Google’s browser cookies plan anti-competitive, advertisers tell EU

Google said a year ago that it would ban some cookies in its Chrome browser to increase user privacy. (File/Google)
Google said a year ago that it would ban some cookies in its Chrome browser to increase user privacy. (File/Google)
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Updated 28 September 2021

Google’s browser cookies plan anti-competitive, advertisers tell EU

Google said a year ago that it would ban some cookies in its Chrome browser to increase user privacy. (File/Google)
  • Google’s plan to block a popular web tracking tool called “cookies” is anti-competitive, said a group of advertisers, publishers and tech companies

BRUSSELS: Google’s plan to block a popular web tracking tool called “cookies” is anti-competitive, a group of advertisers, publishers and tech companies said in a complaint to EU antitrust regulators.
The grievance could boost the European Commission’s investigation opened in June into Alphabet unit Google’s Privacy Sandbox which the company said could allow businesses to target clusters of consumers without identifying individuals.
Google said a year ago that it would ban some cookies in its Chrome browser to increase user privacy and offer the Privacy Sandbox as an alternative.
The Movement for an Open Web (MOW) said the proposal would give Google the power to decide what data can be shared on the web and with whom.
“Google says they’re strengthening ‘privacy’ for end users but they’re not, what they’re really proposing is a creepy data mining party,” MOW lawyer Tim Cowen said in a statement.
The Commission confirmed receipt of the complaint, saying it would assess it under the standard procedures. In June, it kicked off an investigation into Google’s online display advertising technology services.
Google has offered to settle the case in a bid to avoid a possible fine and a disruptive prolonged probe, a person familiar with the matter told Reuters last week.
Google declined to comment on the MOW complaint and referred to its previous statement released when it offered concessions to the UK competition watchdog, which described the Privacy Sandbox as an open initiative to provide strong privacy for users while also supporting publishers.
The US Justice Department is also examining the issue, people familiar with the matter have told Reuters.
The group’s complaint to the UK regulator prompted its investigation which subsequently led Google to offer concessions.


Facebook to review Arabic, Hebrew content moderation policies

Facebook to review Arabic, Hebrew content moderation policies
Updated 32 sec ago

Facebook to review Arabic, Hebrew content moderation policies

Facebook to review Arabic, Hebrew content moderation policies
  • Social networking giant accepts recommendation to engage neutral, independent entity for policy assessment

DUBAI: Facebook has recently come under renewed criticism over inadequate content moderation policies in languages other than English.

Whistleblower Frances Haugen, who leaked internal Facebook research documents to The Wall Street Journal and appeared before a US Senate committee, has revealed that while only 9 percent of the social networking giant’s users were English speakers, 87 percent of its misinformation spending was dedicated to that category.

The imbalance, it has been claimed by critics, has led to increased hate speech and real-life violence in non-English speaking countries where Facebook is widely used such as India, Myanmar, Ethiopia, Sudan, and Iran.

On Oct. 14, Facebook agreed to a recommendation by the Oversight Board to “engage an independent entity not associated with either side of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to conduct a thorough examination to determine whether Facebook’s content moderation in Arabic and Hebrew, including its use of automation, have been applied without bias.”

The company intends to fully implement the measure and make public the resulting report and conclusions.

The decision follows repeated requests by 7amleh (the Arab Center for the Advancement of Social Media) and several other local, regional, and international human rights organizations, coalitions, and networks, that Facebook guaranteed a transparent and equitable policy with regard to Palestinian content.

An investigation by Human Rights Watch found that Facebook wrongfully silenced Palestinian content, including documentation of Israeli human rights violations, during the uprising that occurred in May.

Following an internal inquiry, Facebook admitted that it had made errors in some of its decisions, but HRW said the “company’s acknowledgment of errors and attempts to correct some of them are insufficient and do not address the scale and scope of reported content restrictions.”

The May violence, followed by Facebook’s discriminatory acts, increased pressure against the firm to end any and all bias against Palestinian content.

The Oversight Board also made three other recommendations — one that is being partly implemented and two that are being assessed for feasibility.

