Tag Archives: Facebook

Facebook will not testify at U.S. House hearing on social media
April 25, 2018 6:02 pm|Comments (0)

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Facebook Inc said Wednesday it has declined an invitation to testify at a U.S. House of Representatives hearing Thursday on filtering practices by social media companies, a company spokesman said.

A man poses with a magnifier in front of a Facebook logo on display in this illustration taken in Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina, December 16, 2015. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic

The company said that even though it will not appear, it looks “forward to a continuing dialogue with members of the committee about Facebook’s strong commitment to being a platform for all voices and ideas.”

Alphabet Inc and Twitter Inc have also been invited to testify at the House Judiciary Committee hearing, but have not said whether they will appear. Some Republicans have criticized social media companies for censoring some conservative viewpoints, a charge the firms have denied.

Reporting by David Shepardson; editing by Jonathan Oatis

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Researcher in Facebook scandal says: my work was worthless to Cambridge Analytica
April 24, 2018 6:01 pm|Comments (0)

LONDON (Reuters) – A researcher at the center of a scandal over the alleged misuse of the data of nearly 100 million Facebook users said on Tuesday the work he did was useless for the sort of targeted adverts that would be needed to sway an election.

Aleksandr Kogan, who worked for the University of Cambridge, is at the center of a controversy over Cambridge Analytica’s use of millions of users’ data without their permission after it was hired by Donald Trump for his 2016 election campaign.

Kogan said it was unlikely Cambridge Analytica had used the data in the Trump campaign, although he also said that its suspended CEO Alexander Nix had lied to a committee of British lawmakers about how the two worked together.

Kogan said that even if the dataset he compiled was used in a political campaign, it would be little use for targeted advertising.

“Quite frankly, if the goal is micro-targeting using Facebook ads, (the project) makes no sense. It’s not what you would do,” he told a parliamentary committee, adding that Facebook itself had better tools for such adverts and that the work was worth “literally nothing”.

“If the use case you have is Facebook ads, it’s just incompetent to do it this way.”

Facebook has said that the personal information of about 87 million users may have been improperly shared with political consultancy Cambridge Analytica, after Kogan created a personality quiz app to collect the data.

Facebook and Cambridge Analytica have blamed Kogan for alleged data misuse, but he has said that he was being made a scapegoat by the companies for the scandal.

Kogan said that former Cambridge Analytica CEO Alexander Nix, who was also a director of the consultancy’s parent firm SCL Group, had previously lied to lawmakers when he said he had not received data from Kogan.

“We certainly gave them data, that’s indisputable,” Kogan told lawmakers. Asked if Nix had lied, Kogan answered: “Absolutely.” A spokesman for Cambridge Analytica declined to comment on Nix’s testimony, noting that he was suspended pending an investigation.

Kogan said Facebook provided him data in an email, and he had not needed to sign an agreement to use it. However, he said that he did not sell the data provided to him by Facebook.

Instead, Kogan said he collected new data through an app for work with SCL, Cambridge Analytica’s parent company.

He hired a market research firm called Qualtrics to recruit 200,000 to 300,000 people to take the quiz to collect the data, resulting in expenses of $ 600,000-$ 800,000. Kogan’s company was paid 230,000 pounds ($ 320,643.00) by SCL for its predictive analysis based on the findings, Kogan said.

In written evidence to parliament, Kogan said that all of his academic work was reviewed and approved by the University’s ethics committees.

However, a letter from 2015, published by the Guardian, shows that the ethics committee rejected one of Kogan’s projects in 2015 and said that Facebook’s privacy project was “not sufficient protection” to address concerns.

Kogan said that the data he collected had now all been deleted, to the best of his knowledge, but he would double check that none remained. Cambridge Analytica also said that it had deleted the data when asked to by Facebook.

“We’re extremely sorry that we ended up in possession of data that clearly had breached Facebook’s terms of service,” spokesman Clarence Mitchell told reporters.

“That’s something that we wouldn’t have wanted to happen. But we have put in place the procedures to begin to rectify it.”

Mitchell also said that the data was not used in the Trump campaign after it had been demonstrated to be ineffective.

“Any suggestion that the GSR Kogan data was used in that campaign is utterly incorrect. Its effective uselessness had already been identified by then,” he said.

Kogan said that he never drew a salary from GSR, the company that he founded to do the research that was wound up last year. Most of the money received from SCL was spent on coding work, acquiring data and legal fees. He was allowed to keep the data he gathered on the project.

