Tag: facebook

Facebook has made its data crisis worse

Facebook Inc tried to get ahead of its latest media firestorm. Instead, it helped create one.

The company knew ahead of time that on Saturday, the New York Times and The Guardian’s Observer would issue bombshell reports that the data firm that helped Donald Trump win the presidency had accessed and retained information on 50-million Facebook users without their permission.

Facebook did two things to protect itself: it sent letters to the media firms laying out its legal case for why this data leak didn’t constitute a “breach.” And then it scooped the reports using their information, with a Friday blog post on why it was suspending the ad firm, Cambridge Analytica, from its site.

Both moves backfired.

On March 16, Facebook said it “received reports” that Cambridge Analytica hadn’t deleted the user data, and that it needed to suspend the firm. The statement gave the impression that Facebook had looked into the matter. In fact, the company’s decisions were stemming from information in the news reports set to publish the next day, and it had not independently verified those reports, according to a person with knowledge of the matter. By trying to look proactive, Facebook ended up adding weight to the news.

On March 17, any goodwill the company earned by talking about the problem first was quickly undone when reporters revealed Facebook’s behind-the-scenes legal manoeuvring. “Yesterday Facebook threatened to sue us. Today we publish this,” Carole Cadwalladr, the Observer reporter, wrote as she linked her story to Twitter, in a post shared almost 15,000 times. The Guardian said it had nothing to add to her statement. The Times confirmed that it too received a letter, but said it didn’t consider the correspondence a legal threat.

Front-running the stories along with the letters to newsrooms are but two of several ways Facebook failed to contain fallout from the Cambridge Analytica revelations. Silence on the part of chief executive officer Mark Zuckerberg and chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg didn’t help. Nor did a report late March 19 in the New York Times that chief security officer Alex Stamos is leaving after clashing with other executives, including Sandberg, over how Facebook handled Russian disinformation campaigns. Facebook said Stamos is still at the company, but didn’t outright deny that he plans to leave.

“Most of its executives haven’t done a real interview in ages, let alone answer deep questions,” Zeynep Tufecki, an associate professor at the University of North Carolina who specialises in social networks and democracy, wrote in a post on Twitter.

In a sign of investor dismay, Facebook shares tumbled 6.8% on March 19, the biggest decline since March 2014. As the stock fell and criticism from lawmakers poured in from the US and Britain, the company worked to make it clear that it didn’t actually have enough information, on its own, to react to Saturday’s news reports in a stronger way.

Facebook put out another blog post, saying that Cambridge Analytica and the researcher who provided them the data, Aleksandr Kogan, had agreed to a digital forensics audit to prove they deleted it. Facebook said the one person who didn’t agree to the audit was Christopher Wylie, the former Cambridge Analytica contractor who spoke to the newspapers about the data leak. With the post, Facebook aimed to stir more scepticism around Wylie’s information, according to a person familiar with the matter.

That didn’t resolve things quickly either. The auditors were already on site at Cambridge Analytica’s London office March 19 when they had to pause their work. The UK Information Commissioner’s Office is pursuing a warrant to conduct its own on-site investigation.

The Cambridge Analytica saga is the latest in a series of bungled Facebook responses, often reactionary and sometimes unintentionally stirring public outrage instead of resolving concerns. The company’s interaction with the public tends to start with a carefully crafted blog post, and then evolve into a much more improvised Twitter-based conversation with lower-level executives who defend the social network and explain its decisions. It doesn’t always go well.

Earlier this year, when the US government indicted 13 Russians who used Facebook to manipulate voters, a Facebook advertising executive took to Twitter to clarify that overall, the Russian ads were primarily used to divide Americans, not influence the election. His comments went viral after President Donald Trump used them to back up attacks on the “fake news media.”

In 2017, Facebook made its disclosures on Russia’s activities in a slow drip, each time illustrating a bigger problem. An April white paper on “information operations,” for example, didn’t name the country. The company that October said 10 million users saw Russia’s ads. Later that month, Facebook said 126 million people saw Russia’s posts in general. The company upped the number to 150 million during Congressional interrogation, when a senator asked if Facebook could include Instagram, the photo-sharing app it owns, in the count.

Stamos, who has favoured more forthright disclosure, was frequently outvoted, according to the New York Times. He’s planning to leave the company in August, the newspaper reported. On Twitter, he later said he’s still fully engaged with his work at Facebook, without answering questions about his plans. But that would make him the most high-profile exit since Facebook’s election-related troubles began.

Meanwhile, higher ranking executives remain quiet. Zuckerberg and Sandberg, who in past years would post frequently about the issues of the day, have shied away from reacting to the most controversial news. Lawmakers have now called out Zuckerberg by name in both the US and the UK.

