Connecticut Attorney General Requests Meeting with TikTok over ‘Slap A Teacher’ Challenge

(Image from Solen Feyissa on Flickr ||

Connecticut Attorney General William Tong (D) has requested to meet with Tiktok CEO Shou Zi Chew over concerns of potential safety issues of a rising ‘Slap a Teacher’ Challenge trend and other impacts of Tiktok on Connecticut students.

In the letter that was addressed to Tiktok’s CEO, Attorney General Tong notes that a high school in New Britain, Connecticut recently had to shut down because of the “Devious Lick” trend on Tiktok. Educators in the school gave reports of “stolen school property, clogged toilets, and excessive vandalism” due to the challenge that was viral on the app in September. Tiktok has since removed “Devious Lick” content from its platform and Tong commends the company for that in his letter.

However, Attorney General Tong is calling upon Tiktok again because of the threat to educators with the rising “Slap a Teacher” Tiktok challenge. According to an article by The Hill, this dangerous challenge was set to begin in October, but does not seem to have caught on significantly. The challenge “involves a student calmly approaching a teacher and slapping them”. While attempts of this challenge have not yet been reported in Connecticut, parents in Lancaster County, South Carolina, were warned of an incident where an elementary student allegedly participated in the challenge, striking a teacher in the back of the head.

The Connecticut Attorney General ends the letter with a request for a detailed outline of the platform’s policies and procedures against misuse and abuse of content by Tiktok users and to “thoroughly analyze” why these measures are currently inadequate. He finally asks the CEO to meet with himself, educators and parents to hear first hand the effects the content on their app has on the youth of Connecticut. You can read the full letter below:

Overall, we see the real life effects social media has on today’s youth and how it can be harmful or dangerous to themselves or others. While being able to proceed without large consequences in the past, many social media companies are now having to create new regulations for their user base in order to protect children and other groups.

Choi, Joseph. “State AG seeks meeting with TikTok CEO over ‘Slap a Teacher’ challenge” The Hill, 04 October, 2021.


New Social Media Restrictions for Children: Britain’s attempt to pave the way for a safer internet

kaspars Grinvalds/Shutterstock.)

This past Thursday Britain introduced a set of regulations designed to protect children online. Overnight platforms the likes of TikTok, Instagram, and Youtube have responded by doing just that threatened by the possibility of having to pay multimillion-dollar fines. Rather than applying the new mandatory “age-appropriate design code” specifically to the UK, the aforementioned social media platforms have opted to change internationally to meet this new standard. This meaningful change to the online landscape as brought on by the mid-sized country of Britain potentially signals a positive change for the global internet. This, in the way that it implies that the tech industry is no longer all but exempt from broader regulation. oddly enough this major online regulatory step was met with little attention despite the UK’s stated goal of becoming the “safest place in the world to be online”. The code in question was introduced as an amendment to the data protection act 2018, a technical piece of legislation intended mostly to implement GDPR into UK law. The code in question applies to all online services that are used by children and require that said services at least identify younger users and treat them with care. The code prohibits several predatory practices including. One, “nudge” techniques that encourage children to divulge more of their private information than is necessary. Two, anything considered to be more than the minimization of data harvesting from children. And Three, giving anything less than the maximum amount of security for children’s accounts. Where adamant lobbying opposing these regulations was expected the world’s largest companies have instead made substantial changes and, what’s more, insisted that they wanted to make this manner of change to their platforms all along. Whatever the next step is is controlled by the Information Commissioner’s Office or “ICO” as this party controls when and whether to enforce fines for breaches of this regulation. A major factor that is still up in the air is whether or not children will accept their being treated differently online or if they’ll just use their tech-savvy to skirt around regulation. Regardless of what it is children decide to do it is pivotal that the internet is acknowledged as curating the experience of childhood as we move further into the digital age.

