Facebook has been paying people to install a VPN that harvests data about them

An investigation has revealed that Facebook has been paying people aged between 13 and 35 to install a data harvesting VPN tool. The "Facebook Research" VPN was offered to iOS and Android users who were paid up to $20 per month -- plus referral commissions -- to provide the social network with near-unfettered access to phone, app and web usage data (a Root Certificate is installed to give a terrifying level of access).

As news of the activity came to light, Facebook has announced that the program (sometimes referred to as Project Atlas) is being terminated on iOS, but it seems that it will be continuing on Android. If this sounds slightly familiar, you just need to think back a few months to when Facebook's Onavo Protect VPN was kicked out of the App Store for violating Apple's data collection rules.
The investigation was carried out by TechCrunch. It found that Facebook has been using the research program for some time to "gather data on usage habits". Facebook's Research was made available through a range of beta testing services, and in this way the app was able to "sidestep" the App Store. TechCrunch says that users were asked to install the app and provide "root access to network traffic in what may be a violation of Apple policy so the social network can decrypt and analyze their phone activity".
While Facebook has said it will close down the iOS branch of its Research program, it is not clear if this is being done voluntarily, or whether Apple has leaned on the company. It also seems that the Android side of things will continue to run -- at least for the time being.
Speaking to TechCrunch, Will Strafach from Guardian Mobile Firewall said:
If Facebook makes full use of the level of access they are given by asking users to install the Certificate, they will have the ability to continuously collect the following types of data: private messages in social media apps, chats from in instant messaging apps -- including photos/videos sent to others, emails, web searches, web browsing activity, and even ongoing location information by tapping into the feeds of any location tracking apps you may have installed.
An agreement users of one of the beta services signed up to gives a glimpse into the depth of the data collection:
By installing the software, you're giving our client permission to collect data from your phone that will help them understand how you browse the internet, and how you use the features in the apps you've installed. This data will only be used by our client, and won't be shared with unaffiliated third parties. This means you're letting our client collect information such as which apps are on your phone, how and when you use them, data about your activities and content within those apps, as well as how other people interact with you or your content within those apps.
What is slightly concerning (on top of the data collection itself) is, as TechCrunch's Josh Constine points out, is that people agreeing to using the beta app may not even have been aware that it was linked to Facebook:

Apple banned Facebook's VPN/surveillance app Onavo last year, but Fb kept paying people to install its similar Research app through Apple's enterprise certificate program meant for employee-only apps 2/

View image on Twitter
Facebook hid its identity but had intermediaries like uTest advertise to teens on Snapchat & Instagram that they could earn money via "social media research" aka selling their privacy. 3/ pic.twitter.com/9ohODeYXxM

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Strafach notes that this research project does not just have echoes of the scandalous Onavo VPN app; it appears to be precisely the same:

the "Facebook Research" app can be found here, accessible by anyone + signed with the Enterprise Certificate, an unauthenticated server owned by Facebook: r[.]facebook-program[.]com/ios/stable/manifest[.]plist (this will likely get yanked by FB very soon)
they didn't even bother to change the function names, the selector names, or even the "ONV" class prefix. it's literally all just Onavo code with a different UI. pic.twitter.com/ruqH69pUfq

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Facebook has taken exception to the investigation and the way TechCrunch has presented its findings. A spokesperson for the company said:
Key facts about this market research program are being ignored. Despite early reports, there was nothing "secret" about this; it was literally called the Facebook Research App. It wasn't "spying" as all of the people who signed up to participate went through a clear on-boarding process asking for their permission and were paid to participate. Finally, less than 5 percent of the people who chose to participate in this market research program were teens. All of them with signed parental consent forms.

It remains to be seen how long the Facebook Research app will remain available to Android users.

A New Year Google Play Store Update Has Arrived

Everyone who owns an Android powered smartphone knows just how important the Play Store is and therefore, no one should be shocked to find out that Google’s developers are constantly releasing updates for the service. For those who are not familiar with the Play Store, this is the platform where all the Android apps, services and games can be found. Nonetheless, a brand-new update has been released for the Play Store and today we are going to cover everything there is to know about it.