Facebook is partly implementing the board’s recommendation to formalize a transparent process on how it receives and responds to all government requests for content removal and ensure that they are included in transparency reporting.

It is currently assessing feasibility for two other recommendations, which are ensuring “swift translation of updates to the community standards into all available languages,” and adding “criteria and illustrative examples” to the company’s “dangerous individuals and organizations policy to increase understanding of the exceptions for neutral discussion, condemnation, and news reporting.”

In a statement, 7amleh said it welcomed Facebook’s “surprising” decision.

But the center also called on Facebook to accept the other recommendations made by the Oversight Board, including specifying the criteria for dangerous individuals and organizations or parties whose content was automatically removed from the platform, as well as disclosing all cooperation with governments and positive responses to governmental requests for content removal, in addition to translating content moderation policies to all languages and making them more accessible.


TikTok launches new privacy campaign, teams up with leading regional creators

TikTok launches new privacy campaign, teams up with leading regional creators
Updated 48 min 55 sec ago

TikTok launches new privacy campaign, teams up with leading regional creators

TikTok launches new privacy campaign, teams up with leading regional creators
  • TikTok’s #PrivacyMatters campaign partners with regional content creators to showcase the importance of privacy

DUBAI: Short-form video app TikTok has launched its latest campaign, #PrivacyMatters, focusing on digital privacy.

Through a partnership with prominent regional creators, the platform has created a series of educational short films featuring real-life scenarios that demonstrate how users can control their privacy online. The creators include Hadeel Marei, Twinzy’s Abdullah and Noor, Abeer Sinder, Zainab Al-Eqabi, Faris Al-Khalidi, and Nadin Smaili, together reaching over 3 million users.

The campaign follows a series of safety enhancements made on the platform including the introduction of Family Pairing, the enhancement of filtering capabilities, and the launch of tools to combat bullying.

“While we celebrate the creativity and expression that is seen in abundance on the platform, we have an inherent understanding of the important role privacy plays in the digital experience,” said Hany Kamel, content operations director at TikTok, Middle East and North Africa.

In the MENA region, online users spend an average of 90 minutes every day consuming short-form content, making up 15 percent of total time spent by users on media platforms across the region, according to management consultancy RedSeer. As users spend more and more time in the digital space, sharing and over-sharing personal details of their lives, privacy is more important than ever before.

Kamel added: “At TikTok, we see safety as a job that is never complete, and consistently look for ways in which to further bolster our existing privacy, safety and engagement protection measures. As we update our offering, we will also continue to creatively communicate these changes to our community, to ensure everyone is aware of the ways in which they can keep themselves and their content safe on the platform.”

In addition to its Community Guidelines, TikTok has dedicated privacy controls that each user can customize as per their preferences, including making their account private, controlling comments and messages, managing screen time, using restricted mode to curate their feed, and limiting duets to control who can duet their content.


Instagram launches new campaign to tackle phishing

Instagram launches new campaign to tackle phishing
Updated 19 October 2021

Instagram launches new campaign to tackle phishing

Instagram launches new campaign to tackle phishing
  • Social networking service offers users 5-step action plan to protect against phishing attacks

DUBAI: Phishing has become one of the main methods for hackers to access the personal information of social media users across different platforms.

The online hoaxers typically use deceptive messages that appear to come from an official source such as a bank, social media platform, or email service to encourage users to download an attachment or click on a link.

Nadia Diab Caceres, public policy manager for Instagram in the Middle East and North Africa region, told Arab News: “Phishing is one of the most common types of cyberattacks and it can take many forms – from fun quizzes about your favorite cereal brand to receiving direct messages claiming to be from Instagram about issues with your account.”

Instagram users, in particular, have been the target of many such attacks. In September, Romania’s cybersecurity incident response team warned about a targeted campaign against Instagram users in the county, and last year TrendMicro reported similar activity led by Turkish-speaking hackers preying on high-profile accounts on the social networking platform.

Diab Caceres did not reveal the number of users that had been subject to phishing but said: “Phishing on social platforms is an evolving issue that has been increasing in both frequency and sophistication.

