Tag: facebook

Source: IOL

The Meta-owned social networking sites were blocked in the country at the beginning of March and now a judge has ruled that they will remain so as a result of “extremist activities.”

In a translated statement obtained by outlet TASS, Judge Olga Solopova said: “The court has granted the lawsuit filed by the first deputy prosecutor general of Russia against the holding company Meta Platforms Inc. seeking a ban on operations on the territory of Russia.

The operations of the U.S. transnational holding company Meta Platforms Inc. to sell products, the social networks Facebook and Instagram, on the territory of Russia, is banned on the grounds of extremist activities. The court decision is to be fulfilled immediately.”

However, the ban on Meta operations does not apply to the messenger WhatsApp, which also comes under the Meta umbrella of social media apps.

Solopova added: “This decision does not apply to the operations of Meta’s messenger WhatsApp due to its absence of functions for public information dissemination.”

The ban comes just a week after Facebook issued a “temporary change” in policy as a result of the ongoing conflict in Ukraine – which was started when Russian president Vladimir Putin launched a military invasion on its neighbouring country at the end of February – and will allow users to post “forms of political expression” not normally permitted.

Meta spokesperson Andy Stone told The Verge: “As a result of the Russian invasion of Ukraine we have temporarily made allowances for forms of political expression that would normally violate our rules like violent speech such as ‘death to the Russian invaders.’ We still won’t allow credible calls for violence against Russian civilians.”

 

By Jillian Deutsch for Bloomberg

Meta Platforms has threatened to pull Facebook and Instagram from Europe if it is unable to keep transferring user data back to the US.

European regulators are currently re-working regulation on how European data is transferred across the Atlantic, after the previous Privacy Shield agreement with the U.S. was ruled invalid by the European Court of Justice in July 2020.

In its annual report published Thursday, Meta said that if it couldn’t rely on new or existing agreements — such as so-called standard contractual clauses — to shift data, then it would “likely be unable to offer a number of our most significant products and services, including Facebook and Instagram, in Europe.”

While it is unlikely that Meta would withdraw its flagship products from one of its most lucrative markets, its response highlights the increasing tension between the social media company and lawmakers over the ownership of user data.

The European Commission said negotiations with Washington have intensified, but they “take time given also the complexity of the issues discussed and the need to strike a balance between privacy and national security,” a Commission spokesperson wrote in a statement to Bloomberg on Monday.

“Only an arrangement that is fully compliant with the requirements set by the EU court can deliver the stability and legal certainty stakeholders expect on both sides of the Atlantic,” the spokesperson added.

In August 2020, the Irish protection agency ruled that a company’s use of standard contractual clauses to process European data violated the GDPR and should be suspended. A final decision should come in the first half of this year.

Data protection authorities are increasingly scrutinising these kinds of supplementary security measures that have allowed companies to send data back and forth in the absence of a new agreement, according to Patrick Van Eecke, a partner and head of cyber and data at law firm Cooley LLP.

“I am not surprised companies outside of Europe are reconsidering whether or not it makes sense to continue offering services to the European market as there are not many options left any longer,” said Van Eecke.

It is not the first time Facebook has threatened to ban its services. In 2020 it said it plans to block people and publishers in Australia from sharing news, in an attempt to push back against a proposed law forcing the company to pay media firms for their articles.

By Beth Timmins for BBC News

Facebook has announced it will no longer use facial recognition software to identify faces in photographs and videos.

There have been growing concerns about the ethics of facial recognition technology, with questions raised over privacy, racial bias, and accuracy.

Regulators had not yet provided a clear set of rules over how it should be used, the company said.

It has faced a barrage of criticism over its impact on its users.

Until now, users of the social media app could choose to opt in to the feature which would scan their face in pictures and notify them if someone else on the platform had posted a picture of them.

In a blog post, Jerome Pesenti, vice president of artificial intelligence at the firm said: “Amid this ongoing uncertainty, we believe that limiting the use of facial recognition to a narrow set of use cases is appropriate.”

In 2019, a US government study suggested facial recognition algorithms were far less accurate at identifying African-American and Asian faces compared to Caucasian faces.

African-American women were even more likely to be misidentified, according to the study conducted by the National Institute of Standards and Technology.

Last year, Facebook also settled a long-running legal dispute about the way it scans and tags photos.