Google Play Store Update

Right from the start, the first thing that we need to mention is that this update is available in the form of APK. The update changes Play Store’s build number into “12.9.12” and since it’s an APK, all Android fans who want to get it need to do it manually, but more on that later. Now, let’s see what the update contains.

Maintenance Update

Android fans should be pleased to know that the new APK is a maintenance update. The reason why we are saying that is because the update introduces a bunch of bug fixes that improve the stability of the service. With that being said, all Android fans should make sure to get the new APK because it’s going to significantly improve the stability of all their apps, services and games.

Android Package Kit

As previously mentioned, APK updates need to be manually downloaded and installed. This is the case with all APK updates and it gives Android fans a chance to get their hands on the new update ahead of everyone else. However, Android fans who don’t want to install the update themselves can simply wait a couple of weeks because Google is eventually going to roll it OTA (over the air).

How to Use an Android Phone As a Webcam For PC [Windows and Linux].

Don’t have a webcam, but need to record a video for Facebook or YouTube? Perhaps you already have a webcam and want to add a second camera to your setup?

All you need is your Android phone and a suitable app. Here’s how to use your Android smartphone as a webcam.
Why Use Your Android Phone as a Webcam?

You’re caught short. Your children want to chat with their grandparents over Skype. Or perhaps it’s your boss, wanting a teleconference to discuss that report you submitted.

But you don’t have a webcam.

Although they come built into many monitors and all-in-one PCs, not everyone has a webcam. Peripheral webcams are popular, but they can prove tricky to install and temperamental even when they’re set up correctly.

The solution is something we’ve covered previously, but that method no longer works. Arguably the best—perhaps really the only—choice you should make is to install DroidCam. It’s an Android app that turns your smartphone (and if you have a good device for grabbing it, your tablet) into a handy, portable webcam.
Before You Start, Think About Stability

You’re about to discover how simple it is to turn your Android device into a webcam. But before you do that, it’s time to think about stability.

No one wants to watch a video feed where the image constantly shakes around and blurs. To overcome this, you’ll need to find somewhere safe to stand your phone. This might be something simple, like a Popsocket to lean against, or even Lego bricks.

As long as you have some means of propping up your phone, the video feed should be clear and stable. You might have a case that lets you stand the phone. If not, look at a tripod designed for smartphones. What's the Best Phone Tripod? What's the Best Phone Tripod? For most people, smartphone cameras have become good enough to replace proper cameras. From shooting videos to taking that perfect landscape photo, your handset does a terrific job.

Now, here are two solutions that’ll turn any Android phone into a webcam. 

Method 1: DroidCam Wireless Webcam

DroidCam comes in two parts: a free Android app from Google Play (with a premium version also available), and the desktop client component, which is available from Dev47Apps for Windows and Linux.

Begin by installing the Android app. With this done, switch your attention to your PC. After downloading that app, unzip and run it, following any onscreen instructions.

Once launched, you’ll see a prompt to input the IP address for your DroidCam. This should be easy to find—just run the app on your phone and it shows, as well as the port number. Back on the desktop client, you’ll notice that it is possible to stream audio from your phone. You can also adjust video quality; choose from low, normal, and high.

Should you opt to connect via USB, all you’ll need is the USB cable that came with your phone.

When you’re ready to proceed, click Start to begin streaming. The mobile app will then send the image from your phone’s camera to your computer. For devices with two cameras, tap the Settings button on the mobile app and check the appropriate box to switch to the camera you want to use.

Although the free version of DroidCam offers some good options, it isn’t perfect. For instance, you can only use the webcam in landscape mode. Zooming is limited, as are resolution, brightness, and various other controls found in the menu across the bottom of the DroidCam desktop client.

To activate these, you’ll need to upgrade to the paid version, titled DroidCamX. Naturally, we would only recommend you do this if you feel you’ll use these features. Otherwise stick with the free DroidCam release.

Download: DroidCam (Free) | DroidCamX ($4.50) 

Method 2: IP Webcam

A strong alternative to DroidCam, IP Webcam is also available free from Google Play with a premium upgrade available. Download the PC viewer from ip-webcam.appspot.com.

Setup is largely the same as with DroidCam. However, although there is a configuration tool that you need to fill in, IP Webcam requires you to view the output through your web browser.