This article interests me for the reason that it pertains to what I perceive to be positive broader internet regulation. This is because such change is rarely if ever properly enforced or implemented at all despite its growing importance. This article also interests me because of the broader implications of the implementation of software that is restrictive to children in an age where children are increasingly tech-savvy. This is to say that I think it’ll be interesting to see how children react to being given the power to restrict their own activity on the internet with the context that it’s “for their own good”.

Hern, Alex. “Social Media Giants Increase Global Child Safety after UK Regulations Introduced.” The Guardian, Guardian News and Media, 5 Sept. 2021,

The Department of Defense is Warning People Not To Use Tiktok And Here’s Why:

The App Tiktok has taken over social media it seems, with tens of millions of Americans downloading the app just this year, but with these increased downloads came a great deal of controversy surrounding the app.

For those who are unfamiliar with the app, TikTok is a popular social media app that allows users to express themselves by uploading and share short-form videos. However, because the app is developed by a Chinese company, there has been a lingering concern that information of U.S. citizens could be compromised or revealed. For this reason, the Defense Department is particularly worried–especially as it relates to military personnel.

Specifically, The Department of Defense created an advisory memo in regards to the app which stated that:

TikTok (formerly application 12.2.0 for Android and iOS performs unencrypted transmission of images, videos, and likes. This allows an attacker to extract private sensitive information by sniffing network traffic.

Now, although changes have been made to the app since then that claim that user information is safe, there have still been national concerns surrounding the app and security.

If you are an avid Tiktok user, how does this make you feel?

Zoom Sued for Sharing Personal Data with Facebook

Zoom Video Communications is under serious scrutiny as they have been caught giving personal data of users to outside companies such as Facebook. The popular web-camming company that has gained popularity due to the Coronavirus outbreak is under serious legal troubles.

A lawsuit filed Monday stated that Zoom’s software would give information about the user such as the device the person is using, device’s model and the device’s advertising identifier.

“The unique advertising identifier allows companies to target the user with advertisements,” the lawsuit states. “This information is sent to Facebook by Zoom regardless of whether the user has an account with Facebook.”

Zoom officials have said they have changed the practices after they were caught.

After a news report by Vice Media, CEO of Zoom, Eric Yuan, said the data sharing began after a user signed up for Zoom through facebook. He says, “Our customer’s privacy is incredibly important to us, and therefore we decided to remove Facebook SDK (Software Development Kit) in our client and have reconfigured the feature so that users will still be able to login with Facebook via their browser.”

The lawsuit goes further, claiming Zoom was being paid to share data. Court documents won’t disclose how much money Zoom allegedly received.

New York Attorney General Letitia James is asking Zoom to provide details on how they will change their practices to ensure user privacy. Zoom may have a hard time transitioning privacy practices because of the already intact data sharing system.

As Zoom is becoming more popular due to the work from home lifestyle everyone is adapting to, more hackers are using it as a medium to spread hate messages. Also as stocks have been hit hard, Zoom’s stock has soared 46%.


The Hottest Parties In The Country Are Now At Your Fingertips And Here’s Why

With the spread of the coronavirus causing quarantine to be in full effect, all social gatherings of any and all sorts have been put to a halt. With this, many night-life seeking individuals have felt deprived of fun, entertainment, and a means to socialize, but on Friday, March 21st, this problem found a solution.

On Friday night, the world mourning the loss of loved ones, freedom, and access to the world due to the coronavirus were able to let loose, unwind, and partake in the biggest social gathering around the world without the fear of spreading or contracting the virus.

According to the NY Times,

Over 4,000 people were in attendance, including headliners like Jennifer Lopez, Drake, Naomi Campbell, Diddy, Mary J. Blige, DJ Khaled, T.I., Queen Latifah and Tracee Ellis Ross.

There was no charge at the door, no security, no drink minimum and you could attend in your pajamas from the comfort of your own home.

