is a master at combining brilliant storytelling, superb world-building, breathtaking suspense, and social commentary,” Scholastic Trade Publishing President Ellie Berger said in a statement. “We are absolutely thrilled — as both readers and publishers — to introduce the devoted fans of the series and a new audience to an entirely new perspective on this modern classic.”

Collins’ original Hunger Games trilogy—The Hunger GamesCatching Fire, and Mockingjay—altogether, sold more than 100 million copies and has been translated into more than 50 languages. Moreover, The Hunger Games books appeared on the New York Times bestseller list for more than 260 consecutive weeks (more than five straight years).

After writing the last installment in 2010, Collins teased in 2013 that she was working on a new series, but did not say whether it was related to The Hunger Games.

This time, the novel will be set in the world of Panem, 64 years before the events of the original Hunger Games trilogy—the morning where Katniss Everdeen volunteered as a tribute on the 74th Hunger Games. Presumably, Katniss Everdeen played by Jeniffer Lawrence will not be involved in the upcoming novel.

Based on the previous novels in the series, 74 years before the main novels, the 13 Districts of Panem already tried to initiate a rebellion against the Capital. In the aftermath of the failed attempt, 12 Districts remained to leave District 13 to rubbles. The Hunger Games was a result and served as a reminder that all the other Districts should obediently comply with the Capital’s rule.

The novel will take place 10 years after the first rebellion and will tell the story of Panem during the “Dark Days following a failed rebellion in Panem “With this book, I wanted to explore the state of nature, who we are, and what we perceive is required for our survival,” Collins told the Associated Press in the announcement. “The reconstruction period 10 years after the war, commonly referred to as the Dark Days — as the country of Panem struggles back to its feet — provides fertile ground for characters to grapple with these questions and thereby define their views of humanity.”

On other news, the Lionsgate film studio, who adapted The Hunger Games trilogy into movies, is already looking forward to the next addition to Collins’ franchise given that it received praise and public attention for producing them.

“As the proud home of the Hunger Games movies, we can hardly wait for Suzanne’s next book to be published,” said Joe Drake, chairman of the Lionsgate Motion Picture Group, in a recent statement to the Associated Press. “We’ve been communicating with her during the writing process and we look forward to continuing to work closely with her on the movie.”S

Lionsgate turned Collins’ Hunger Games novels into a series of four films, dividing the last novel, Hunger Games: Mockingjay, into a two-part finale. Over the course of the four movies, it earned almost $3 billion dollars an the worldwide box office with the last movie earning $653.4 million.

Collins helped with the movies as an executive producer and a co-screenwriter on the first 2012 movie but distanced herself after she finalized Mockingjay in 2010.

Lionsgate is also known to have produced Twilight, which is one of their platinum franchises along with Collins’ trilogy. The studio earlier licensed The Hunger Games to theme parks and live concert tours being built around the movie franchise.

Additionally, it starred Jenniffer Lawrence who played the main character as Katniss Everdeen in all of the four movies, which helped catapult her acting career in 2012.

Scholastic acquired world English rights to the prequel novel and it will publish in print, digital and audio formats in the US, Canada, the UK and Ireland, Australia, and New Zealand next year. The deal was negotiated by Rosemary Stimola of the Stimola Literary Studio for Suzanne Collins and David Levithan, VP, Publisher, and Editorial Director, for Scholastic.

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Editors' Pick

Global Ice Melting At Rates Faster Than Expected

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Photo by Sergey Kuznetsov on Unsplash

The global ice, or the size and number of glaciers located across cold spots around the world, is a clear indicator of the effects of global warming. With human’s excessive and consistent use of o-zone depleting resources such as fossil fuels — the rate of global ice is melting will only keep accelerating.

The National Snow and Ice Data Center reported that based on data they have gathered since the1900s, glaciers around the globe are shrinking and melting at an alarming rate.

Arctic sea ice has been in constant general low over the years following the increasing trend of greenhouse gas. Additionally, as the frozen ground across the Arctic melts, it releases a massive amount of methane, a potent greenhouse gas. Scientists say that this effect could make global ice melt accelerate even faster.

A separate study found that parts of the Canadian Arctic are experiencing a rate of permafrost thaw six times the long-term average.

Meanwhile, melted ice is especially notable both in and around Greenland — home to the second largest ice sheet on the planet.

“Communities in #Greenland rely on the sea ice for transport, hunting, and fishing. Extreme events, here flooding of the ice by abrupt onset of surface melt call for increased predictive capacity in the Arctic,” Steffen Olsen, a climate researcher at the Danish Meteorological Institute said in a tweet.

Olsen was referring to Greenland losing 2 billion metric tons of ice. “The high melt is unusual so early in the season but not unprecedented,” Greenland Ice said in a tweet.

Experts are calling the lost ice “not normal” considering that it equates to almost half of Greenland. Roughly 45 percent of the ice sheet surface has been melting. Usually, less than 10 percent of the ice sheet surface is melting at this time of year. According to data from the National Snow and Ice Data Center, Wednesday set a daily record for the widest melt area on that date, with 275,000 square miles.

“I’m losing the ability to communicate the magnitude [of change],” Jeremy Mathis, a longtime Arctic researcher and a current board director at the National Academies of Sciences told Mashable. “I’m running out of adjectives to describe the scope of change we’re seeing.”

On other parts of the globe, a city in western Alaska is experiencing drastic changes to its land formations as the state’s ice and permafrost are starting to thaw away.

“Springtime in Alaska isn’t what it used to be. This is the 3rd time past 21 years we can say” warmest spring of record.” 1998 was the warmest to date, exceeded in 2016 and now 2016 exceeded in 2019. Trend +4.0F (+2.2C) since the 1970s.” Rick Thoman said in a tweet.

The continued ice and permafrost melting in Iceland are causing significant damages in terms of requiring towns and villages like Newtok in western Alaska to relocate to avoid dangers.

“It’s a real challenge because in the US there isn’t the precedence to deal with this and there isn’t the political framework to deal with it either,” said Susan Natali, a scientist and Arctic expert at the Woods Hole Research Center in Massachusetts. “The numbers needing relocation will grow, the costs are going up and people’s lives and cultural practices will be impacted.

“Every year there’s a new temperature record, it’s getting worse and worse and you feel like a broken record saying it. This should be the number one urgent conversation happening right now because it’s not just going to be Alaska, it’s going to be other communities all over the US,” Natali added.

The problem does not only persist in Greenland, the Arctic or Alaska. Global ice is melting all across the globe. “The famed snows of Kilimanjaro have melted more than 80 percent since 1912. Glaciers in the Garhwal Himalaya in India are retreating so fast that researchers believe that most central and eastern Himalayan glaciers could virtually disappear by 2035 […] From the Arctic to Peru, from Switzerland to the equatorial glaciers of Man Jaya in Indonesia, massive ice fields, monstrous glaciers, and sea ice are disappearing, fast,” the National Geographic reported.

This week, the Pope has talked to oil executives in the Vatican to find solutions in the growing problem of global warming. He called for a “radical energy transition” from conventional fossil fuels and develop greener energy alternatives.

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