Only Chrome or Firefox work for this, so Windows users should avoid Edge and internet Explorer. You’ll need to use the http://[IP ADDRESS]:8080/videofeed address to view the feed. You’ll find the correct IP address on your phone’s display.

The app offers various image resolutions for video and stills. Though it supports rear smartphone cameras, front-facing cameras aren’t yet fully supported.

Once you’re up and running, tap the Actions button on your Android device to check the app is running correctly, to stop and start the camera, and more.

Meanwhile, if you want an easy way to store video recorded with IP Webcam, a dedicated Dropbox uploader plugin is also available from Google Play.

Download: IP Webcam (Free) | IP Webcam Pro ($4)
Download: IP Webcam Uploader

Need Skype? Forget Webcams, Just Use Your Mobile

If you’re only looking for a way to use Skype, these solutions won’t work if you’re using Skype 8. At the time of writing, Microsoft plans to retire Skype “Classic” (typically version 7) shortly. Skype 8 won’t detect your phone via IP Webcam or DroidCam Wireless Webcam, sadly.

The solution? Well, if making Skype video calls is what you’re looking for, just call from your phone or tablet! Front-facing cameras come standard on phones these days, making it easy to make Skype calls. You can simply input your Skype account credentials into the mobile app and use it to make calls.

How To Repair Annoying “How do you want to open this file?” Popup on Windows 10 Startup

Whenever I start up my Windows 10 computer, I saw a popup screen that asking how do you want to open this file and a list of installed apps to choose. I wasn’t sure what is the reason for this message. This might be the reason for a Windows upgrade or may a virus, malware or something? I have installed an antivirus, but It didn’t detect any problem. I see this whenever I start up or restart my computer. 


Fix “How do you want to open this file” startup Popup

I searched the internet to find the solution to this problem; someone says check your Startup folder.  \For sure anything that runs at the time of login will be in Windows Startup items, which make sense. But, I checked nothing was there. I managed to find out the solution on my own to stop popping out this screen every time when Windows startup. This is how fixed this error, let’s see how to disable popping up how do you want to open this file prompt on Windows 10 startup.

Locate this file

  1. Once you see this screen on Windows 10 startup, select the Notepad app from the list of applications, as you can see below in the screenshot.
  3. NOTE: If you can’t see Notepad in the list then scroll down to view more apps or select “Look for another app on this PC” option. In the next dialog, we will give the path to the application manually. So, go to “C:\Windows” and choose “notepad.exe” file here. 
  5. Startup file will open in Notepad, and you will see the file contains text something like that Invalid number of parameters
    Invalid number of parameters
    ERROR: Invalid syntax.
    Default option is not allowed more than '2' time(s).
    Type "SETX /?" for usage.
    Invalid number of parameters
  6. Now, In the notepad click the File menu and then select “Save As” option. 
  9. Doing that you will let you know the file location that is trying to open itself on startup and ask you to choose an application. As you can see in the save as window, the path is “C:\users” and the file name is “M” which is suspicious to me. 

Disable the file from Windows startup

We already location the file and now its time to disable it from Windows 10 startup. To locate the startup items in Windows 10, you can use Task Manager as well.

  1. Press Ctrl+Alt+Del keys combination from the keyboard and select Task Manager to open it. Tip: Another way to open it is just right-click on Taskbar and select Task manager.
  2. On the Task Manager window, click the “Startup” tab. Here, you can see all the apps and files that Windows run at startup. Find the file with the name “M” as I found this file name in step-4 above. This name might be different in your case so find accordingly. startup-files-windows-10-task-manager
  3. Right-click on that file and select “Disable” option from the menu. To confirm the path of this file, just right-click and choose “Open file location” option. This will open the location in File Explorer, which is the same location that we already checked in step-4 above while searching file. disable-startup-file-windows-10
  4. Now, this file will not run on startup and also will not prompt you “How do you want to open this file?” screen. Reboot your computer and check it.
If you found this guide helpful and solved your problem, share your experience below in comments, Windows version like Windows 8 or 10, File name and location you saw, anything else that might be helpful for others.
Once, you disable this file from Windows Startup. You can delete it from the path where you found it. This file doesn’t seem harmful to me. But I am not sure about this at the moment.
Addition: One of our readers share his experience and this might be helpful for you.