This party, (you guessed it) was online and available to anyone who had access to an Instagram account. The party was called ‘Homeschoolin’ and could be found on DJ Nice’s Instagram live–where he held hour-long jam sessions from his home in Los Angeles (playing all of the hits, new and old, but you never heard the same song twice with his mixes.)

With the tragedy of the coronavirus negatively impacting our world and changing the ways in which we navigate our lives, partying on social media apps–that are designed to allow people to spend time together without having to see one another in person, has both eliminated the risk of spreading the virus and brought an abundance of joy to those who have not been able to leave their homes amongst the pandemic.


The Teens Who Hacked Microsoft’s Xbox Empire – And Went Too Far

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This article tells the story of a young man named David Pokora, a student at the University of Toronto who had a fascination for the inner workings of videogames, and mostly for the Xbox. Throughout his elementary school years, Pokora mastered the world of gaming and started to learn coding, which enabled him to do high level hacking at a very young age and pulling him into online hacking communities that were redefining what game consoles could do. He even managed to buy a development motherboard from a Wells Fargo tech manager in California, which allowed him to continue hacking Xbox systems as developers got rid of security flaws present in previous generations of consoles.

As Pokora and his circle of friends in Canada grew stronger in their hacking skills, they started stealing beta versions of unreleased software, angering the pros behind game development from who they started receiving messages of both anger and praise. Pokora’s actions, in his own perspective, were all in good will and just for fun. They involved tweaking codes here and there in order to modify small things one can do inside a game, like making characters jump into the clouds, fire different projectiles, and turn blue skies into rain. When he started selling hacks to gamers on Xbox live around 2009, he forgot about his commitment to fairness and started making thousands of dollars by providing gamers with hacks that could, for example, make Call of Duty soldiers fly, walk through walls, and sprint at abnormal speeds. With around $8,000 flowing in from paying customers on a busy night of gaming, Pokora had to hire employees to administer the madness of selling hacks.

Things started to get a more intense as Pokora partnered with another Australian gamer who lured him into invading the most private data of Epic, a North Carolina game development company. While reading Epic’s emails, they found out about an FBI investigation that was being launched on how their security had been breached and game software stolen. The investigation, however, quickly died down and the hackers thought they had gotten away with their first encounter with the law.

After other situations involving crimes such as breaking into the Microsoft headquarters and counterfeiting an Xbox prototype, Pokora and his friends ended up waist deep in secret investigations involving their names, which they did not know about until officials arrested them.

Pokora, after spending the entire winter of 2014 on his usual routine of hacking Xbox games, decided to take a trip down to Delaware to pick up a bumper he’d ordered online for his car. He brought his father to take turns behind the wheel as they did not plan to pay for any lodging in the U.S. and wanted to get in and out as quickly as possible. “There is a chance I might get arrested,” Pokora jokingly told his father as they left Toronto. As they crossed the border, he was detained and held in a private prison in Ohio until his court date, and was later sentenced to 18 months in prison for wire fraud, identity theft, and conspiracy to steal trade secrets. The people who worked with him over the span of five years also got their share legal predicaments. Nathan Leroux, the high school kid from Indiana who helped Pokora build the counterfeit prototype, faced 23 months in prison and escaped his house-arrest in the United States while awaiting trial, paying a friend to smuggle him into Canada. When officials surrounded him while trying to run across the bridge into Canadian soil, he pulled out a knife and stabbed himself multiple times.

All the people involved in these hacking cases have now left prison and returned to normal life at various levels of success. Pokora re enrolled at the University of Toronto upon his return to Canada. “Pokora still struggles to understand how his love for programming warped into an obsession that knocked his moral compass so far askew. “As much as I consciously made the decisions I did, I never meant for it to get as bad as it did,” he says. “I mean, I wanted access to companies to read some source code, I wanted to learn, I wanted to see how far it could go—that was it. It was really just intellectual curiosity. I didn’t want money—if I wanted money, I would’ve taken all the money that was there. But, I mean, I get it—what it turned into, it’s regrettable.””

