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Google’s change to Chrome’s login has ignited debate about whether the move was sneaky (GOOG, GOOGL) – Tech – Pulselive.co.ke

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  • Techies took to message boards, Twitter and their own blogs to debate whether changes Google made to the way people login to Chrome is a privacy threat.
  • Google quietly tucked a new feature into the latest Chrome update that automatically logs in users.
  • For many years, Chrome allowed users to surf the web via the browser without signing in. Now, if user sign into any of Google’s properties, they are signed in to Chrome.
  • Up until Matt Green wrote about the new login requirements, Google had said nothing about it. The company confirmed the change late Sunday night.

Google’s surprise change to a privacy setting in its popular Chrome web browser is raising hackles from privacy advocates and some users of the product who say that the company has not been upfront enough.

The change, which was little noticed until a security researcher blogged about it on Sunday night, has left the internet company fighting a familiar criticism: that its appetite for data to fuel its online ad business trumps its concerns about its users.

Matthew Green, a security and cryptography researcher from Johns Hopkins University blogged about the change Google quietly made as part of the browser’s latest update, Chrome 69. Green wrote that from now on, when people login in to YouTube, Gmail or any of the company’s properties, they will automatically be logged in to Chrome at the same time.

Late on Sunday night, Google responded to the growing controversy by confirming the login change.

This is dramatic change and a possible threat to users’ privacy, according to Green.

“Google believes they can make these changes without consequence,” said Marc Rotenberg, the president of consumer privacy advocacy group EPIC. “The privacy model is simply broken. Companies are constantly changing the rules of the game.”

What’s all the fuss about?

For years, Google allowed users of its Chrome browser to surf the web without logging in through a personal Google account. Chrome users didn’t have to worry that their web browsing history would be included with the other personal data Google maintains about registered users of its products. For that to happen, a user would have to sign in to Chrome and to consent to a “data sync” between Chrome and the other Google products they use.

Now that Google logs people in to Chrome automatically, managers have removed one of those steps of protection, Green wrote. What’s more, he said, a new and “confusing” sync-consent page, makes it easy for users to mistakenly give up their browsing data to Google.

Eric Lawrence, a former Google employee who worked on Chrome but is now employed by rival Microsoft, said he doesn’t see any reason to be alarmed.

“Yes, Chrome has streamlined the opt-in to the browser’s “Sync” features, such that you no longer need to individually type your username and password when enabling Sync,” Lawrence wrote. “Whether you consider this “Great!” or “Terrible!” is a matter of perception and threat model.”

Lawrence points out that when someone clicks the consent button, they will then get a pop-up that informs them of the information they are agreeing to share with Google.

In that prompt, Google notifies users that the company will collect info from users’ “bookmarks, passwords, history and more on all your devices…Google may use content on sites you visit, plus browser activity and interactions to personalize Chrome and other Google services like Translate, Search and ads.”

‘My heart skips a beat’

Plenty of people wrote that they don’t see this as a benign change, including former Googlers. Michał Zalewski, is a computer security expert and former Google employee. He sided with Green that Google has made Chrome less safe.

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“Don’t like to pile on,” Zalewski wrote on Twitter, “but I did rely on that as a visual confirmation that the browser is not doing something I didn’t want. Now, my heart skips a beat every time I see the profile-switch menu or chrome://settings – and it’d only take one mis-click to actually start syncing.”

Jon von Tetzchner, cofounder and CEO of Vivaldi Technologies and the Vivaldi browser, a rival to Chrome. He is also a frequent critic of Facebook and Google’s privacy practices. In an interview with Business Insider, von Tetzchner said that it’s disturbing Google has combined the logins for its properties. He said Vivaldi requires users to sign in and go through a separate process before syncing data and he doesn’t believe the login procedures Google has adopted are common practice across the browser business.

“My impression is that Google and Facebook are unique,” he said. “They recognize where you’ve been and what you’ve done, online and off. They are gradually collecting more and more information about you.”

In tweets from Google, the company said that it made the change because of confusion caused when two Chrome users were using the same computer. Their browser data was potentially getting mixed up. Green outlined his skepticism about this in his blog.

“Google’s reputation is hard-earned, and it can be easily lost,” Green wrote. “Changes like this burn a lot of trust with users. If the change is solving an absolutely critical problem for users , then maybe a loss of trust is worth it. I wish Google could convince me that was the case.”



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Public officers above 58 years and with pre-existing conditions told to work from home: The Standard

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Head of Public Service Joseph Kinyua. [File, Standard]
In a document from Head of Public Service, Joseph Kinyua new measure have been outlined to curb the bulging spread of covid-19. Public officers with underlying health conditions and those who are over 58 years -a group that experts have classified as most vulnerable to the virus will be required to execute their duties from home.

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However, the new rule excluded personnel in the security sector and other critical and essential services.
“All State and public officers with pre-existing medical conditions and/or aged 58 years and above serving in CSG5 (job group ‘S’) and below or their equivalents should forthwith work from home,” read the document,” read the document.
To ensure that those working from home deliver, the Public Service directs that there be clear assignments and targets tasked for the period designated and a clear reporting line to monitor and review work done.
SEE ALSO: Thinking inside the cardboard box for post-lockdown work stations
Others measures outlined in the document include the provision of personal protective equipment to staff, provision of sanitizers and access to washing facilities fitted with soap and water, temperature checks for all staff and clients entering public offices regular fumigation of office premises and vehicles and minimizing of visitors except by prior appointments.
Officers who contract the virus and come back to work after quarantine or isolation period will be required to follow specific directives such as obtaining clearance from the isolation facility certified by the designated persons indicating that the public officer is free and safe from Covid-19. The officer will also be required to stay away from duty station for a period of seven days after the date of medical certification.
“The period a public officer spends in quarantine or isolation due to Covid-19, shall be treated as sick leave and shall be subject to the Provisions of the Human Resource Policy and procedures Manual for the Public Service(May,2016),” read the document.
The service has also made discrimination and stigmatization an offence and has guaranteed those affected with the virus to receive adequate access to mental health and psychosocial supported offered by the government.
The new directives targeting the Public Services come at a time when Kenyans have increasingly shown lack of strict observance of the issued guidelines even as the number of positive Covid-19 cases skyrocket to 13,771 and leaving 238 dead as of today.
SEE ALSO: Working from home could be blessing in disguise for persons with disabilities
Principal Secretaries/ Accounting Officers will be personally responsible for effective enforcement and compliance of the current guidelines and any future directives issued to mitigate the spread of Covid-19.

