Tech Insight : How To Make a QR Code

In this tech insight, we look at QR codes, the many different methods to generate them, the benefits of doing so, and the future for QR codes as the successor to barcodes.

What Is A QR code? 

A QR (Quick Response) code, first designed in 1994 by Japanese company ‘Denso Wave’, is a type of two-dimensional barcode. It looks like square grid made up of smaller black and white squares (modules) and typically features three larger square patterns in three of its corners, which help scanners identify and orient the code. The black and white squares within the grid encodes the data. Unlike a one-dimensional barcode, which represents data in a series of vertical lines (which are based on the dots and dashes in Morse code), a QR code stores data in both vertical and horizontal arrangements. This means that a lot more data can be encoded in a QR code than a bar code, and a QR code can contain complex information, e.g. text, URLs, and other data types.

Making A QR Code 

There are several ways you can make your own QR code. If you want to quickly share a URL of interest with others, it’s possible to make a QR code in Microsoft Edge that can be shared, and which directs them to that web page. This could be particularly useful if you want to open the same web page on a mobile device or share it with someone else without having to type or text the entire URL. Here’s how to make a QR code for a URL in Edge:

– Open Edge and go to the web page you want to make a QR code for.

– Right-click on a blank area of the web page and select ‘Create QR code for this page’ and choose either the option to ‘Copy’ (to paste and share it) or ‘Download’ (to get a png image download of the QR code).

– A QR code symbol also appears in the right-hand side of the address bar enabling you to re-use the code by clicking on it (which launches another QR code copy/download window).

Making A QR Code For A URL In Google Chrome 

To make a QR code for a URL using Google Chrome, the process is the same, but a QR code symbol doesn’t appear in the address bar.

Safari? 

For the Safari browser, a QR code can’t be generated unless a Safari QR code generator extension or an online QR code generator is used.

Online QR Code Generators 

You can also use online QR code generators. Examples include https://www.qr-code-generator.com/https://www.the-qrcode-generator.com/, and many more.

Other Options 

Other options for making a QR code include:

– Using open-source software e.g., Libre Office (free open-source software).Open the ‘Insert’ menu, hover over ‘OLE,’ click ‘QR and Barcode,’ and paste in the URL to be converted to QR code.

– Mobile apps for Android’s or iOS. These apps often have the function to generate QR codes in addition to reading them. Examples include: QR Code Reader and Scanner, QR TIGER, QR & Barcode Scanner, QR Code Reader, NeoReader, and many more.

– Web browser extensions or add-ons.

– QR Code APIs e.g., QRServer’s free API or Goqr.me’s API.

QR Codes Will Replace Bar Codes 

QR codes are already set to replace bar codes. This will of course mean lower costs for retailers, will have implications for package design (less on-packaging information but more information available to customers), and the positive environmental impact of less packaging. For retailers, this could also mean improvements to inventory management, and it is likely to give greater flexibility to manufacturers and retailers in terms of updating product information.

What Does This Mean For Your Business? 

QR codes provide businesses a streamlined and interactive method to connect with their audience, offering a bridge between the physical and digital realms. By generating and sharing QR codes for URLs, businesses can quickly direct customers to specific online content, whether it’s a promotional deal, a digital menu, or an informational page, without requiring users to manually type in web addresses. This eliminates potential errors, speeds up access, and is easy and convenient for customers in a world where most of us now use our mobiles for everything.

Having QR code generation features built into browsers, is also very convenient for users as the creation process is fast, seamless, integrated, and creates something that’s easy to share, which helps the business whose URL is being shared.  Also, not having to rely upon on external tools or platforms to generate QR codes means that businesses can instantly create, share, and update QR codes directly from their browser, thereby enhancing efficiency and ensuring they can adapt to changing digital needs swiftly.

Being able to generate and share QR codes will soon be more important than ever for businesses with the QR codes set to replace the now 50-year-old bar codes. It should be noted, however, that QR codes can send users to web pages containing malicious code and therefore care should be taken when scanning them to check for authenticity, which could be something as simple as ensuring a sticker hasn’t been put over the original code.

Tech Insight: Viewing Deleted WhatsApp Messages

In this Insight, we look at how it is possible to uncover and read deleted messages on WhatsApp, and what a number of privacy features on the app mean for business users.