This is one of those problems where 3 or 4 different independent issues have come together to result in the problem you now see in front of you. This is why it doesn’t happen to everyone.
The solution above is a great start however it only goes 50% of the way to solving the problem. ie. It treats the symptom but does not get to the root cause (as TRICKYWAYS1 later asked). I had exactly the same problem and it took a little problem solving but I’ve found the root cause of my issue. Hopefully going through it here can also help solve your problem as well. (Please forgive me if this is wordy… I’m trying to give as much detail as possible to avoid confusion)
First, some of the independent factors (in my case) that came together to cause this problem;
a) You have a USER FOLDER that uses two words separated by a space – In my case “JEFF SMITH”
b) At some point in the past windows has left a file in your user directory named the first word of a user account – In may case “JEFF” (note: it had no extension, it was a very small log file likely left over from some windows system maintenance task)
c) Some other program has created a start-up key in the registry improperly formatted so that it actually (incorrectly) calls this file (from B above) by accident – In my case, MP3SkypeCallRecorder had the registry key C:\Users\JEFF SMITH\AppData\Local\MP3 Skype recorder\MP3SkypeRecorder.exe. Note the space in JEFF SMITH means that windows registry sees that SPACE as the end of the filepath. ie. It calls the file C:\Users\JEFF instead of the full file path. WHAT THE REGISTRY KEY NEEDS ARE QUOTATION MARKS ( “ ) SO THAT IT SEES THE ENTIRE ADDRESS PATH. ie. “C:\Users\JEFF SMITH\AppData\Local\MP3 Skype recorder\MP3SkypeRecorder.exe” Note the VERY subtle difference there with the quotation marks.
d) The result being that windows is trying to open C:\Users\JEFF. Windows don’t recognize this file type so it brings up the “How do you want to open this file?” dialogue which is the cause of our annoyance.
So, my steps to solving this problem are first, identifying the offending file to confirm (b), then confirming that there is an offending start-up entry, then finding and fixing the bad registry key. Don’t worry, it’s not that hard – BUT IT DOES REQUIRE A VERY BASIC REGISTRY EDIT if you are up for it. TRICKYWAYS has done the first part – you can use their method, or my way is slightly different but achieves the same thing. BUT we ARE NOT going to disable it in TASK MANAGER > START-UP.
  1. When the “How do you want to open this file?” dialog comes up on login select NOTEPAD. The content will vary. But in Notepads title bar you will see the name of the file – In my case “JEFF – Notepad”. So the filename is { JEFF }.
  2. Open TASK MANAGER > START-UP tab and look for any unusual entries. – In my case it was obvious. There was an entry simply called “JEFF”. DON’T disable it. Instead [Right Click] the entry, select OPEN FILE LOCATION.
  3. This will open Explorer to the file location. This hopefully confirms (b) above. – in my case, it opened C:\Users which contained my USER FOLDERS (Default, Jeff Smith, Public etc) and the file { JEFF }. This was the file that was trying to be opened at login.
    Note: This is where Trickyways above finishes. But I want to find out why this file is in the Start-up menu in the first place.
  4. Open RUN > REGEDIT (or get into the Registry Editor any one of the other dozen ways you can find online)
  5. As it appears user account specific I tried first HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Run
  6. Look in there at the start-up keys. You will note that most of the file path strings have quotation marks ( “ ) around the path which makes windows read the entire path. However, there was one that did not. C:\Users\JEFF SMITH\AppData\Local\MP3 Skype recorder\MP3SkypeRecorder.exe  which resulted in windows trying to open C:\Users\JEFF from step 3. above.
  7. [Double Click] the key name. This will allow you to edit the string. Simply add quotation marks ( “ ) to either end of the filepath. Select [OK]. My entry now reads “C:\Users\JEFF SMITH\AppData\Local\MP3 Skype recorder\MP3SkypeRecorder.exe” Note the VERY subtle difference there with the quotation marks.
  8. Re-open TASK MANAGER > START-UP tab. You will note that the faulty entry has disappeared and the correct start-up program has now re-appeared (you may not have even noticed that that program was not starting on login – I hadn’t realized until I found this issue then thought “Oh yeah, MP3 Skype Recorder should have been starting on login but it wasn’t.”)
  9. Hopefully problem solved.
EXTRA CREDIT: If you can’t find problem registry keys at step 6, try the following alternate registry paths:
HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\RunOnce HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Run
Or the following folders checking for entries there:
C:\Users\Username\AppData\Roaming\Microsoft\Windows\Start Menu\Programs\Startup
C:\ProgramData\Microsoft\Windows\Start Menu\Programs\StartUp
It took me a little while to nut out, but this solved my problem. I certainly hope this can help someone else.