“We are constantly evolving our safety and security features to protect our community from cyberattacks. We have strong defenses in our existing security tools and features, and we continue to upgrade these in line with the needs of the times.”

As part of its efforts to raise awareness and increase usage of its safety tools, Instagram has collaborated with influential content creators including Khaled Mokhtar, Amr Maskoun, Aly Osman, Adel Aladwani, and Mazen Yaseen.

Additionally, it is educating users on steps they can take to protect their accounts.

One such way is its new security checkup feature that guides users whose accounts may have been hacked through the steps needed to secure them, including checking login activity, reviewing profile information, confirming the accounts that share login information, and updating account recovery contact information such as phone number or email.

Another method users can take is to enable two-factor authentication, whereby they receive a notification or are asked to enter a special login code when someone tries logging into their account from a device the platform does not recognize.

Enabling login request is available to users setting up two-factor authentication on Instagram. Any login attempt from an unrecognized device or web browser triggers an alert showing details of the device that tried logging in and its location. Users can then approve or deny the request from their already logged-in devices.

A further safety step is to update phone numbers and emails. Instagram advises users to always keep the email and phone numbers associated with their device up to date, so the platform can reach them if something happens to their account, as well as aid the recovery process even when a hacker changes their information.

In addition, Instagram encourages users to report suspicious or spammy accounts and content to help the platform better combat attacks.

There has recently been an increase in malicious accounts direct messaging people to try and access sensitive information, such as account passwords, by falsely stating that the user account is at risk of being banned, that users are violating Instagram’s policies around intellectual property, or that their photos are being shared elsewhere.

Users are urged to report these accounts to Instagram which has stressed that it would never send a direct message to users and would only communicate through the emails from Instagram tab in settings.

“Instagram is a people’s platform, and we are at our strongest when our entire community is aware of and uses the safety features at their disposal,” said Diab Caceres.


Remembering Roger Harrison: He loved the Kingdom, and Saudis loved him back in equal measure

Remembering Roger Harrison: He loved the Kingdom, and Saudis loved him back in equal measure
Updated 19 October 2021

Remembering Roger Harrison: He loved the Kingdom, and Saudis loved him back in equal measure

Remembering Roger Harrison: He loved the Kingdom, and Saudis loved him back in equal measure
  • Family, friends and former colleagues mourn man of many talents with 25-year connection to Saudi Arabia