Kogan said that GSR had a close relationship with Facebook, and one of his partners at the firm, Joseph Chancellor, now worked for the social media giant.

“This has been a very painful experience, because when I entered into all of this, Facebook was a close ally,” Kogan said.

“I was thinking this would be helpful to my academic career and my relationship with Facebook. It has very clearly done the complete opposite”

($ 1 = 0.7173 pounds)

Aleksandr Kogan, a researcher at Cambridge University who created a personality quiz to collect users data on Facebook, gives evidence to Parliament’s Digital, Culture, Media and Sport committe in Westminster, London, Britain, April 24, 2018. Parliament TV handout via REUTERS

Reporting by Alistair Smout and Douglas Busvine; Editing by Guy Faulconbridge and Matthew Mpoke Bigg

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German lawmakers to grill Facebook manager on data privacy
April 19, 2018 6:03 pm|Comments (0)

BERLIN (Reuters) – German lawmakers will question a senior Facebook Inc manager about data privacy in the wake of revelations that the personal information of millions of users wrongly ended up in the hands of political consultancy Cambridge Analytica.

FILE PHOTO: A 3D-printed Facebook logo is seen in front of displayed stock graph in this illustration photo, March 20, 2018. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/File Photo

Lawmakers in the Bundestag lower house of parliament will grill Joel Kaplan, Facebook’s vice president for global public policy, during a closed-door session on Friday morning.

The meeting mirrors the appearance of Facebook’s Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg before a U.S. Congressional joint hearing on April 10-11 over the scandal engulfing the world’s largest social network.

The 87 million Facebook users affected included nearly three million Europeans and Zuckerberg is also under pressure from EU lawmakers to come to Europe to shed light on the data breach.

“Facebook needs to show more openness and transparency when dealing with user data,” said Nadine Schoen, deputy leader of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservative bloc in the Bundestag.

She said Facebook needed to do more than just pay lip service and it remained to be seen how serious the company was about really improving user rights.

“It is not enough to exchange the gray T-shirt and jeans for suit and tie,” she said in reference to Zuckerberg’s appearance in the U.S. Congress.

The senior lawmaker said that Facebook so far was giving the impression that it only wanted to save its business model.

“For example, the company is already rowing back in the supposedly world-wide announced implementation of the General Data Protection Regulation,” Schoen warned, referring to privacy rules that will enter force in the European Union next month.

“We no longer need excuses, but facts,” she said.

German Justice Minister Katarina Barley last month summoned executives of the firm, including European public affairs chief Richard Allan.

Misuse of data by Facebook means it will in future be bound by stricter regulations and the threat of tougher penalties for further privacy violations, Barley said after the meeting.

Reporting by Michael Nienaber; Editing by Douglas Busvine

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Facebook says users must accept targeted ads even under new EU law
April 18, 2018 6:00 am|Comments (0)

MENLO PARK, Calif. (Reuters) – Facebook Inc (FB.O) said on Tuesday it would continue requiring people to accept targeted ads as a condition of using its service, a stance that may help keep its business model largely intact despite a new European Union privacy law.

FILE PHOTO: Silhouettes of mobile users are seen next to a screen projection of Facebook logo in this picture illustration taken March 28, 2018. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration/File Photo

The EU law, which takes effect next month, promises the biggest shakeup in online privacy since the birth of the internet. Companies face fines if they collect or use personal information without permission.

Facebook Deputy Chief Privacy Officer Rob Sherman said the social network would begin seeking Europeans’ permission this week for a variety of ways Facebook uses their data, but he said that opting out of targeted marketing altogether would not be possible.

“Facebook is an advertising-supported service,” Sherman said in a briefing with reporters at Facebook’s headquarters.

FILE PHOTO: Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg testifies before a House Energy and Commerce Committee hearing regarding the company’s use and protection of user data on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, U.S., April 11, 2018. REUTERS/Aaron P. Bernstein/File Photo

Facebook users will be able to limit the kinds of data that advertisers use to target their pitches, he added, but “all ads on Facebook are targeted to some extent, and that’s true for offline advertising, as well.”

Facebook, the world’s largest social media network, will use what are known as “permission screens” – pages filled with text that require pressing a button to advance – to notify and obtain approval.

The screens will show up on the Facebook website and smartphone app in Europe this week and globally in the coming months, Sherman said.

The screens will not give Facebook users the option to hit “decline.” Instead, they will guide users to either “accept and continue” or “manage data setting,” according to copies the company showed reporters on Tuesday.

“People can choose to not be on Facebook if they want,” Sherman said.

