Facebook Activates Safety Check Tool after Brussels Attacks

Facebook has activated its Safety Check Tool as a response to the attacks that recently took place in Brussels. This is the second time that the social media giant has made the tool available to the public, as the first time was back in November when Paris was struck by similar terrorist attacks. The Safety Check Tool allows people to stay in touch in these moments of crisis, and most importantly, it allows them to tell their contacts that they are safe. The Red Cross has offered a similar online tool, which allowed users to say that they’re safe or to try to find others. However, Google’s Person Finder did not appear to be active. The internet has become an important tool in a time where attacks can come out of nowhere and take us completely by surprise.

That’s why the Belgian government actually turned to Twitter in order to inform the public about various closures, and in order to encourage them to use internet communications instead of telephone-based services. Apart from helping people reach out to one another, the internet also makes sure that these attacks receive widespread coverage. The UK police even asked those who have photos and videos of the bombings to upload them to its website in order to aid in the investigation. Even though Facebook’s effort to help the victims of these attacks is admirable, it’s probably safe to assume that most people actually called or texted their loved ones directly in order to inform them of their situation.

WhatsApp Messages Led to Belgian Terror Arrests

The FBI have been trying hard to get unlimited access messages passed by encrypted messaging services. However, it apparently didn’t need that level of access to WhatsApp messages sent between members of an alleged Chechen jihadist group operating in Belgium. According to reports released. A pair of men were arrested and warrants were issued for three others for allegedly preparing for a terrorist attack in Belgium.

Ars Technica posted:

“The arrests followed raids in which 16 people were detained, which Belgian law enforcement officials said was the result of “working with U.S. authorities to monitor suspects’ communications on WhatsApp Inc.’s messaging service,” Bloomberg’s Gaspard Sebag reported. The police investigation began after they obtained information about a man who had returned to Belgium after fighting as a jihadi in Syria.

Ars reached out to WhatsApp and to Facebook, which completed its acquisition of WhatsApp in October. A spokesperson from Facebook declined to comment on the matter.”

WhatsApp began encrypting their messages last November. In theory, if the encryption service was in use by the alleged terrorists, the content of their messages would have been very difficult to read; the protocol continuously changes pairs of encryption keys with each new message. But it’s uncertain that the messages were encrypted—particularly since the version of encryption is not supported by the Apple iOS version of WhatsApp, and group messages and images aren’t supported by WhatsApp for Andriod yet.

“Even if some of the messages remained protected by encryption, it’s possible that the FBI or NSA gathered metadata at the server for the messages. That metadata could have been used to establish the connections between the suspects and the wounded jihadi, which would have allowed the US agencies or Belgian law enforcement to do more targeted surveillance.”

Thank you to ArsTechnica for providing us with this information

Image courtesy of  RedmondPie

Researchers Say Facebook Tracking Violates European Union Privacy Law

Facebook had a lot of privacy concerns in the past, and it looks like they just keep on coming. Researchers from the Belgium data protection agency have also determined that Facebook’s latest web tracking policy violates the European Union privacy law.

What Facebook does is it uses cookies to track web visitors without permissions, whether they log in or take advantage of the EU’s proposed opt-out laws. Cookies themselves are only supposed to be used when the user is signed in and only for things users agree to. Facebook’s cookies however break that law by adding tracking cookies on the system in the EU, having the company tracking what users do regardless if they have opted out from tracking or not.

Facebook seems to be tackling these accusations with certain ‘issues’ it found, stating that the study has ‘factual issues’ and has offered resolve its problems with the Belgian government. Officials are said to have turned down requests so far, putting Facebook in a very tight spot should the company be forced to defend itself against the serious EU allegations in the near future.

Thank you Endgadget for providing us with this information

Haswell Powered Mini Macs Seen On Belgium Retailer Website, Launch Set For Next Month?

There hasn’t been any news about newer versions of Mac minis lately. Apple updated its entire Mac lineup in 2013, the MacBook Pro, MacBook Air and iMac models were refreshed with the latest Intel Haswell processors, whereas the Mac Pro received a complete makeover, including radical changes to its design. Apple is yet to mention the Mac mini, it didn’t reveal any plans pertaining to this particular Mac in 2013, so right now it’s not known for sure if and when the company is going to release the refreshed lineup.

However, the latest report indicate a retailer from Belgium has listed Core i5 and Core i7 Haswell configurations of the unannounced new Mac mini, but eventually removed the listing. Could it be that a little mistake has revealed what is to come in a few week’s time, or maybe a month? The retailer claims to have received this information from “reliable sources.” Retailers did see inventory tighten up towards the end of last year, which led to rumors about the upcoming launch of a refreshed lineup. It is also believed that Apple has carefully managed the Mac mini’s supply, only because it does not want the market to be flooded by inventory which ends up collecting dust in warehouses. Usually though, tight supply is often taken as a sign of an oncoming successor.

Whether or not we will see refreshed Core i5 and Core i7 Haswell mini Macs next month, we will just have to wait and see. The main reason we will never be certain until its release is that Apple is known for not giving any official announcements about their upcoming products before they actually get launched.

Thank you VR-Zone for providing us with this information
Image courtesy of Computerstore.de

Xbox One Delayed To 2014 For Eight European Countries

Microsoft has officially confirmed that eight European countries will get the console late, in 2014.  The eight countries who will experience a delay in the product’s arrival are Belgium, Denmark, Finland, Netherlands, Norway, Russia, Sweden and Switzerland. That said in November the Xbox One is still expected to arrive on time in Australia, Austria, Brazil, Canada, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Mexico, Spain, United Kingdom, United States and New Zealand.

Microsoft stated that: “We understand this will be disappointing news for our fans in the impacted countries, and we are doing everything we can to bring Xbox One to you as soon as possible next year.”

Those in the affected countries will be compensated with a free game if they had already pre-ordered an Xbox One before this announcement.  Microsoft did not disclose why they were experiencing delays in those countries but you can probably safely assume it is because Microsoft wants to focus its demand on the biggest markets first. Microsoft also didn’t state when in 2014 the delayed arrival would be for the affected countries, they merely disclosed “as soon as possible”.

Image courtesy of Microsoft