Category Archives: Android

Instagram and Facebook Can Use Your Photos, and You Agreed to It

They say always read the fine print. And when it comes to apps, not many actually do.

When you signed up with Instagram or Facebook you had to agree to the terms of service. You probably didn’t read it. You likely don’t remember tapping ‘agree’, but there’s no going back on that now.

That hasn’t stopped people from trying to block either app’s access to their photos after the fact… with a chain-letter.

Chain-letter Hoax Still Going

Since 2012 users have been posting a chain-letter hoax with a fake deadline. The letter warns their followers that there’s a new rule that allows either Instagram or Facebook to use their photos. And to opt out of the rule, they’re encouraged to repost the letter of course.

From there it contains a legal passage that attempts to thwart the supposedly new policy from affecting the poster.

“I do not give Instagram or any entities associated with Instagram permission to use my pictures, information, messages or posts, both past and future,” it reads. “With this statement, I give notice to Instagram it is strictly forbidden to disclose, copy, distribute, or take action against me based on this profile and/or its contents.”

Nice try, but anyone posting this has given the app access to their GPS, location, camera and photos. Posting a chain-letter won’t revoke privileges that have already been granted.

In fact, the apps often need access to these features on your phone to function. So restricting access isn’t always worth it, even when you can.

Facebook has stated that they also collect info about your network, the device your using, and many other data points.

And to be clear, Instagram and Facebook can access much more than the photos you post to their platform. The company has access to your entire photo library!

How Facebook Uses Your Photos

Would Mark Zuckerberg and friends ever actually harvest your photos and use it on their app without your permission?

Actually, their ad platform does this frequently. However, before you get alarmed, it’s not nearly as bad as you might assume. Some functions show your photos to you exclusively, rather than your friends or the public.

They will use a photo you uploaded earlier to grab your attention and encourage you to run an ad.

Another way Facebook uses your photos is by showing you a memory you posted several years ago and encouraging you to repost it with an updated caption.

Blocking Instagram’s Access to Photos on Your Phone

So, is it possible to simply block apps like Instagram from getting to your photos via the settings in Android or iOS? Yes, you can block them from scraping data associated with your images.

On an Apple device launch ‘Settings,’ then tap on ‘Instagram.’ From there you tap ‘Photos,’ then select ‘Never.’

Consider Using a VPN with Instagram and Facebook

Those that still have privacy concerns may want to review their privacy settings within the app, and then considering using a VPN.

A VPN (virtual private server) acts like an encrypted tunnel between your device and the internet for improved privacy and security.

Using a VPN hides your location and other private data so apps and websites can’t collect as much information about you.

To learn more, read LetMeBy’s reviews of the top VPN providers.

Conclusion

Instagram and Facebook collect data about your photos and have access to everything you upload to the apps as well as your photo gallery by default.

Luckily there are measures you can take to limit their access to your data. You can do this with privacy settings in the app, system settings, or with a VPN. Be aware, simply posting a chain-letter regarding revoking access to your photos won’t do any good.

How to Unblock TikTok at School or Work

TikTok is one of the most downloaded apps on Google Play and Apple’s App Store, but not everyone is feeling the love. In fact, India banned it citing national security concerns.

Granted, your teachers or business leaders are likely more concerned about your productivity, and not greater concerns such as alleged theft of user data as reported by India’s technology ministry.

TikTok is often labeled as an entertainment app for Generation Z, however this is changing. You’ll find business leaders, academics, doctors, and brands on there more than ever. Just because the platform has a fun, youthful vibe doesn’t mean you can’t learn there.

Unfortunately, managers are unlikely to acknowledge that accessing TikTok doesn’t have to be about fun and games. Generally, it’s seen as a distraction. And since it’s relatively easy for the network admin to block all access to TikTok via the company or school network, leaders are quick to take this action.

How TikTok is Blocked

Network admins can ban domain names or IP addresses associated with an app they don’t want you to access. So, for example, an admin can block all internet traffic to https://www.tiktok.com/.

Unblock by Using Your Data Plan

The key point to remember is they can only prevent you from using TikTok with their network. Therefore, a simple workaround is to turn off Wi-Fi and launch the app via your mobile data plan.

The drawback to this is of course TikTok can eat up your monthly bandwidth fairly quickly.

Using a VPN to Access TikTok

A VPN is best way to gain access to apps that have been blocked. A Virtual Private Network changes your IP address and your location. Rather than connecting to the internet directly a VPN creates a halfway point that gives you privacy features, security via encryption, etc.

Some high-end routers have VPN capabilities, however since your looking to use TikTok at school or work, the solution you’ll need is a VPN service.

You can read about the best VPNs here. If you’re short on time, the providers we recommend most often here at LetMeBy are below:

Wrapping It Up

There’s so much more to TikTok than dancing teens, pranks, and lip synching to trending hip hop tunes. It’s becoming more educational, and it’s a resource that may prove useful at school or work. Also, it provides a big opportunity for marketers looking to reach young people.