Changes  

WhatsApp have made changes as regards message deletion that focus on giving users more control, such as:

– Delete messages for everyone. This allows users to delete messages they’ve sent to an individual or group chat. This can be helpful if a user has sent a message to the wrong chat or the message containing a mistake, and for group admins who need to remove problematic messages in a chat. To use the feature:

– Open WhatsApp, go to the chat with the message to be deleted and click ‘Menu,’ click ‘Delete message > DELETE FOR EVERYONE > DELETE FOR EVERYONE > OK’

– Delete messages for yourself. With this feature, users can delete their copy of messages they’ve sent or received from their phone. This has no impact on the recipients’ chats, recipients will still see the messages in their chat screen and, after clicking on delete, users have 5 seconds to undo the action by clicking Undo (before the message is permanently deleted). To use this feature:

– Open WhatsApp, go to the chat with the message to be deleted and click ‘Menu’ within the chat message. Click Delete message > DELETE FOR ME.

– Chat Lock is designed to protect users’ “most intimate conversations“ behind one more layer of security. Locking a chat takes the thread out of the inbox and puts it behind its own folder that can only be accessed with the user’s device password or biometric, like a fingerprint. It also hides the contents of that chat in notifications.

– Most recently, the ability to edit a message within 15 minutes of sending, e.g. if they contain a mistake, if the sender has second thoughts, or if they’ve been sent to the wrong person. To edit messages, users can long-press on a sent message and choose ‘Edit’ from the menu for up to fifteen minutes after. Edited messages will display ‘edited’ alongside them.

How To Read Deleted Messages 

There are, however, ways for users to uncover and read deleted messages in WhatsApp. For example iOS users can delete and re-download the WhatsApp app. After ensuring messages are backed up on iCloud:

– Delete WhatsApp from the phone, redownload the app from the App Store, and sign back into the account.

– A message will appear asking if you want previously backed up messages to be restored. If you select this option, all messages will be restored, including deleted ones.

For Android (11 and above) users, senders can view deleted messages by using the Notification History feature. This involves clicking on smartphone ‘settings,’ ‘apps and notifications,’ and selecting ‘use notification history.‘ This displays all notifications received by the device, including messages sent to the user via WhatsApp which were later deleted by the sender.

Android users can also try restoring WhatsApp messages through a database. This can be done by opening a file browser, going to the WhatsApp folder, clicking on ‘database,’ holding down the ‘msgstore.db.crypt12’ file and hitting ‘edit name’. From here, it’s a case of changing the name to ‘msgstore backup.db.crypt12’ (so it’s not overwritten), going to Google drive and tapping on the three lines (top right), clicking on ‘backups’ and erasing the WhatsApp backup. Finally, users can delete the WhatsApp app and install it again whereupon they will be prompted to recover WhatsApp through a local backup and can choose ‘msgstore.db.crypt12’, and click ‘Restore’ to restore all messages, including those deleted by the sender.

What Does This Mean For Your Business? 

WhatsApp is known to be a secure end-to-end encrypted app anyway, which is widely used by business (2 billion+ people use it) because it’s free, effective, instant, secure, and convenient. Security concerns could include the fact that it’s Meta-owned, it has shown malware vulnerabilities (patched last year) and, like other digital messaging services and email, is also vulnerable to phishing scams. That said, most business users trust it and are now invested in using it widely, and WhatsApp has introduced other features to keep business users on-board, e.g. multipole devices using one account.

However, governments (including the UK Government) have for many years been wanting ‘backdoors’ and some kind of access to WhatsApp that would essentially destroy end-to-end encryption and create wider privacy and security risks. Now, with increased competition from other encrypted apps like Telegram and Signal, and also with pressure now mounting as legislation is introduced to try and force a way in for governments (e.g., aspects of the Online Safety Bill, which prompted WhatsApp to threaten to bar UK users), it’s perhaps no surprise to see WhatsApp giving users more ways to personally manage the privacy and security of their messages. Some aspects, such as Chat Lock have even led critics to say that WhatsApp’s becoming a platform for ‘relationship cheaters’. It seems however, that there are still ways around certain aspects of privacy, and the above insight shows that it is possible for users to view deleted messages without too much difficulty.

Tech Insight : Erasing Yourself From Google

In this insight, we look at the steps you can take to erase any details about yourself from Google to protect your privacy.

Why Might A Person Want To Erase Their Details From Google? 