JEDDAH: Roger Harrison, who has died on the Spanish island of Mallorca at the age of 75, was a man of more than one career and many talents — among them an event organizer, a writer and photographer, a jeweler and gemologist, a lecturer and raconteur.
Here at Arab News, where he was a senior reporter from 2001 to 2013 covering Saudi affairs and expat life, he will be best remembered as a news magnet to whom stories simply happened.
Among Harrison’s many achievements was his work on the book Wings Over Arabia, a photographic record of a three-man glider team flying over and photographing spectacular and rarely seen areas of the Kingdom. The team included Prince Sultan bin Salman, the first Arab and Muslim astronaut, and Prince Bandar bin Khaled Al-Faisal.
In his preface to the book, Prince Bandar paid tribute to Harrison’s abilities and his work: “He captures the beauty of my country from a perspective that most of the population will never experience. I thank him sincerely for writing and photographing a definitive work that is both a fascinating story and, perhaps, a source of inspiration for future glider pilots.”
So fascinated was the British historian Robert Lacey by Harrison’s work that he wrote: “Lawrence of Arabia captured it from a camel. Roger Harrison captures it from the air. Both convey the magic of Arabia with breathtaking power.”
Harrison was also one of the last journalists to interview the famed explorer of Arabia and the Middle East, Sir Wilfred Thesiger, in 2002.
Stories had a way of coming to Harrison. One of his last visits to Saudi Arabia was in October 2019, when he was invited to a government-sponsored media conference just as visas on arrival became available to foreigners. Harrison flew into Jeddah from London, and offered to pay the visa fee by credit card, prompting a bank security request to enter a one-time password — which was sent to his cell phone back in London. It seemed an insoluble problem, but the Saudi officer at the airport offered to pay the fee. Harrison assured him he would be repaid as soon as the problem was sorted out, but the officer said: “You are our guest. You don’t have to worry.”
Later Harrison regaled the Arab News Jeddah newsroom with the tale, his eyes filling with tears as he told how a complete stranger had come unhesitatingly to his assistance. He loved Saudi Arabia, and the Saudis loved him back in equal measure.
Harrison was born in Eastbourne, England, in 1946. He arrived in Saudi Arabia with his wife Sian in September 1996, to teach at Jubail Industrial College, where he remained for four years. The couple then went back to London, but the Kingdom had made its mark on Harrison and he returned to Jeddah to teach English to the Saudi Navy.
Harrison’s career with Arab News began by accident — quite literally. He and his wife were involved in a collision with a car that came out of the desert and ran straight into them. Harrison wrote a letter to the newspaper describing the incident, and Arab News replied asking him to write it in the form of an article rather than a letter. The piece appeared on the front page under the headline: “Why throw yourself to death when you can drive there?” The article led to an offer of employment at Arab News.
“He loved the people he worked with and he loved the opportunities the paper gave him,” his wife Sian said. “He went to places he would never have visited and was even able to indulge his love of racing by test-driving cars he could never have owned. The articles he wrote, especially ‘Adam and Eid,’ showed the depth of his humanity and his love of Saudi Arabia and its people. There were so many articles that displayed this empathetic side of Roger. The one he wrote after the dreadful floods of Jeddah was more personal, about the many friends who helped us.”
The Harrisons left Jeddah in 2013 and went to live in Ras Al-Khaimah in the UAE. He had visited once to write an article, and liked the idea of being there while still close to Saudi Arabia. The couple’s son Ben, a newly qualified teacher, came from London to join them and applied for his first teaching post — in Riyadh. “Roger was thrilled the Harrison connection was continuing in the Kingdom and gave him a reason to visit,” Sian said. “Ben left Riyadh in 2019 and was going to accompany Roger on a trip to Saudi Arabia in January, when they wanted to do a follow-up to the Wings Over Arabia book, but this time from the ground.”
Ben Harrison hopes to return for a visit, and would love to be able to honor his father’s last wish.
In 2017, the Harrisons moved to Mallorca, which they knew well from visits over the years. Why Mallorca? “We had been visiting the beautiful Spanish island for over 20 years since my sister had moved to live there,” said Sian. “My mother also sold up and left London to live in Mallorca. She was very close to Roger. They loved to debate and had many spirited conversations, and the highlight of their week was a shopping trip to Lidl where they discussed anything and everything.”
Sian has received many messages of condolence from people who knew her husband. “They have shown me a side of him that truly shows the honorable and honest man he was, his old-fashioned values of being true to your word, his love for the Kingdom and the opportunities it gave him. I can’t stress enough how much being in Saudi Arabia meant to him.”
Harrison had great respect for Saudi Arabia, and was adamant in correcting people’s misconceptions about the Kingdom. He regularly called UK radio stations and wrote letters to various publications out of a sincere desire to set the record straight. As Prince Sultan bin Salman once said, Harrison knew more about Saudi Arabia than most Saudis.
“Although I never had the pleasure of working with Roger, I have crossed paths many times with him covering events in Jeddah in the early 2000s. He was full of passion for journalism and for the Kingdom, was kind to everyone around him and was always the first to arrive and last to leave during any press event,” said Faisal J. Abbas, current Editor in Chief of Arab News.
“Obviously, we at Arab News extend our condolences to Roger’s family, and on behalf of all the editors and colleagues he worked with in the past, we thank him for all the work he has done and all his contributions to our newspaper,” he added.
Harrison’s motto was: “Everybody dies, but some never live.” He lived a remarkable life in a remarkable country, and documented all that he could for future historians and writers of Arabia. He was a gentle soul, a humanist first and journalist last. Among those who admired and respected him is Razan Baker, director of international communication at the Saudi Arabian Olympic Committee.
“He touched many lives, including my own, and for that I consider myself lucky,” she said. “I was honored to know him as one of my dearest Arab News family members. He was always inspiring and motivating. Nothing was impossible for him. He was like a generous moving library that challenged us all to learn, be passionate about what we love and do, and try to do it better.”