Until educators or your boss catch on that it’s more than a time-wasting app, you’re going to have to bend the rules a bit. And the best way to do that is to use a VPN, but only when you really need to.

Is Facebook Listening to Your Conversations? Not Exactly

Have you ever gotten that eerie feeling that someone is watching you? Of course, right? It’s a common phenomenon. Michael Jackson even wrote a song about it:

I always feel like somebody’s watching me
And I have no privacy

Facebook can give you that same impression when the app displays an ad that relates to something you just discussed privately on your smartphone.

Imagine you just got off the phone with your local florist. You launch Facebook out of habit, and the first ad you see is 1800Flowers.

The most obvious explanation is that Facebook must have spied on your conversation.

So, is Facebook listening? Likely not how you think they are (via recording audio), and it’s complicated. First, let’s look at why conspiracy theories about this abound, then examine the evidence.

Many Don’t Trust Facebook and Mark Zuckerberg

Research company Toluna found that Facebook is the least trusted tech company by a considerable amount. Forty percent of said they didn’t trust Facebook with their personal information.

Mark Zuckerberg has been grilled by congress on numerous occasions. They’ve blasted him for failing to curb the proliferation of fake news, not fact-checking political ads, Facebook’s Libra cryptocurrency, etc. Each time he appears in congress people the public is reminded that Zuckerberg is generally viewed with suspicion by government leaders.

Audio Transcription Tech Raises Concerns

In August 2019 Bloomberg wrote a piece about Facebook contacting an external company to create software that transcribes audio conversations in their Messenger app. The transcription tech was tested on users that opted in, and the possibility of human review of conversations was part of the terms associated with using it.

To the average reader this was confirmation that Facebook is indeed spying on its users’ private conversations. Years of conspiratorial speculations rose to the surface, as this news was exactly what Facebook’s critics needed to add legitimacy to their theories.

It was Senator Gary Peters that asked Zuckerberg whether Facebook listens to conversations and then generates targeted ads with that data. Zuckerberg replied, “You’re talking about this conspiracy theory that gets passed around that we listen to what’s going on on your microphone and use that for ads. We don’t do that.”

Facebook has attempted to set the matter straight via their Newsroom. They’ve stated that ads are generated based on people’s profile information: their interests, job title, brands they follow, etc., and not what you’re talking out loud about.

Is Spying on Users Practical or Even Possible?

Despite anecdotal claims that Facebook must be listening, the data doesn’t add up.

Wandera, a mobile cyber-security company, conducted a test to determine if audio picked up with the phone’s mic influences which ads are displayed.

They put a Samsung and Apple iPhone in a room, then played an audio loop of pet food ads for 30 minutes per day, for three days. They placed another set of phones in a silent room so they could compare the results.

No pet food ads appeared on any of the phones. And more tellingly, there were no differences in data consumption, battery use, and background activity.

Experts have pointed out that it would take an incredible amount of server resources for Facebook to listen to over 150 million daily active users in the U.S. alone.

Alternatively, if Facebook were to scan audio for keywords coming into the microphone it would take a considerable amount of your phone’s CPU processing power which would be impossible to hide.

Another reason Facebook would almost certainly never even consider doing this is it’s illegal to collect audio recordings of people.

Do You VPN?

People that simply don’t trust Zuck or Facebook can use a VPN to mask their location, IP address, etc. Read about LetMeBy’s top VPN picks to learn more.

A Reality Check

The truth is there are much more efficient and effective ways to gather data about users than harvesting audio.

Facebook has a complex algorithm that considers the information you post or input when determining which ads to show you.

It can be so stunningly accurate in determining what products or services you’re interested in you’d swear they must be listening to you. However, what really happened is the algorithm made an educated guess and managed to hit the bullseye.

There are valid reasons not to trust Facebook due to lack of privacy but spying on your conversations is not one based on the evidence.

Want to Upgrade Zoom’s Privacy and Security? Use a VPN

The pandemic forever changed the way we connect with friends and colleagues. Video chat apps have now become an even more integral part of our digital world.

Zoom recently peaked at #1 as the most downloaded app globally. Business and home users alike have quickly adopted it.

With that shift came greater concerns about privacy, as confidential information discussed at meetings could be intercepted by malicious users or authorities.

Free Comes at a Cost

Security experts have noted that the free version of Zoom lacks end-to-end encryption, and this is generally frowned upon in the software industry. Theoretically Zoom, the police or FBI could access calls if they wanted to, although the software company denies they would ever do this except if Zoom is used for obvious illegal activity.

Zoom elaborated on the policy in a statement. “Zoom does not proactively monitor meeting content, and we do not share information with law enforcement except in circumstances like child sex abuse. We do not have backdoors where participants can enter meetings without being visible to others. None of this will change,” said a spokesperson.

Take special note that just because they don’t proactively monitor calls doesn’t guarantee they won’t do it. So now the question becomes, is taking Zoom’s word for it good enough for you?

