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A smartphone store in Hong Kong. Photo: Miguel Candela/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Technologies that have become ubiquitous in the daily lives of most Americans — from ride-sharing and dating apps to social media — are using sketchy practices and violating user privacy information, while most of us are unaware.

Why it matters: With tech becoming more and more sophisticated, users don't pay as close attention as they probably should to what they're signing on for and if their information is being inappropriately used.

The latest: MoviePass

The embattled movie theatre subscription service that has had to change its terms to stay afloat is making it difficult for users to cancel their memberships, Vox's Alissa Wilkinson reports:

  • "A lot of MoviePass users are currently discovering ... that they've been re-subscribed" after canceling their subscriptions.
  • Because the company has changed its terms of service so much recently, users "won't carefully read every communication from the company ... let alone the plan updates."
  • If a user opted to cancel their membership at the end of the current billing cycle, but then said they "accept" the updates in MoviePass's plan (which it made every user do when they opened the app), then they canceled the cancellation and will be charged for another month.
Google

Android and iPhone devices running on Google services tracks users location data, even if you've opted against that in your privacy settings.

  • The Associated Press' Ryan Nakashima reported that this "affects some two billion users of devices that run Google's Android operation software and hundreds of millions of worldwide iPhone users who rely on Google for maps or search."

Google responded to the AP: "There are a number of different ways that Google may use location to improve people’s experience, including: Location History, Web and App Activity, and through device-level Location Services."

  • On Thursday, Google clarified that it still tracks users' locations, even after they've turned off location history, the AP reported.
Dating apps

Grindr was sharing users' HIV status with third-party vendors.

  • The company insisted that sensitive information was protected by encryption and not shared with advertisers, and contested criticism saying Grindr was "unfairly ... singled out."
Ride-sharing apps

Uber used "God View," which allowed them to "see all of the Ubers in a city and the silhouettes of waiting Uber users" at a party, Forbes reported.

  • In 2011 at a launch party, Uber "treated guests to Creepy Stalker View, showing them the whereabouts and movement of 30 Uber users ... in real time."

Lyft experienced a similar scandal after it was revealed that staffers had access to users' personal information, including contact information, the pick-up and drop-off coordinates, and more, TechCrunch reported.

  • Staffers were using Lyft's software to see "personally identifiable information" to check up on their significant others, exes, and to "stalk people they found attractive who shared a Lyft Line with them," per TechCrunch.
Digital assistants

An Amazon Echo device recorded a woman's conversation in Portland and "shared it with one of her husband's employees in Seattle," the New York Times reports.

  • Amazon said in a statement to the Times that the device mistakenly heard demands and answers to its questions in the woman's conversation. Per the statement, the device "woke up" after mistaking a word in the conversation for "Alexa," it mistakenly heard "send message," and asked "to whom?" It then heard what it thought was a response, and a confirmation of the message after asking "[contact name], right?"
  • But the woman said "the Echo that shared her conversation was right next to her at the time with the volume set to seven out of 10. It never requested her permission to send the audio."
The bottom line

Due to the lack of clarity on these shady practices, there's been a massive overhaul of privacy settings from major tech companies — mostly after the European Union voted on a new law meant to protect digital privacy rights.

  • Facebook said it was going to make its privacy settings easier to find, "to put people more in control of their privacy."
  • Twitter also moved to make its privacy settings easier for users to find.
  • Venmo updated its privacy policy to "clarify the way we handle data of former users," among other things.
  • Spotify even jumped in, updating its policy to "be as open and transparent as possible with our users about the personal data we collect."

Go deeper

Updated 3 hours ago - World

UK government: Kremlin has plan "to install pro-Russian leadership" in Ukraine

British Foreign Secretary Elizabeth Truss. Photo: Gints Ivuskans / AFP via Getty Images

The United Kingdom's Foreign Secretary on Saturday night said the government has "information that indicates the Russian Government is looking to install a pro-Russian leader in Kyiv as it considers whether to invade and occupy Ukraine."

Driving the news: U.S. National Security Council spokeswoman Emily Horne called the intelligence "deeply concerning" in a statement to Axios. The Biden administration has said Russia is actively manufacturing a pretext for invasion and warned that Putin could use joint military exercises in Belarus as cover to invade from the north.

Updated 4 hours ago - Science

This powerful new accelerator looks for keys to the center of atoms

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

Nuclear physicists trying to piece together how atoms are built are about to get a powerful new tool.

Why it matters: When the Facility for Rare Isotope Beams begins experiments later this spring, physicists from around the world will use the particle accelerator to better understand the inner workings of atoms that make up all the matter that can be seen in the universe.

Updated 4 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Omicron dashboard

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

  1. Health: FDA OKs antiviral drug remdesivir for non-hospitalized COVID patients — Walensky: CDC language "pivoting" on "fully vaccinated" — Pfizer and Moderna boosters overwhelmingly prevent Omicron hospitalizations, CDC finds.
  2. Vaccines: The case for Operation Warp Speed 2.0 — Teens and adults missed 37 million vaccinations during COVID — Team USA 100% vaccinated against COVID ahead of Beijing Olympics — Kids' COVID vaccination rates are particularly low in rural America — Annual COVID vaccine preferable to boosters, says Pfizer CEO.
  3. Politics: Arizona governor sues Biden administration over COVID funds tied to mandates — Biden concedes U.S. should have done more testing — Arizona says it "will not be intimidated" by Biden on anti-mask school policies.
  4. World: American Airlines flight to London forced to turn around over mask dispute — WHO: COVID health emergency could end this year — Greece imposes vaccine mandate for people 60 and older — Austria approves COVID vaccine mandate for adults — Beijing officials urge COVID-19 "emergency mode" before Winter Olympics.
  5. Variant tracker