The case has been ongoing since 2015, and it was agreed the firm would pay $550m (£421m) to a group of users in Illinois who argued its facial recognition tool was in violation of the state’s privacy laws.

Other tech firms such as Amazon and Microsoft have both suspended facial recognition product sales to police as the uses for the technology have become more controversial.

Facebook, which as well as running the world’s largest social media network also owns Instagram and the messaging service Whatsapp, has come under growing pressure from regulators and politicians.

It is facing increased scrutiny from regulators including the US the Federal Trade Commission, which has filed an antitrust lawsuit alleging anticompetitive practices.

And last month, a former employee accused the company of unethical behaviour. Frances Haugen released a cache of internal documents which she said showed Facebook had put profit before user safety.

Chief Executive Mark Zuckerburg said Ms Haugen’s claims were part of a co-ordinated effort to “paint a false picture” of the company.

The firm recently announced a new name, Meta, for the broader parent company following a series of negative stories about Facebook.

Mr Zuckerberg said the existing brand could not “possibly represent everything that we’re doing today, let alone in the future” and needed to change.

 

Facebook looks to change its name

By Alex Heath for The Verge

Facebook is planning to change its company name next week to reflect its focus on building the metaverse, according to a source with direct knowledge of the matter.

The coming name change, which CEO Mark Zuckerberg plans to talk about at the company’s annual Connect conference on October 28th, but could unveil sooner, is meant to signal the tech giant’s ambition to be known for more than social media and all the ills that entail. The rebrand would likely position the blue Facebook app as one of many products under a parent company overseeing groups like Instagram, WhatsApp, Oculus, and more. A spokesperson for Facebook declined to comment for this story.

Facebook already has more than 10,000 employees building consumer hardware like AR glasses that Zuckerberg believes will eventually be as ubiquitous as smartphones. In July, he told The Verge that, over the next several years, “we will effectively transition from people seeing us as primarily being a social media company to being a metaverse company.”

A rebrand could also serve to further separate the futuristic work Zuckerberg is focused on from the intense scrutiny Facebook is currently under for the way its social platform operates today. A former employee turned whistleblower, Frances Haugen, recently leaked a trove of damning internal documents to The Wall Street Journal and testified about them before Congress. Antitrust regulators in the US and elsewhere are trying to break the company up, and public trust in how Facebook does business is falling.

Facebook isn’t the first well-known tech company to change its company name as its ambitions expand. In 2015, Google reorganised entirely under a holding company called Alphabet, partly to signal that it was no longer just a search engine, but a sprawling conglomerate with companies making driverless cars and health tech. And Snapchat rebranded to Snap Inc. in 2016, the same year it started calling itself a “camera company” and debuted its first pair of Spectacles camera glasses.

I’m told that the new Facebook company name is a closely-guarded secret within its walls and not known widely, even among its full senior leadership. A possible name could have something to do with Horizon, the name of the still-unreleased VR version of Facebook-meets-Roblox that the company has been developing for the past few years. The name of that app was recently tweaked to Horizon Worlds shortly after Facebook demoed a version for workplace collaboration called Horizon Workrooms.

Rebranding
Aside from Zuckerberg’s comments, Facebook has been steadily laying the groundwork for a greater focus on the next generation of technology. This past summer it set up a dedicated metaverse team. More recently, it announced that the head of AR and VR, Andrew Bosworth, will be promoted to chief technology officer. And just a couple of days ago Facebook announced plans to hire 10,000 more employees to work on the metaverse in Europe.

The metaverse is “going to be a big focus, and I think that this is just going to be a big part of the next chapter for the way that the internet evolves after the mobile internet,” Zuckerberg told The Verge’s Casey Newton this summer. “And I think it’s going to be the next big chapter for our company too, really doubling down in this area.”

Complicating matters is that, while Facebook has been heavily promoting the idea of the metaverse in recent weeks, it’s still not a concept that’s widely understood. The term was coined originally by sci-fi novelist Neal Stephenson to describe a virtual world people escape to from a dystopian, real world. Now it’s being adopted by one of the world’s largest and most controversial companies — and it’ll have to explain why its own virtual world is worth diving into.

 

Facebook lost R40k per second during outage

By Breanna Robinson for Indy 100

Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp all went down on Monday – and it cost Mark Zuckerberg’s company an eye-watering amount every minute.