how to Repair Error Code 0x8007007E on Windows 10

If you receive error code 0x8007007E on your Windows 10/8/7 computer then you are looking for a solution, then you have landed in the right place. Error code 0x8007007E can appear in the following three scenarios and this post offers some suggestions that may help you fix your problem:

  1. Running Windows Update
  2. Send/Receive in Outlook
  3. Connecting to a Printer.

Error code 0x8007007E

Let us look at the potential fixes for the three different scenarios.

Windows Update error 0x8007007E

Windows 10 Update Error Code 0x8007007E occurs when the updates are not in sync. This happens for both Windows 10 standalone computers, and when you are connected to the Enterprise. Windows Server manages updates across all the computers in Enterprise network.
Microsoft points out that when a hotfix is not installed before synchronization, this happens.
Occurs when update synchronization fails because you do not have hotfix installed before you enable update synchronization. Specifically, the CopyToCache operation fails on clients that have already downloaded the upgrade. Its because the Windows Server Update Services has bad metadata related to the upgrade.
To fix this, we need to repair the Windows Server Update Services.  For the enterprise, if you have multiple WSUS servers, you need to repeat the same on each server. You can also choose to run it only on those servers that synced metadata before you installed the hotfix. IT Pro can check the WSUS log using the WSUS admin console or the API. This can help them figure out if the metadata sync status.
1] Delete contents of software distribution folder manually
Windows download all the update files into this folder. It acts like buffer before installing it on the Windows 10 computer. Make sure to delete contents of software distribution folder (C:\Windows\SoftwareDistribution\DataStore) manually. You will have to stop the Windows Update Services before deleting those files. Once done, restart the Windows Update service.

This applies to both standalone computers and Enterprise computers.
2]  Run Windows Update Troubleshooter
If you have a standalone computer, you can run the troubleshooter. Windows comes with an inbuilt Windows Update Troubleshooter. You can run that which will resolve the problem around Windows 10 Update to fix this issue.
Once the computer is in sync with the Update server (Microsoft Update Server or Enterprise Server), all necessary updates will be installed first. Rest of the updates will follow up next.

Error 0x8007007E in Outlook

When this error shows up in Microsoft Outlook client, it inhibits the user from sending or receiving any emails. This usually happens for two reasons – [1] where the end user is trying to upgrade to Windows 10 and [2] if the user upgrades to the next version of Office. There are two ways to fix this issue:
1] Repair/Reinstall Office Outlook Client:
If repairing Microsoft Outlook does not help, you could install the mail client again. Sometimes an upgrade messes up the configuration when the version changes and reinstallation will fix it.
2] Run Outlook as administrator:
Search for the Outlook in the program menu, and then Shift+right click and select Run as administrator.

Error 0x8007007E in Printer

This error shows up when a client machine tries to connect with a Remote Printer. You will see an error message which will say “The specified module could not be found”. Also, this happens in a server-client environment.

When the 32-bit universal driver is installed on the server, it creates a registry entry. This key tells the client machine that it needs a copy of a DLL file for the printer to work on the client machine.
However, if it’s a 64-bit client, it will need a 64-bit version of the driver. But since the server offers 32-bit version driver(because of the registry entry), it results in this error.  The registry entry on the server is located at:
HKLM\SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\Control\Print\Printers\<printer name>\CopyFiles\BIDI.
To resolve the issue, just delete this key. Post this, when a request is made by a 64-bit client, it will no longer be told that they need to copy the wrong file.

Let us know if this helped you to fix Error Code 0x8007007E on your computer.