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Uhuru convenes summit to review rising Covid-19 cases: The Standard

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President Uhuru Kenyatta (pictured) will on Friday, July 24, meet governors following the ballooning Covid-19 infections in recent days.
The session will among other things review the efficacy of the containment measures in place and review the impact of the phased easing of the restrictions, State House said in a statement.
This story is being updated.
SEE ALSO: Sakaja resigns from Covid-19 Senate committee, in court tomorrow

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Drastic life changes affecting mental health

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Kenya has been ranked 6th among African countries with the highest cases of depression, this has triggered anxiety by the World Health Organization (WHO), with 1.9 million people suffering from a form of mental conditions such as depression, substance abuse.

KBC Radio_KICD Timetable

Globally, one in four people is affected by mental or neurological disorders at some point in their lives, this is according to the WHO.

Currently, around 450 million people suffer from such conditions, placing mental disorders among the leading causes of ill-health and disability worldwide.

The pandemic has also been known to cause significant distress, mostly affecting the state of one’s mental well-being.

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With the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic attributed to the novel Coronavirus disease, millions have been affected globally with over 14 million infections and half a million deaths as to date. This has brought about uncertainty coupled with difficult situations, including job loss and the risk of contracting the deadly virus.

In Kenya the first Coronavirus case was reported in Nairobi by the Ministry of Health on the 12th March 2020.  It was not until the government put in place precautionary measures including a curfew and lockdown (the latter having being lifted) due to an increase in the number of infections that people began feeling its effect both economically and socially.

A study by Dr. Habil Otanga,  a Lecturer at the University of Nairobi, Department of Psychology says  that such measures can in turn lead to surge in mental related illnesses including depression, feelings of confusion, anger and fear, and even substance abuse. It also brings with it a sense of boredom, loneliness, anger, isolation and frustration. In the post-quarantine/isolation period, loss of employment due to the depressed economy and the stigma around the disease are also likely to lead to mental health problems.

The Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) states that at least 300,000 Kenyans have lost their jobs due to the Coronavirus pandemic between the period of January and March this year.

KNBC noted that the number of employed Kenyans plunged to 17.8 million as of March from 18.1 million people as compared to last year in December. The Report states that the unemployment rate in Kenya stands at 13.7 per cent as of March this year while it stood 12.4 per cent in December 2019.

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Mama T (not her real name) is among millions of Kenyans who have been affected by containment measures put in place to curb the spread of the virus, either by losing their source of income or having to work under tough guidelines put in place by the MOH.

As young mother and an event organizer, she has found it hard to explain to her children why they cannot go to school or socialize freely with their peers as before.

“Sometimes it gets difficult as they do not understand what is happening due to their age, this at times becomes hard on me as they often think I am punishing them,”

Her contract was put on hold as no event or public gatherings can take place due to the pandemic. This has brought other challenges along with it, as she has to find means of fending for her family expenditures that including rent and food.

“I often wake up in the middle of the night with worries about my next move as the pandemic does not exhibit any signs of easing up,” she says. She adds that she has been forced to sort for manual jobs to keep her family afloat.

Ms. Mary Wahome, a Counseling Psychologist and Programs Director at ‘The Reason to Hope,’ in Karen, Nairobi says that such kind of drastic life changes have an adverse effect on one’s mental status including their family members and if not addressed early can lead to depression among other issues.

“We have had cases of people indulging in substance abuse to deal with the uncertainty and stress brought about by the pandemic, this in turn leads to dependence and also domestic abuse,”

Sam Njoroge , a waiter at a local hotel in Kiambu, has found himself indulging in substance abuse due to challenges he is facing after the hotel he was working in was closed down as it has not yet met the standards required by the MOH to open.

“My day starts at 6am where I go to a local pub, here I can get a drink for as little as Sh30, It makes me suppress the frustration I feel.” he says.

Sam is among the many who have found themselves in the same predicament and resulted to substance abuse finding ways to beat strict measures put in place by the government on the sale of alcohol so as to cope.

Mary says, situations like Sam’s are dangerous and if not addressed early can lead to serious complications, including addiction and dependency, violent behavior and also early death due to health complications.

She has, however, lauded the government for encouraging mental wellness and also launching the Psychological First Aid (PFA) guide in the wake of the virus putting emphasis on the three action principal of look, listen and link. “When we follow this it will be easy to identify an individual in distress and also offer assistance”.

Mary has urged anyone feeling the weight of the virus taking a toll on them not to hesitate but look for someone to talk to.

“You should not only seek help from a specialist but also talk to a friend, let them know what you are undergoing and how you feel, this will help ease their emotional stress and also find ways of dealing with the situation they are facing,” She added

Mary continued to stress on the need to perform frequent body exercises as a form of stress relief, reading and also taking advantage of this unfortunate COVID-19 period to engage in hobbies and talent development.

“Let people take this as an opportunity to kip fit, get in touch with one’s inner self and  also engage in   reading that would  help expand their knowledge.

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