Google collects your personal information when you go online, some (or all) of which you may want to erase, e.g. a negative mention of yourself on Google’s search results or data you’ve inadvertently shared with Google through daily web activities or content that someone has posted about you. Some of the main reasons, therefore, why someone might want to erase themselves from Google include:

– Privacy concerns. Google collects a lot of data about its users, including search history, location data, and online activity. Some people may be uncomfortable with the amount of information that Google holds about them and want to limit their online footprint.

– Reputation management. Sometimes, negative information about a person can appear in Google search results. This could be information that is inaccurate, outdated or simply embarrassing. In these cases, a person may want to remove or de-index the offending content to protect their reputation.

– Personal preference. Some people simply prefer to have a minimal online presence and don’t want to be easily searchable on Google.

Regardless of the reason, erasing yourself from Google is not always easy or even possible in some cases. Google’s algorithms prioritise relevant and useful content, so it’s not always easy to remove content from search results. However, there are steps you can take to limit your online presence and protect your privacy, and here are some of the main ones.

1. Remove any content about yourself from Google search results. 

The process for removing any content about yourself from Google search results is:

– Assuming the content in question violates Google’s policies, contact the website owner and request that they remove it. This is the most effective way to have the content removed from search results.

– If the website owner refuses to remove the content (or if it contains personal information that puts you at risk of harm), you can submit a removal request to Google. Google will evaluate the request and remove the content if it violates their policies. To submit the removal request:

– Go to Google’s Remove outdated content page (https://support.google.com/websearch/troubleshooter/3111061).

– Select “I have a legal issue.”

– Follow the prompts to complete the form and provide Google with the necessary information about the content you want removed.

– Click “Submit.” Note that submitting a removal request does not guarantee that Google will remove the content. Google will review the request and make a decision based on its policies and guidelines.

– Monitor the search results. It may take some time for the content to be removed from search results, so it’s important to monitor the search results regularly to ensure that the content is no longer appearing.

It’s worth noting that while Google can remove content from their search results, they cannot remove the content from the original website.

2. Prevent Google from finding your Facebook profile. 

To prevent your Facebook profile from appearing in Google search results, follow these steps:

– Log in to your Facebook account and go to your profile page.

– Click on your profile picture located in the top-right corner and select “Settings & Privacy” from the drop-down menu.

– Choose “Settings” and then “Privacy” from the left-hand menu.

– Click on “Your Activity” and then click the “Edit” button next to “Who can see your future posts?”

– Change the setting from “Public” to “Friends” to limit who can see your future posts.

– Click on the “Limit Past Posts” button to prevent anyone except your friends from viewing the content on your timeline.

– In the “How people can find and contact you” section, click on the “Edit” link next to “Do you want search engines outside Facebook to link to your profile?”

– Deselect the “Allow search engines outside of Facebook to link to your Profile” option and click “Turn Off” to confirm.

It may take a few days for these changes to take effect and for Google to stop showing your profile in search results for your name. Additionally, while this will limit the visibility of your profile on Google, your information may still be visible to other Facebook users and search engines that crawl Facebook.

3. Stop Your House From Appearing in Google Street View. 

If you want to prevent your house from appearing on Google Street View, you can follow these steps:

– Go to Google Maps and enter your address/search for your post code.

– Click on the street view image of your house (if available).

– In the bottom-right corner of the screen, click on the “Report a problem” link.

– Click and drag the image to make your house appear within a red rectangle, select ‘My home’ in the ‘Request blurring’ options.

– Enter any additional information to help Google to blur your house, submit your email address, and wait for Google to process your request.

– The blurring of your home should only take a few days.

4. Delete All Your Search and Activity Data (In One Go).

To delete all your search activity data from Google in one go:

– Go to https://myactivity.google.com and sign into your Google account.

– Click on the “Delete activity by” option in the left-hand menu, select “All time” as the timeframe, and click “Delete” to confirm. This will delete all the search and activity data Google has ever collected about you.

5. Delete Your Search And Activity Data From Google.

To delete your search and activity data from Google, follow these steps:

– Visit https://myactivity.google.com on your browser and sign-in to your Google account.

– To delete specific entries, click the “X” next to them.

– To delete your entire history, go to the “Delete” dropdown menu at the top of your activity list or choose the “Delete activity by” option in the left-hand menu. Click “Always” to delete all your activity data.

– You can also set up auto-delete by going to the “Web & app activity” page, selecting “Activity controls,” and clicking “Auto-delete.” Choose how long you want Google to store your data and confirm.

