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Apple allows children to access casual-sex and BDSM apps, finds report | Apple

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Apple knowingly lets underage users access apps intended for adults, according to an investigation by the Tech Transparency Project (TTP), despite having asked for and recorded their dates of birth.

The investigation asserts a disconnect between the information Apple knows about a user, which includes their self-declared age, and the ways it polices age restrictions on its App Store.

TTP created a user account with a date of birth in February 2007, and tested to see how well Apple’s policies were applied. The group discovered that, even though the user had a self-declared age of just 14, they could download apps such as “Eros: Hook Up & Adult Chat” and “KinkD: Kink, BDSM Dating Life” from the store. Both apps are marked as “17+” by Apple’s age-rating system, but when an underage user tries to download them, they are simply presented with a pop-up notification asking them to “tap OK to confirm that you are 17 or over”.

Similarly, many adult-only apps implemented Apple’s “Sign in with Apple” technology, outsourcing account creation and validation to the platform holder. Again, even though Apple knows the age of the users involved, TTP found a total of 37 apps intended for adults that allowed underage users to sign in with their iCloud accounts and immediately access adult content.

“The investigation reveals major holes in the App Store’s child safety measures, showing how easy it is for young teens to access adult apps that offer dating, random chats, casual sex and gambling, even when Apple knows the user is a minor,” said the organisation in its report on the company.

“The results undermine Apple’s promise that its App store is a ‘safe place for kids’ and that it rejects apps that are ‘over the line – especially when it puts children at risk’. Taken together, these review failures create an ecosystem that is much more dangerous for minors than advertised.”

Apple declined to comment on the report, but a spokesperson pointed the Guardian to the company’s parental control features. There, parents can choose what apps children can download, set how long they can spend each day on specific apps and websites, and ensure they can only buy or download only apps appropriate for them.

Michelle Kuppersmith, the executive director of the ethics nonprofit Campaign for Accountability, said: “Apple claims that it maintains a tight grip over App Store creators to protect consumers from harmful content, but it hasn’t even put up the most obvious safeguard to keep underage users safe. If Apple already knows that a user is under 18, how can it let the user download adult apps in the first place?

“Apple has clearly chosen to pass the buck on protecting children to the app developers. But, while it seemingly has no desire to accept responsibility, Apple has no problem taking its cut of the profits that arise from age-inappropriate transactions.”

Justin Ruben, the co-director of ParentsTogether, a parenting nonprofit, said: “Apple’s failure to protect kids from exploitation by allowing them to access casual sex and stranger-chat apps with impunity is unacceptable. Rates of online enticement of children nearly doubled last year, and Apple’s unwillingness to keep kids off the riskiest apps gives predators a direct line to our kids.”

The news comes barely a week before the age-appropriate design code, a new UK regulation, will come into effect. That code, enforced by the ICO with the threat of massive fines based on a percentage of turnover, will require companies to identify underage users and treat their personal data with particular care.

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NFT trader OpenSea bans insider trading after employee rakes in profit | Non-fungible tokens (NFTs)

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A non-fungible token (NFT) marketplace has introduced policies to ban insider trading, after an executive at the company was discovered to be buying artworks shortly before they were promoted on the site’s front page.

OpenSea, one of the leading sites for trading the digital assets, will now prevent team members buying or selling from featured collections and from using confidential information to trade NFTs. Neither practice was previously banned.

“Yesterday we learned that one of our employees purchased items that they knew were set to display on our front page before they appeared there publicly,” said Devin Finzer, the co-founder and chief executive of the site.

“This is incredibly disappointing. We want to be clear that this behaviour does not represent our values as a team. We are taking this very seriously and are conducting an immediate and thorough third-party review of this incident so that we have a full understanding of the facts and additional steps we need to take.”

NFTs are digital assets whose ownership is recorded and traced using a bitcoin-style blockchain. The NFT market boomed earlier this year as celebrities including Grimes, Andy Murray and Sir Tim Berners-Lee sold collectibles and artworks using the format. But the underlying technology has questionable utility, with some dismissing the field as a purely speculative bubble.

The insider trading came to light thanks to the public nature of the Ethereum blockchain, on which most NFT trades occur. Crypto traders noticed that an anonymous user was regularly buying items from the public marketplace shortly before they were promoted on the site’s front page, a prestigious slot that often brings significant interest from would-be buyers. The anonymous user would then sell the assets on, making vast sums in a matter of hours.