British Government To Hit Facebook With A Light Slap On The Wrist Over Cambridge Analytica Scandal.




The British Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) has successfully gotten Facebook to agree to pay a five hundred thousand pound fine over their Cambridge Analytica scandal. Cambridge Analytica is a now defunct political consulting firm based out of Britain. The firm used calculated and unethical methods of data collection in order to provide highly valuable information to their customers. Cambridge Analytica was actively involved in politics in dozens of countries internationally. 

The ICO initially announced to the public that it would be attempting to fine facebook in July of 2018, only to officially serve the fine 3 months later. This is a common tactic done in order to catch companies off guard and not let them come up with a public statement that they can immediately release. Facebook appealed this fine, stating that they had not received any information that the ICO had on the matter, and in turn, were not being tried fairly. It’s important to note that Facebook has agreed to pay the fine only if they are to receive documents related to the case. Another stipulation of the settlement is that Facebook is not admitting liability.  

Facebook profited almost 56 billion dollars in 2018. That’s just over 43 billion pounds. Because of laws in the European Union, the British government could only fine Facebook a max of 500,000 pounds. This minor fine is nothing to them, though they still chose to appeal it. It seems likely that the money had little to do with Facebook’s appeal and that they were more interested in their image as well as valuable information they could get on Cambridge Analytica. It is also possible that admitting liability could provide grounds for further prosecution in other countries such as the US. Facebook is under international scrutiny and one can understand how they would take anything they can get their hands on in order to ensure security. This information could also give them insight into CA’s methods that might help them with future advertising tactics. While it’s important that Facebook is not being let off the leash, as this could incentivize them to prioritize security in the future, we must understand that this monetarily was nothing but a drop in the bucket.

YouTube and Channel Operators Sued Over Children’s Privacy: The Fight Against Targeted Ads


Image Source: Getty Images, BBC News

It is no secret in the modern digital age that tracking our data while online is happening. Many describe this process so sophisticated and in depth that data collectors essentially can create a digital identity of all online consumers from the information they are capable of collecting. The advertising industry is no stranger to these kind of tracking methods often paying large amounts of money to receive information from data mining companies in order to better target consumers on the web.

Recently, YouTube and a multitude of some of its biggest channel operators including Hasbro, Mattel, and Cartoon Network are being hit with a new lawsuit claiming these organizations have illegally tracked young children to serve them with targeted ads on the platform.

California resident Nichole Hubbard filed a class action complaint last week claiming her child who was a frequent consumer of Hasbro’s “My Little Pony Office” on YouTube has fallen victim to this tracking.

Google and the channel operators collected my son’s personal information for the purposes of tracking, profiling, and targeting him with advertisements” (Hubbard, U.S. District Court San Jose).

This is far from the first lawsuit filed by concerned parents claiming that giant media companies and data collectors have actively and “fraudulently” tried to hide their acts of tracking children of a certain age and using their data to target them with advertisements on popular platforms online. Researchers have expressed their findings that companies like Google use their algorithms to collect “ill-gotten” data from billions of children’s YouTube video views.

These allegations if proven true are a direct violation of The Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act which “prohibits companies from knowingly collecting personal information — including web-browsing data that is used to target ads — from children under 13, without their parents’ permission” (FTC). Google has been a long time promoter of YouTube to children’s companies such as Mattel and Hasbro as a top platform to reach the eyes of young children.

While the investigation is ongoing, two months ago Google was involved in a similar lawsuit when they agreed to pay 170 million to settle allegations against the FTC and New York Attorney General when YouTube was found guilty for collecting data from children under the age of 13 on the platform.

Personally, I believe these lawsuits and arising issues are far from over in the new digital age that is arising, especially towards specific platforms that some field executives deem to be the most powerful influences in the world. Big data and the concerns behind it are only growing as countless companies are finding more precise and intrusive ways to not only target specific users, but sell it for high profit to third party vendors looking to use strategic advertising.