Zuckerberg and Sandberg plan to remain quiet on the Cambridge Analytica situation until the company completes its internal review of what happened, according to a person familiar with the matter. Until they do, questions about Facebook’s ability to cope with the Cambridge Analytica crisis will undoubtedly persist. — Bloomberg

By Sarah Frier for The Star
Image: 123rf

Facebook-owned WhatsApp has launched a new stand-alone app, called WhatsApp Business, designed to help small businesses easily connect with their customers, the company announced on Thursday.

WhatsApp Business can be downloaded on the Google Play Store in select markets including the US, UK, Indonesia, Italy, and Mexico, and will roll out worldwide in the coming weeks. Facebook has not yet stated when the app will be available on iOS.

The app adds several new features including verified business profiles, smart messaging tools like quick replies, greeting messages and away messages, and messaging metrics. As of now, WhatsApp Business is aimed at smaller companies, but it plans to add an enterprise solution geared toward larger businesses, like airlines and banks, with a global customer base. The move to launch an app dedicated to businesses represents the fruition of several months of work by Facebook to monetize WhatsApp.

Business-to-consumer (B2C) communication via messaging apps is a budding trend, and Facebook wants to be at the center of it.Having a presence on chat apps is more important than ever for businesses.

Already, more than half of consumers would rather message a business than call customer service, according to a Facebook-commissioned study by Nielson. Here’s why WhatsApp is poised to lead the evolution of B2C interactions:

WhatsApp has a massive global reach. WhatsApp’s global user base of 1.3 billion monthly active users makes the chat app an ideal ground for Facebook to establish a footprint in the B2C space.

WhatsApp is also the second most used messaging app globally, and the leading messaging app in a majority of emerging markets like India, Indonesia, and Russia as well as in developed markets like the UK, Spain, and Germany. In India, for instance, consumers spent over 36 billion hours on WhatsApp in 2017.

Already, consumers worldwide use WhatsApp to communicate with businesses.Over 80% of small businesses in India and Brazil have said WhatsApp helps to facilitate B2C communication and, as a result, grow their businesses’ reach.

WhatsApp is entering an increasingly competitive space. Facebook Messenger, Apple, WeChat, and Skype are all striving to be the go-to interface for B2C interaction.

For instance, Apple is introducing an update to iMessage that includes iOS Business Chat, a “powerful new way for businesses to connect with customers directly from within Messages,” according to Apple. Meanwhile, WhatsApp will go up against WeChat, which already hosts 10 million official business accounts for WeChat’s 980 million monthly active users to interact with.

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By Rayna Hollander for Business Insider

Facebook kills off its own creation

Last week, Mark Zuckerberg announced a major revamp of Facebook’s News Feed algorithm to prioritise content shared by friends and family, and demote branded posts from publishers and businesses.

It seems that after pushing Facebook as a source of trending news, Dr. Zuckenstein is horrified by his own creation. And, after a year of trying unsuccessfully to police false and click-baity news, he’s given up on trying to control his monster — now, he’s killing it off.

Here’s how it affects the the major parties involved: publishers, Facebook, and its 2B+ users.

FB-based publishers are screwed
Publishers like Elite Daily, LAD Bible, and the approximately one jillion meme pages that rely on promoted Facebook posts to drive site traffic, will likely see a huge decrease in audience reach.

That said, most established, “premium” publishers are more balanced in their sources of Web traffic, and have been quick to highlight that Facebook doesn’t owe anything to publishers who chose to hinge their entire business on a third party platform.

In the words of Axios CEO Jim VandeHei, “Facebook is a public company that controls its own decisions… Publishers should do the same d*mn thing.”

Facebook’s market cap took a $25bn hit
In their decision to commit to “bringing people closer together,” Facebook is effectively choosing to slow their own growth for the sake of society (and their brand reputation).

Theoretically, the change means they’ll make less money off publishers and advertisers (their stock dropped 5% following the news).

In Zuck’s own words, it could also mean that people may spend less time on Facebook.

You’re gonna see a lot more of Aunt Sally’s DIY craft posts
Remember the simpler days of Facebook? You know, back when people posted innocent statuses about things they were doing like, “going to see How To Train Your Dragon! I love movie popcorn!”

Well, we can’t turn back the clock, but we will start seeing more posts from friends in our feed. With a caveat: highly shared and liked articles will still rise to the top. So the “tag a friend who needs this!” articles could still prosper.

Source: The Hustle

Social-media giants such as Facebook and will have to reveal the scale of cyber bullying in the UK and face being made to pay the cost of dealing with it.

Under the latest guidance by the UK government, technology companies will be required to publish an annual report on how complaints are handled, the reported abuse that is pulled down and the extent of their efforts to moderate bullying or offensive content about children, women, gay people or religions.

One of the proposals is for “an industry-wide levy so social-media companies and communication service providers contribute to raise awareness and counter internet harms,”​ according to a statement published Wednesday that didn’t give further details.

“Behavior that is unacceptable in real life is unacceptable on a computer screen,” Culture Secretary Karen Bradley said in an email released by her office.