One trade, for instance, saw an artwork called Spectrum of a Ramenification Theory bought for about £600. It was then advertised on the front page and sold on for $4,000 a few hours later.

One Twitter user, ZuwuTV, linked the transactions to the public wallet of Nate Chastain, OpenSea’s head of product, demonstrating, using public records, that the profits from the trades were sent back to a wallet owned by Chastain.

While some, including ZuwuTV, described the process as “insider trading”, the loosely regulated market for NFTs has few restrictions on what participants can do. Some critics argue that even that terminology demonstrates that the sector is more about speculation than creativity.

“The fact that people are responding to this as insider trading shows that this is securities trading (or just gambling), not something designed to support artists,” said Anil Dash, the chief executive of the software company Glitch. “There are no similar public statements when artists get ripped off on the platform.

“If Etsy employees bought featured products from creators on their platform (or Patreon or Kickstarter workers backed new creators etc) that’d be great! Nobody would balk. Because they’d be supporting their goal,” Dash added.



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British home computer trailblazer dies aged 81 • The Register

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Sir Clive Sinclair died on Thursday at home in London after a long illness, his family said today. He was 81.

The British entrepreneur is perhaps best known for launching the ZX range of 8-bit microcomputers, which helped bring computing, games, and programming into UK homes in the 1980s, at least. This included the ZX80, said to be the UK’s first mass-market home computer for under £100, the ZX81, and the trusty ZX Spectrum. A whole generation grew up in Britain mastering coding on these kinds of systems in their bedrooms.

And before all that, Sir Clive founded Sinclair Radionics, which produced amplifiers, calculators, and watches, and was a forerunner to his Spectrum-making Sinclair Research. The tech pioneer, who eventually sold his computing biz to Amstrad, was knighted during his computing heyday, in 1983.

“He was a rather amazing person,” his daughter, Belinda Sinclair, 57, told The Guardian this evening. “Of course, he was so clever and he was always interested in everything. My daughter and her husband are engineers so he’d be chatting engineering with them.”

Sir Clive is survived by Belinda, his sons, Crispin and Bartholomew, aged 55 and 52 respectively, five grandchildren, and two great-grandchildren. ®

A full obit will follow on The Register.

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UN human rights chief raises concerns over AI privacy violations in report

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‘AI tech can have negative, even catastrophic, effects if they are used without sufficient regard to how they affect people’s human rights.’

The UN’s human rights chief Michelle Bachelet called for a moratorium on the sale and use of artificial intelligence technology until safeguards are put in place to prevent potential human rights violations.

Bachelet made the appeal on Wednesday (15 September) to accompany a report released by the UN’s Human Rights Office, which analysed how AI systems affect people’s right to privacy. The violation of their privacy rights had knock-on impacts on other rights such as rights to health, education and freedom of movement, the report found.

“Artificial intelligence can be a force for good, helping societies overcome some of the great challenges of our times. But AI technologies can have negative, even catastrophic, effects if they are used without sufficient regard to how they affect people’s human rights,” Bachelet said.

“Artificial intelligence now reaches into almost every corner of our physical and mental lives and even emotional states,” Bachelet added.

Japanese multinational Fujitsu caused a stir when it announced plans to implement AI facial recognition technology to monitor employees’ concentration levels during meetings.

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The report was critical of justice systems which had made wrongful arrests because of flawed facial recognition tools. It appealed to countries to ban any AI tools which did not meet international human rights standards. A 2019 study from the UK found that 81pc of suspects flagged by the facial recognition technology used by London’s Metropolitan Police force were innocent.

Earlier this year, Canada banned Clearview’s AI facial recognition technology after the company violated Canadian privacy laws by collecting facial images of Canadians without their consent.

Bachelet also highlighted the report’s concerns on the future use of data once it has been collected and stored, calling it “one of the most urgent human rights questions we face.”

The UN’s report echoes previous appeals made by European data protection regulators.

The European Data Protection Board (EDPB) and the European Data Protection Supervisor (EDPS) called for a ban on facial recognition in public places in June. They urged EU lawmakers to consider banning the use of such technology in public spaces, after the European Commission released its proposed regulations on the matter.

The EU’s proposed regulations did not recommend an outright ban. The commission instead emphasised the importance of creating “trustworthy AI.”

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