– To stop Google from saving your search and activity data altogether, go to the “Activity controls” page and switch off “Web & app activity.” Confirm by clicking “Pause.”

6. Wipe Your Viewing History From YouTube.

To wipe your YouTube viewing history, protect your privacy and prevent YouTube from suggesting videos to watch:

– Go to the YouTube website and sign-in to your account.

– Click on the three horizontal lines (top left-hand corner of the screen) to open the menu, then select “History” from the options.

– On the History page, click the “Clear all watch history” button to erase your entire viewing history, or click the “X” next to individual videos to remove them one by one.

– To pause YouTube from saving your watch history in the future, click the “Pause watch history” button at the top of the page.

7. Remove Any Videos Where You Appear In On YouTube. 

To remove YouTube videos that you’ve uploaded yourself and that that you appear in on YouTube:

– Open the YouTube Studio (https://studio.youtube. com).

– Click ‘Content’ (left-hand menu).

– Select the video(s) to erase and, in the ‘More Actions’ menu, choose ‘Delete forever’, or hide a video by making it ‘Private’.

Removing a video you appear in that doesn’t belong to you is more difficult – especially you didn’t give your permission for it to be posted. The action you can take is to:

– Contact the person who uploaded the video, asking and them to remove it. You can do this by clicking the About tab on their YouTube channel page and clicking ‘View email address’.

– If it looks as though they won’t take the video down, you can request to have your face and other identifying elements blurred by the Blur tool in YouTube Studio.

– If there’s still no luck, click the ‘Report user’ flag button on their About page, select ‘Report user’, select Privacy, and click ‘Next’ to begin YouTube’s Privacy Complaint Process.

– Explain how the video violates your privacy.

8. Wipe Any (Secret) Recordings That Google Has Made Of Your Voice. 

To delete recordings of your voice from Google Assistant, follow these steps:

– Open the Google app on your mobile device.

– Tap on your profile picture or initials in the top-right corner.

– Select “Manage your Google Account.”

– Go to the “Data & personalization” tab.

– Scroll down to the “Activity controls” section and click on “Web & App Activity.”

– Toggle the switch off for “Include voice and audio recordings.”

– A pop-up will appear, asking if you want to pause voice and audio activity. Confirm by clicking on “Pause.”

– You will receive a notification that says, “Voice and audio recordings paused.” Click “Got it.”

– If you want to delete any existing voice recordings, go back to the “Data & personalisation” tab, and select “My Activity.”

– In the search bar, type “Google Assistant” and select the results for “Voice & Audio.” This will show you a list of all the recordings that Google has made of your voice.

– To delete a specific recording, click on the three dots to the right of the entry and select “Delete.”

– To delete all of your voice recordings, click on the three dots in the top-right corner and select “Delete activity by.”

– Select “All time” as the date range and “Voice & Audio” as the activity type.

– Click “Delete” and confirm by clicking “Delete” again in the pop-up window.

9. Delete your Gmail account but keep using Google.

This may seem quite a drastic step to many, but to delete your Gmail account but keep using Google:

– Go to myaccount.google.com on your web browser and sign-in to your Google account.

– Click on the “Data & personalisation” tab on the left-hand side.

– Scroll down and click on “Delete a service or your account.”

– Click on “Delete a service” and enter your password (if prompted).

– Select “Delete a Google service” and choose the Gmail account you want to delete.

– Follow the prompts to review and download your data, then click “Delete Gmail.”

– Read the information on the next screen and follow the prompts to confirm that you want to delete your Gmail account.

– After you delete your Gmail account, you’ll still be able to use other Google services with the same account. However, any emails or contacts that were saved in your Gmail account will be permanently deleted and cannot be recovered.

What Does This Mean For Your Business? 

Erasing yourself from Google can have both benefits and drawbacks. On the one hand, erasing your personal information from Google can increase your privacy and prevent targeted ads. On the other hand, businesses, of course, may lose access to valuable customer data, may seriously limit enquires and damage their profits, and individuals may miss out on personalised search results. However, it’s important to note that completely erasing your details from Google is not an easy feat. Even if you follow all the instructions and request removal of specific data, traces of your information may still exist. Google’s vast reach and complex algorithms mean that even seemingly innocuous details can be used to create a profile of your interests and habits.

In short, while it’s possible to take steps to minimise your online footprint, completely erasing yourself from Google is a difficult and ongoing process. It’s important to weigh the benefits and drawbacks of doing so, and to be aware that some traces of your information may still remain.