W10Privacy now lets you Turn off Windows 10 Privacy Settings

With a lot of data leaks and revelations happening, everyone is concerned about their privacy. And whatever device you use, having proper settings to ensure maximum privacy is a must. This post talks about freeware for Windows that lets you adjust your Windows 10 Privacy Settings such that you have maximum privacy on your computer. The tool is a freeware and is called W10Privacy. It has been best tuned to work with Windows 10.

W10Privacy for Windows 10

Turn off Windows 10 Privacy Settings
The main motive behind this tool is to bring all privacy-related settings on Windows 10 at one place. And the tool does its job at best. It brings you all the settings well categorized into different tabs and tells you their severity. All the recommended settings with no side effects are highlighted in green, conditionally recommended settings are marked in yellow, and all the restricted recommended setting are marked in dark orange. By restricted recommended here, we mean that the setting can have a negative effect on your computer. 

If you start the tool, you will be welcomed with a long list of settings and a lot of categories. All the settings in the list are there to improve the privacy scenario on your system in some or the other way.

Turn off Windows 10 Privacy Settings

There are general privacy settings available, for example, Deny Microsoft to use diagnostics data. Then the tool gives you privacy control over Apps, Telemetry and Search. You can easily find settings such as Do not let Microsoft collect and use the information to give you suggestions, ideas, reminders, alerts and more.

W10Privacy not only gives you privacy settings regarding Windows but also for other Microsoft apps. The applications include Explorer, Edge, Internet Explorer, and OneDrive. You can find plenty of these settings and find out whether it is recommended to have this setting or not.
Moving on, there are a few more settings that we have not yet discussed here. The categories include:
  • Network
  • Services
  • Tasks
  • Tweaks
  • Firewall
  • Background Apps
  • User-Apps and
  • System Apps.
Interestingly, under User Apps and System Apps you get an option to uninstall all applications which are not generally required and are known to collect personal data.
Since you are changing a lot of settings around, having a system restore point is must just in case something goes wrong. W10Privacy comes with a built-in option to create a system restore point before you start changing any settings on your computer. You will need to start the program with admin privileges to use the restore point feature.

Another interesting feature here is the ability to save and load configuration files. Once you’ve selected all the settings that you want, you can save it as a separate configuration file. You can use this configuration file later on another computer or your computer. The file can be easily sent to someone over email or other mediums. This feature allows you to preserve your settings so that you don’t have to manually configure the tool every time.
W10Privacy is a great privacy tool for Windows. The amount of settings it lets you configure is commendable. You won’t find such number of settings anywhere else. Apart from that, the tool is simple, portable and easy to use. Also, the added benefits of a restore point and a modular configuration file makes this tool a complete solution. Click here to download W10Privacy.

How to fx Windows Photo Viewer can’t display this picture

Sometimes when you open an image or a picture in Windows Photo Viewer, it displays nothing. Instead, you will see an error message “Windows Photo Viewer can’t display this picture because there might not be enough memory available on your computer“.
Windows Photo Viewer can't display this picture

While this may look like a clear-cut issue of low RAM or less storage space in the computer, but that’s always not the case. We have noticed this issue even when we had enough resources as well as disk space. So you are in a similar situation, you need to check on Color Profile of the screen as well.

Windows Photo Viewer can’t display this picture

Before you begin, close some processes via the Task Manager, run Disk Cleanup Tool, restart your computer and see if that helps. If not, then follow the steps as below, and check if this resolves your issue:
Type color management in the search box and then choose “Change advanced color management settings for display”. Alternatively, go to Settings > System > Display > Advanced display settings. Select the display, and click on Display adapter properties of Display.  Then, switch to Color Management tab, and click on Color Management button.

In the next window, select the monitor on which you receive this error. In case you have two displays, make sure to select the primary display. You have an option to identify the monitor as well. Once confirmed, select the checkbox which says “Use my settings for this device“.
Color Profile of Monitor
Next, select the Profile listed under “Profiles associated with this device”. Click on Remove.
Now, switch to Advanced Tab, and make sure all the settings are set to System default which includes a device profile, rendering intent, perceptual images, Relative Colorimetric and so on.
Advanced Option Color Management
After this, you should restart the computer once, and then try opening an image with Photo Viewer.

Let us know if these steps help you to fix this problem – or if you have any other ideas to suggest.