Unresponsive feeds on these platforms first occurred shortly after noon eastern time, with people facing error pages.

On Monday, YouTuber and podcaster Chris Williamson took to his Twitter to pose the following question about the platform’s earnings: “Can anyone estimate how much money Facebook will be losing per minute while all sites are down?”

In response to this tweet, Twitter account @whatdope offered this estimated amount:

“Last year’s ad revenue (for Facebook’s sites) was $84.2bn. So, for every minute it’s down, they’re losing around $160,000. Or, $2,670 per second,” they wrote.

Fortune also estimated that, as of the time the company announced it was coming back online, Facebook would have lost around $99.75 million in revenue.

The site based the figure on Facebook’s second quarter earnings, which saw revenue of $29.08 billion over a 91-day period. That works out an average of $319.6 million per day or $13.3-million per hour.

That’s a lot of money.

When the outage happened, Andy Stone, a Facebook spokesperson, posted a comment on Twitter apologising for the inconvenience of the app.

“We’re aware that some people are having trouble accessing our apps and products. We’re working to get things back to normal as quickly as possible, and we apologize for any inconvenience,” Stone said in the statement.

Instagram and Twitter also took to their Twitter accounts to update people about the issue.

The widespread disruption was blamed on a “faulty configuration change”, with Facebook saying in a statement: “Our engineering teams have learned that configuration changes on the backbone routers that coordinate network traffic between our data centres caused issues that interrupted this communication.

“This disruption to network traffic had a cascading effect on the way our data centres communicate, bringing our services to a halt.”

Facebook also experienced a significant 14-hour outage in 2019 that cost roughly $90 million.

According to a study by Gartner in 2014, the “average cost of downtime is $5,600 per minute”.

The research organisation also noted that this is also isn’t an exact science as there are multiple factors to consider, such as the size of the company and the company’s catered niche or market.

In 2016, the Ponemon Institute published a report that raised Gartner’s average from $5,600 and close to $9,000 per minute.

Source: BBC News

Mark Zuckerberg has laid out his vision to transform Facebook from a social media network into a “metaverse company” in the next five years.

A metaverse is an online world where people can game, work and communicate in a virtual environment, often using VR headsets.

The Facebook CEO described it as “an embodied internet where instead of just viewing content – you are in it”.

He told The Verge people shouldn’t live through “small, glowing rectangles”.

“That’s not really how people are made to interact,” he said, speaking of reliance on mobile phones.

“A lot of the meetings that we have today, you’re looking at a grid of faces on a screen. That’s not how we process things either.”

‘Infinite office’
One application of the metaverse he gave was being able to jump virtually into a 3D concert after initially watching on a mobile phone screen.

“You feel present with other people as if you were in other places, having different experiences that you couldn’t necessarily do on a 2D app or webpage, like dancing, for example, or different types of fitness,” he said.

Facebook is also working on an “infinite office” that lets users create their ideal workplace through VR.

“In the future, instead of just doing this over a phone call, you’ll be able to sit as a hologram on my couch, or I’ll be able to sit as a hologram on your couch, and it’ll actually feel like we’re in the same place, even if we’re in different states or hundreds of miles apart,” he said. “I think that is really powerful.”

Facebook has invested heavily in virtual reality, spending $2bn (£1.46bn) on acquiring Oculus, which develops its VR products.

In 2019, it launched Facebook Horizon – an invitation-only immersive environment where users can mingle and chat in a virtual space with a cartoon avatar through Oculus headsets.

Zuckerberg admitted current VR headsets were “a bit clunky” and needed improving for people to work in them all day.

But he argued that Facebook’s metaverse would be “accessible across… different computing platforms” including VR, AR (augmented reality), PC, mobile devices and games consoles.

Metaverse origins
The concept of a metaverse is popular with tech companies who believe it could be a new 3D internet, connecting digital worlds where people hang out in virtual reality.

Its origins come from Neal Stephenson’s 1992 science fiction novel Snow Crash, where it served as a virtual-reality-based successor to the internet.

Tech firms have tried to implement metaverse elements in popular games including Animal Crossing, Fortnite and Roblox.

This includes planning live events such as concerts and tournaments where millions of players can interact from around the globe.