Sudanese-British BBC anchor Zainab Badawi on her role as new president of SOAS

Born in Sudan, Badawi moved to England when she was 2 years old. (File/AFP)
Born in Sudan, Badawi moved to England when she was 2 years old. (File/AFP)
Updated 18 October 2021

Sudanese-British BBC anchor Zainab Badawi on her role as new president of SOAS

Born in Sudan, Badawi moved to England when she was 2 years old. (File/AFP)
  • Newly-appointed SOAS president, Zeinab Badawi, is a Sudanese-British television and radio journalist who is best known for hosting BBC’s “Hardtalk”
  • Throughout her successful journalistic career, Badawi interviewed some of the world’s most notable personalities and politicians

London: The School of Oriental and African Studies in London appointed award-winning broadcaster and journalist Zeinab Badawi as the university’s newest president. 

Badawi is a Sudanese-British television and radio journalist who is best known for hosting BBC’s “Hardtalk” and various other notable programs across the network, namely “The World” on BBC Four.

Badawi’s extensive ties with SOAS’ community stretch back to 1988, when she obtained a master’s degree in Middle East history and anthropology, graduating with distinction. In 2011, Badawi was awarded an honorary doctorate by SOAS for her services to international broadcasting.

“I’ve always maintained my ties with SOAS,” Badawi told Arab News. “I’ve attended meetings, receptions and talks. The Royal African society, of which I was chair, had very close links with the university. So, it wasn’t as though I had broken the umbilical cord of my connections with SOAS after I’d been there. I had maintained close ties.

“It was a no-brainer for me when I was asked to become president. It was something I accepted with great delight and honor,” she added.

Born in Sudan, Badawi moved to England when she was 2 years old. She recounted how, despite moving at a very young age, speaking Arabic in the house with her parents when she was growing up helped her stay connected to her Arab and African roots. 

“My identity with the African and Arab in me is not necessarily linked to a territory or having to occupy a place or a space in time,” Badawi highlighted. “It’s very much a connection through people, my parents, and my extended family, and I think that is why I have such an emotional connection with both Africa and the Arab world.”

Throughout her successful journalistic career, Badawi interviewed some of the world’s most notable personalities and politicians, including former Sudanese President Omar Al-Bashir, who was the first Sudanese president to be charged with war crimes.

“Al-Bashir had not spoken on the record in the international media at all, nor for that matter had he given an interview at length to anybody about this,” Badawi highlighted. 

“I was particularly proud to get that interview in 2009 because the events that unfolded later — the Sudanese revolution of 2019 that ousted Al-Bashir — had revived my interview with him, and I can see that my career had come full circle,” she added. 

On other influential interviews she conducted, Badawi revealed that her interview on BBC’s “Hardtalk” with former Archbishop of Cape Town Desmond Tutu had stuck with her throughout her journalistic career. 

“Tutu is a great South African, a great African and a great global humanitarian icon,” she said. “What I loved about interviewing him on ‘Hardtalk’ was that he took what he did very seriously without taking himself very seriously. And he was a man of immense humor. He often used humor to diffuse criticisms against him.”

Badawi’s honorary position as president of SOAS comes shortly after the university faced criticisms regarding anti-Semitic and racist rhetoric from prominent faculty members, namely Adam Habib, the director of SOAS.

However, Badawi says that SOAS has robust structures in place to deal with such controversies and that “if situations arise where people feel that they have grievances, such grievances should be dealt with in the appropriate way with full transparency, using all the proper governance structures at hand.”

Despite the bumps in the road, Badawi demonstrates that SOAS is increasingly asserting itself with great confidence in the UK and on the global stage. She looks forward to “strengthening current ties and forging new partnerships that will strengthen the foundations of SOAS.”