Daily Digest (7/6)

TikTok Distances From Beijing After App Ban by India; Singapore Researchers Create Visual-Distortion Technology; Social Security Numbers of Student Borrowers Exposed by Education Dept.; E-learning Platform Exposes Data of Over 1M North American Students. Click “Continue reading” below.

TikTok Distances From Beijing After App Ban by India

Social media app TikTok distanced itself from Beijing after India banned 59 Chinese apps in the country, according to a correspondence seen Friday by Reuters. 

In a June 28 letter to the Indian government, TikTok CEO Kevin Mayer said the Chinese government had never requested user data, nor would the company turn it over if asked.

TikTok, which is not available in China, is owned by China’s ByteDance but has sought to distance itself from its Chinese roots to reach a global audience.

Along with 58 other Chinese apps, including Tencent Holdings Ltd.’s WeChat and Alibaba Group Holding’s UC Browser, TikTok was banned in India last week after a border clash with China.

“I can confirm that the Chinese government has never made a request to us for the TikTok data of Indian users,” Mayer wrote, adding that data for such users was stored in servers in Singapore. “If we do ever receive such a request in the future, we would not comply.”

The letter was sent ahead of a likely meeting this week between the company and the government, one source familiar with the matter told Reuters.

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Singapore Researchers Create Visual-Distortion Technology

Researchers at the National University of Singapore (NUS) said they have created technology that restored individual privacy by making individual online images unrecognizable to even the most advanced facial-recognition technologies.

The research, which has been ongoing for more than six months, is targeted at countering the facial-recognition algorithms of big tech firms like Facebook and Google, The Straits Times reports.

The new technique, which has not been named, stops artificial-intelligence software from recognizing specific facial attributes, including gender and race, by introducing subtle visual distortions that do not affect image aesthetics that are discernible by human eyes.

“It’s too late to stop people from posting photos on social media,” said Mohan Kankanhalli, dean of the university’s School of Computing. “However, the reliance on AI is something we can target.”

The technology aims to overcome the limitations of current visual-distortion technologies, which ruin the aesthetics of photographs, as the images need to be heavily altered to fool the machines, according to the report.

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Social Security Numbers of Student Borrowers Exposed by Education Dept.

The U.S. Education Department left the Social Security numbers of tens of thousands of people seeking student debt relief unprotected and susceptible to a data breach for at least six months, according to a report by The Washington Post last week.

A department spokeswoman said no indication of the data being accessed outside the agency had been found, or that the information was handled improperly.

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E-learning Platform Exposes Data of Over 1M North American Students

Security researchers have discovered a leaky database belonging to the e-learning platform OneClass, a remote learning tool that provides educational assistance and study guides to millions of North American students.

Uncovered by researchers at vpnMentor during a routine Internet scan, the 27GB database included 8.9 million records, and was estimated to have improperly stored personal information of more than 1 million students, including those who had their membership rejected by the platform, Security Boulevard reports.

The exposed records contained such information as full names, email addresses, schools and universities attended, cellphone numbers, course enrollment data, and OneClass account details.

Some of the information could be linked to minors, researchers said, since the e-learning platform registers students as young as 13. Some findings also included such data as faculty details and access to different textbooks and online exercises.

The investigators reached out to the company on May 25, and OneClass secured the server within 24 hours, Security Boulevard reports.

However, OneClass denied any impact from the breach, saying that it involved a test server, and that the data could not be linked to actual students.

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— By DPN Staff