Behavioural data
“Part of the reason Facebook is so heavily invested in VR/AR is that the granularity of data available when users interact on these platforms is an order of magnitude higher than on screen-based media,” Verity McIntosh, a VR expert at the University of the West of England, told the BBC.

“Now it’s not just about where I click and what I choose to share, it’s about where I choose to go, how I stand, what I look at for longest, the subtle ways that I physically move my body and react to certain stimuli. It’s a direct route to my subconscious and that is gold to a data capitalist.

“It seems unlikely that Facebook will have an interest in changing a business model that has served them so well to prioritise user privacy or to give users any meaningful say in how their behavioural data in the ‘metaverse’ will be used.”

Tech giants like Facebook defining and colonising the space, while traditional governance structures struggle to keep up with the technological change could cause further issues, she added.

By Jan Vermeulen for MyBroadband

Facebook reneged on a commitment to appear before the Committee on Communications and Digital Technologies this week because, at the time, it was the only company that confirmed its attendance.

“Without more industry players and other key stakeholders present, we believed the Roundtable would not meet the objectives that were outlined to us, hence we requested that the Roundtable be postponed to a later date,” said Kojo Boakye, the Facebook public policy director for Africa.

“We believe as a Tech Industry, it is important that we collectively come together to outline how we support elections and ensure election integrity in light of the local Government Elections taking place later this year,” Boakye stated.

“The Roundtable with the Parliamentary Committee was meant to do just that.”

Facebook initially agreed to meet with South Africa’s Parliament over concerns around misinformation and disinformation before the 2021 local elections.

Former Democratic Alliance (DA) MP Phumzile Van Damme said at the time that the meeting was requested by the DA.

The reason for inviting Facebook was to establish what steps the tech giant would be taking to tackle harmful misinformation, particularly in light of the upcoming elections.

“Facebook often tailors plans for countries ahead of elections to guard against harmful misinformation,” Van Damme said. “We would like to see the same done for South Africa.”

In September 2020, the social media company implemented measures which it said were intended to help secure the integrity of the US elections by encouraging voting, connecting people with authoritative information, and reducing the risks of post-election confusion.

These included updates related to misinformation, COVID-19 and voter suppression, and a ban on new electoral, political, or social issue ads.

Facebook is also in hot water with South Africa’s Information Regulator, which has challenged the tech giant on the implementation of a new privacy policy for WhatsApp.

The Information Regulator contends that the Protection of Personal Information Act of South Africa is similar to the data privacy laws of the European Union, and that WhatsApp should therefore offer South Africans the same privacy protections as it affords users in Europe.

The chairperson of the Information Regulator, Pansy Tlakula, recently called on the South African government to help the regulator in its engagements with Facebook.

“We are fighting a giant,” Tlakula told the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee.

“They cannot willy-nilly abuse the personal information of users,” she stated.

Tlakula proposed that the Portfolio Committee on Justice and Correctional Services join forces with the Committee on Communications and Digital Technologies to ask questions of Facebook relating to the WhatsApp privacy policy changes.

With Facebook pulling out of its meeting with the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Communications and Digital Technologies, it is unclear whether the tech giant will give feedback on any of the South African government’s questions.

However, Facebook has stated that it is open to rescheduling the meeting.

“Our commitment to participating in a roundtable is well documented,” said Boakye.

He said that Facebook remains committed to engaging with national governments, and has clearly indicated to the committee that it welcomes ongoing dialogue, and a meeting at a later date.

“Facebook has teams and technology in place to protect the integrity of elections in South Africa, across Africa and around the world. We devote extensive resources to reducing the spread of misinformation and fighting election interference on our platforms,” Boakye said.

It is interesting to note that when Van Damme announced that Facebook has pulled out of appearing at the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee Meeting, she also revealed that Google had committed to attending the meeting.

MyBroadband asked Facebook whether Google’s confirmation that it will attend the meeting changes its stance, but the company declined to comment further.

Google did not respond to requests for comment.

 

By Wesley Diphoko for IOL

WhatsApp users have until the 15th May 2021 to accept the latest privacy policy update that requires sharing data with Facebook companies.

Failure to do so will no longer lead to the deactivation of your account as Facebook has backtracked on a previous decision that gave its users an ultimatum to accept sharing their data with Facebook if they want to continue using their account or, as an alternative, to delete their accounts.