We are at a point in digital media and data information where a breaking point is on the rise. We essentially have two specific identities in the modern era that will follow us forever which is our physical entity, and our identity online. Media companies and data collectors are recognizing the ways they can now reach and impact our lives through the online network, therefore extremely strict and proper regulations/penalties must be set in motion by our governments to essentially save humans basic rights especially when it comes to children.




Your Privacy does not matter when you Stream

Recent deals involving Roku and other companies have expanded the surveillance infrastructure that operates in the background of streaming services.

Welcome to the 21st century, where soon there will be more than just Netflix or Hulu streaming content to us. Coming very soon many different corporations and media tech companies will be unveiling their “new” streaming service, Disney+, Apple TV Plus, and Peacock just to name a few. What is creating all these streaming services is not the desire to share their content with you on their platform, it’s to make money, and the main way these companies do that is through advertising and data collection but the methods used to get the ad to you is coming from a dangerous place. 

Data collection is becoming the new currency for these streaming giants. They are able to collect data based on what shows you are watching, what device you are using to watch, your location, and so many other factors that create a pretty clear internet footprint of who you are and what interests you. These streaming companies collect all this data and use it to target you with widely specific advertisements. With streaming service becoming more and more popular, advertising companies now have a real-time data stream on their users that has never existed before with traditional television but with all this information being tracked and all the money the data is worth sometimes our privacy takes a back-seat for these companies so they can make some extra money. 

Advertisers are starting to shift spending from traditional television to streaming services by the tune of 3.8 billion dollars and many companies are trying to get on the money. With this rise in advertising within the streaming industry, many users of the streaming services are at risk of having their data taken without their knowledge. In recent years, tech giants such as Vizio TV and Samba TV has been accused of gathering and selling your data without your knowledge just by using your TV but even just knowing that these companies are doing this is not enough because this is such new ground, there are no laws or regulations in this data collection industry. Trackers and other software that collect our data on these platforms happen without us knowing and behind our backs only to target with super specific ads and without and rules data collection is only going to become more corrupt.


Apple Notifies When Their Users’ Location is Being Used

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Third-party app tracking has been an issue for the past 5 to 7 years. As our technology becomes more connected, people start to see the dangers this connectivity can pose. Todd Haselton of CNBC wrote an article talking about how Apple’s new iOS software will alert its users when an app is tracking the user’s location. Many phone users keep their location services turned on because it gives them easier access to map and GPS services, they get alerts for the area they are in, and some apps have filters for the user’s location. Haselton urges users iPhone users to pay attention to this alert because location services is how apps like Facebook or Uber target ads to you, they sell all your data to third-parties and allowing them to have your location means they will track you all day and understand what a user does day-to-day. How much time one spends at work, do they buy lunch or pack lunch? Do they eat lunch at all? Do they use public transport? etc. Apps that can track a user’s location can learn all this information and Apple warning users is a great step towards better privacy.

Another interesting point brought up in this article is the use of Bluetooth as a mode of tracking. Android and Apple phones are both making a big push towards wireless everything. Anyone with an iPhone 10 now has airpods, which are headphones that require the use of Bluetooth. Hasleton talks about how apps like, “Dunkin’ Donuts, ESPN Fantasy, GroupMe, CVS, Amazon and others had access to Bluetooth, which could give them the ability to track my location through Bluetooth beacons on storefronts and in other public venues” (Hasleton 2019). Personally, I did not know that Bluetooth connectivity could help track location. It is a bit scary that storefronts have receptors to collect your data while you shop. This phenomenon is not new, but this is a new way to track customers. I knew that apps automatically turn on every permission, but it is a bit annoying that phones do that without the user’s knowledge and then bury the app permissions, so the user has to dig to stop this. It is good on Apple for reminding the users that these apps are using their information and location past when the user allows the app to use it. Although there are so many more steps to take for users to feel safe, this move from Apple will hopefully have users (not just Apple users also) wake up that their data is always being collected.