A system not requiring trust, made possible with tech, is always superior to believing a company. However, to get that with Zoom you have to pay for the premium version of the app.

The Troll in the Room

Some users have reported a phenomenon called Zoom bombing. This involves uninvited guests gaining access to group chats and dropping slurs, offensive images, etc.

Zoom is addressing this problem, but it’s an ongoing threat. Thus, it raises more concerns about the overall strength of the app’s security.

VPN Upgrade Alternative

Should you stick with Zoom despite these weaknesses? Although video conferencing alternatives with better privacy and security exist, it likely won’t be feasible to convert your friends or coworkers.

Luckily there’s a quick, easy way to upgrade Zoom’s encryption to prevent privacy leaks: simply use a VPN.

A virtual private network (VPN) is a secure tunnel between your device and a remote server operated by a VPN service provider. All online traffic goes through this encrypted tunnel so apps and websites cannot gain access to data such as your IP address, location, and certain actions you take.

If you don’t need the added features of the Zoom Pro or Business plan and want the best privacy and security, a VPN is the best option. A VPN service will give you added privacy with any app or sites you visit.

VPNs that are most recommended here at LetMeBy are below. For more detail, you can check out full reviews of the top 3 VPNs services.

Conclusion

Zoom is a terrific video conferencing app overall. It’s easy to use, as the user interface (UI) is simple and intuitive.

Privacy and security concerns shouldn’t prevent you from using it, as leveraging a VPN or upgrading to a paid plan takes care of the main shortcomings concerning encryption.

5 Hacks to Speed up Streaming

A lot more people are streaming movies today than a year or even a few months ago.

The mass migration from traditional formats to services like Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime Video has brought us the gift of convenience but also technical hurdles.

As much as streaming is becoming the way to go, one can only enjoy the experience when they stream without pausing, re-buffering, and other interruptions. Thus, there are two major categories of persons that stream movies: those that enjoy the best speeds and those that struggle with getting decent speed when they stream. This article highlights hacks one can implement to move from the latter category to the former category.

Fix plugins: Current browsers are equipped with plugins for a wide array of different purposes. As much as certain plugins can guarantee a higher streaming speed, other plugins can be a drag when one streams. Here’s how to balance the good and bad effects of plugins.

Plugins still have a cost to performance when not in use. When a plugin is inactive but installed, it could affect the user’s streaming speed. Thus, it is important to uninstall all plugins that are not in use as they can negatively affect streaming speed.

Plugins are best when updated. Thus, to achieve high-speed streaming, it is essential to update plugins. Different bugs are typically fixed with the updated versions of plugins, and this ensures smooth streaming as well as less crashes and time-outs.

Clear caches and temporary files: When a person visits a web page, a lot of activities occur behind the scenes to enable the user to view that page. Such activities include the downloading of temporary files. These files are typically deleted by the browser when the web pages are closed before one exits the browser or shuts down the device in the case of a computer.

However, in some cases, one does not close the web pages properly before exiting the browser, and the files which would have been automatically deleted by the browser are stored. The buildup of these files reduces browser performance, which includes streaming tasks. Thus, to ensure the best streaming speed, one must delete temporary files and clear the browser history. That way, the browser activity is not unnecessarily reduced.

Switch from Wi-Fi to Ethernet: As much as Wi-Fi is the go-to Internet connection for streaming movies, slow or spotty Wi-Fi can cause streaming issues. With Wi-Fi, one makes wireless connections to their router, and this wireless connection does not offer as much speed as is available on the router to the user. When the wireless connection is swapped for a wired connection such as with Ethernet cable, a user gets the best speeds possible. Let’s say one uses a 10Mb/s router. With a wireless connection to that router, they may receive about 50% of that speed. A wired connection such as with Ethernet cables gives the user at least 70% of the speed of the router. So, all you may need to do is to switch Wi-Fi for Ethernet cables. Your device will get better speeds when you make that switch.

Turn off auto-update features: The different operating systems on devices, from Android to Windows, offer auto-update options. With this option enabled, newer versions of applications are downloaded as soon as they are available with special consent from the user. Thus, when the auto-update feature is turned on, apps could check for updates or update in the background when one engages in other activities such as streaming. This background activity can impair streaming performance.

To stream high-quality videos, it is thus advisable to turn off the auto-update feature. Alternatively, one can check for updates regularly and download updated versions of the apps at the most convenient time.

Reduce device load: This hack is somewhat applicable to other settings. The more individuals that share a resource, the lesser the quantity and quality of the resource each participant will get. Here’s how this “principle” is related to the quality of movies one streams. When many devices are connected to a router, the streaming speed reduces because of the device load. For faster streaming, it is advisable to reduce the device load on a router. So if you’re experiencing issues with streaming, make sure others in the home aren’t using the internet heavily at the same time.

Finally, everyone deserves to stream high-quality videos, and with these hacks, you’re sure to enjoy a better movie-watching experience.

Photo: PresidenciaRD