This time around failure to accept the privacy policy that will enable sharing data with Facebook will lead to limited functionality of your WhatsApp account.

Initially, having failed to accept the policy users won’t be able to access their chat list, but they will still be able to answer the incoming phone and video calls.

After a few weeks of limited functionality, users won’t be able to receive incoming calls or notifications, and eventually, WhatsApp will stop sending messages and calls to your phone.

If you decide to move away from WhatsApp, the platform will enable you to move your chat history to another platform.

It is also important to note that the upcoming update is not about changing the privacy of your personal conversations. This change will mainly apply to chats with businesses.

The Facebook-owned chat platform insists that communication between people will remain private. It also reminds users that chatting with businesses will be optional.

This comes at a time when leading tech companies such as Apple are spearheading privacy as a business strategy and a value system. Apple has introduced a new operating system that will enable users to choose whether they want to be tracked by companies like Facebook.

The Zuckerberg-led social network on the other hand has waged a months-long campaign against Apple, running full-page ads in national newspapers and testing pop-ups inside the Facebook app to encourage users to accept its tracking. It’s also alleged that Apple’s changes are designed to help the iPhone maker’s own business, rather than protect consumer privacy.

 

Source: MyBroadband

Facebook has agreed to meet with South Africa’s Parliament over concerns around disinformation before South Africa’s 2021 local elections, the Communications and Digital Technologies Committee has said.

The meeting – which was requested by the Democratic Alliance – is set to take place on 25 May 2021.

“Facebook’s agreement to the meeting is historic and a source of pride for South Africa as a first in Africa, and one of a few countries in the world to successfully secure a meeting with Facebook,” said DA MP Phumzile van Damme, who had issued the invitation.

“We commend Facebook for agreeing to the meeting which we hope will be constructive.”

Van Damme said the reason for inviting Facebook was to establish what steps the tech giant would be taking to tackle harmful misinformation, particularly in light of the upcoming elections.

“Facebook often tailors plans for countries ahead of elections to guard against harmful misinformation,” Van Damme said. “We would like to see the same done for South Africa.”

In September 2020, the social media company implemented measuress which it said were intended to help secure the integrity of the US elections by encouraging voting, connecting people with authoritative information, and reducing the risks of post-election confusion.

These included updates related to misinformation, COVID-19 and voter suppression, and a ban on new electoral, political, or social issue ads.

Van Damme said the protection of private data of South African users on Facebook-owned platforms would also form part of the meeting.

The DA MP was likely referring to concerns around WhatsApp’s new privacy policy among South Africans.

The implementation of the policy was delayed following heavy backlash from users earlier in 2021.

“The aim of discussions with Facebook will be to ensure that the interests of the people of South Africa are protected as well as upholding the constitutional right to freedom of speech,” Van Damme said.

She added the meeting will also be the beginning of discussions regarding Facebook paying South African media houses for carrying their content as was recently successfully implemented in Australia.

The DA has sent similar invitations to other big tech giants – Google and Twitter.

By Jordan Valinsky for CNN Business

Over the weekend, cybersecurity experts revealed that about half a billion Facebook users’ personal information was breached – a treasure trove of data the includes full names, birthdays, phone numbers and their location.

Facebook said that massive leak stems from an issue in 2019, which has since been fixed. Still, there’s no clawing back that data. More than 30 million accounts in the United States were affected and the company isn’t making it easy to find out if your data was included in the breach.
But a third-party website, haveibeenpwned.com, makes it simple to check by inputting your email. For now, it just checks if your email was among those stolen.

That’s a pretty big catch: Although 533 million Facebook accounts were included in the breach, only 2.5-million of those included emails in the stolen data. So you’ve got less than a half-percent chance of showing up on that website, even though you’ve got about a 20% chance of being hacked if you’ve got a Facebook account.

HaveIBeenPwned creator and security expert Troy Hunt said on Twitter that he’s examining whether to add phone numbers.
“The primary value of the data is the association of phone numbers to identities; whilst each record included phone, only 2.5 million contained an email address,” Hunt’s website said.

Although this data is from 2019, it could still be of value to hackers and cyber criminals like those who engage in identify theft.
Facebook (FB) didn’t immediately respond to CNN on Monday about whether if it will create a way to see if their information was leaked.

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