“We need an approach to the internet that protects everyone.”

The campaign is part of the government’s wider strategy to force technology companies to accept greater responsibility for their content.

Home Secretary Amber Rudd has also called on companies to “step up” and assume moral responsibility for ridding their platforms of terrorist content, refusing to rule out the prospect of compulsion by fines or legislation.

The UK has been pushing the envelope in terms of how willing it is to go after Silicon Valley.

Efforts to end hate speech and trolling on social media have intensified in the wake of five terror attacks this year, yet the desire to regulate tech firms – in ways that are unprecedented – risks driving them offshore.

On Tuesday, Sharon White, the chief executive of UK media regulator Ofcom, said she viewed companies like Facebook as news publishers.

Prime Minister Theresa May’s spokesman, James Slack, later told reporters that the government was “looking at the role Google and Facebook play in the news environment” as well as “the roles, responsibility and legal status of the major internet platforms.”

In May 2016, a number of social-media companies, including Facebook, Twitter and Google’s YouTube voluntarily committed to trying to take down illegal content within 24 hours.

But last month the European Commission called upon the tech firms to do more to block illegal content.

Germany has passed a law requiring hate speech to be removed within 24 hours of it being flagged, with penalties of up to 50 million euros ($60 million) for repeated failures to comply.

In September, May went further. At a meeting at the United Nations, she propose new rules requiring internet companies to take down extremist content within two hours.

Source: BusinessTech/Bloomberg

Social media could impact your insurance

Using your phone for social media while driving could be considered reckless behaviour by an insurer, giving the insurer the right to decline a claim in the event of an accident, said a legal expert.
Maria Philippides, director of insurance litigation at Norton Rose Fulbright South Africa, explained the legal implications as well as consequences for insurance cover where reckless behaviour is related to the use of social media.
She referred to a recent report in the UK where a woman was jailed for using Facebook when she caused a car accident. Philippides explained to Fin24 how a case like this could possibly be handled locally.
In South Africa, the use of a cell-phone while driving is prohibited by the road traffic regulation. This is not just limited to talking on one’s phone, but also holding a phone or other communicating devices when driving, explained Philippides.
If caught by authorities when doing these activities, one could be liable to pay a fine. In the instance that this behaviour leads to something worse like an accident causing death, one can be charged for culpable homicide, she said. “If convicted, it would carry a jail sentence.”
Insurance policies are designed to cover the insured for their negligent behaviour. But there are policy provisions which explain when insurers do not pay out claims. This is either when the claims arise from a criminal offence, such as using your phone when driving, explained Philippides.
The other instance when a claim is not paid out is if the policyholder does not act with “due care” to avoid an accident or loss or damage, she added. In this case the actions go beyond negligence and are viewed as being reckless, she explained.
A court would test for recklessness in terms of the person being aware of the risk that would result of their conduct, and still continuing with the action regardless. In that case the insurer will be able to reject the claim, she said.
“If you are operating your cell-phone, which you know is illegal or an offence … and your attention is not on the traffic and the road ahead of you, [with your head] looking down. That can be termed as reckless.”
Drivers have an imposed duty by the national road traffic act to be engaged with driving, explained Philippides. If you are engaged in an activity “so removed from your duty to drive properly”, no matter what it is, including applying make-up in traffic, it is reckless, she emphasised.
Wearable devices
When asked about how operating wearable devices, such as smart-watches, while driving may be viewed by insurers, Philippides acknowledged that the law was struggling to keep up with the pace of changing technology.
“Law can’t keep up with every single device that gets created… There is no specific prohibition on a person using a smart-watch,” she said.
However even though there is no prohibition in law for using a device, insurers can reject a claim if the use of the device can be classified as reckless, she explained.
Philippides pointed out the innovation of smart windscreens, where a navigation panel comes up on the windscreen when driving. Even if this innovation is legal, it is possible that insurers may view the use of this navigation while driving as reckless.
Proving use of social media
If a policyholder does not accept that their claim was declined, the matter can reach the courts. It is up to the insurer to make the allegation and prove that the policyholder was using their device when driving. Philippides explained that the insurer would have to get evidence of the use of the device. This could be witness statements, the police report and possibly cell-phone records to prove the use of the device coincided with the time the accident was made.
The records could show when data was used, or when phone calls were made. Activity logs from social media, with permission from the policyholder in the case that he or she has privacy settings, can also be used to prove use of a device, she added.
Failure to submit this information can lead to an adverse inference by the courts, indicating that the insured possibly has something to hide.
Something as simple as liking a page at a time that coincides with the timeframe of an accident could implicate the policyholder, said Philippides. “It shows attention was diverted from driving.”
“The ordinary person on the street does not realize that what they are doing while operating on social media is accessible to anyone. If it is publicly available, anyone can use it, the right to privacy is basically waived.”

By Lameez Omarjee for Fin24

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