Regulators, investors and privacy advocates are closely watching how Facebook plans to comply with the EU law, not only because Facebook has been embroiled in a privacy scandal but also because other companies may follow its lead in trying to limit the impact of opt-outs.

Last month, Facebook disclosed that the personal information of millions of users, mostly in the United States, had wrongly ended up in the hands of political consultancy Cambridge Analytica, leading to U.S. congressional hearings and worldwide scrutiny of Facebook’s commitment to privacy.

Facebook Chief Financial Officer David Wehner warned in February the company could see a drop-off in usage due to the EU law, known as the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).

Reporting by David Ingram; Editing by Greg Mitchell and Lisa Shumaker

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Vietnam activists question Facebook on suppressing dissent
April 10, 2018 6:00 am|Comments (0)

HANOI (Reuters) – Vietnamese human rights activists and independent media groups have written to Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook Inc’s chief executive, questioning whether the social media platform was helping suppress dissent in the communist country.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg is seen through reflective glass as he sits in the office of Senator Bill Nelson (D-FL) while he waits for a meeting in the Hart Senate Office Building in Washington, U.S., April 9, 2018. REUTERS/Leah Millis

The letter, released on Tuesday by U.S.-based human rights group Viet Tan and signed by nearly 50 other groups, said Facebook’s system of automatically pulling content if enough people complained could “silence human rights activists and citizen journalists in Vietnam”.

Despite sweeping economic reform in Vietnam, and increasing openness toward social change, including gay, lesbian and transgender rights, the ruling Communist Party retains tight media censorship and does not tolerate criticism.Vietnam last year unveiled a 10,000-strong military cyber warfare unit, named Force 47, to counter “wrong” views on the internet.

The open letter to Zuckerberg called Force 47 “state-sponsored trolls” and accused them of exploiting Facebook’s community policies and disseminating fake news about the activists.

Vietnam’s government said Facebook has committed to work with it to prevent content that violates the country’s laws from appearing on its platform and will also remove fake accounts and fake content about senior government officials.

The activists said the frequency of takedowns had risen and Facebook’s has been unhelpful in restoring accounts and content, after its Head of Global Policy Management Monika Bickert met with Vietnamese Information Minister Truong Minh Tuan in 2017.

Facebook said at the time of the meeting it would set up a separate channel to directly coordinate with the communication and information ministry on reports of illegal content.

“We appreciate Facebook’s efforts in addressing safety and misinformation concerns online in Vietnam and around the world,” the activists said.

“Yet it would appear that after this high profile agreement to coordinate with a government that is known for suppressing expression online and jailing activists, the problem of account suspension and content takedown has only grown more acute.”

Earlier this month, Vietnamese human rights lawyer and activist Nguyen Van Dai was jailed for 15 years on the charge he “aimed at overthrowing the people’s administration”. Another five activists were jailed for seven to 12 years.

Their sentences prompted responses by representatives from the United States, the United Kingdom, Germany, the Netherlands and the European Delegations among other rights groups.

But Vietnam’s foreign ministry spokeswoman Le Thi Thu Hang said “there is no such thing as people being arrested for freely expressing opinion” in Vietnam.

Facebook had not immediately response to a request for comment on the letter to Zuckerberg. Vietnam’s ministry of foreign affairs did not immediately responded.

Reporting by Hanoi Newsroom; Editing by Michael Perry

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Facebook CEO says company did not do enough to prevent misuse
April 9, 2018 6:01 pm|Comments (0)

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Facebook Inc Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg told Congress on Monday that the social media network should have done more to prevent itself and its members’ data being misused and offered a broad apology to lawmakers.

His conciliatory tone precedes two days of Congressional hearings where Zuckerberg is set to answer questions about Facebook user data being improperly appropriated by a political consultancy and the role the network played in the U.S. 2016 election.

“We didn’t take a broad enough view of our responsibility, and that was a big mistake,” he said in remarks released by the U.S. House Energy and Commerce Committee on Monday. “It was my mistake, and I’m sorry. I started Facebook, I run it, and I’m responsible for what happens here.”

Zuckerberg, surrounded by tight security and wearing a dark suit and a purple tie rather than his trademark hoodie, was meeting with lawmakers on Capitol Hill on Monday ahead of his scheduled appearance before two Congressional committees on Tuesday and Wednesday.

Zuckerberg did not respond to questions as he entered and left a meeting with Senator Bill Nelson, the top Democrat on the Senate Commerce Committee. He is expected to meet Senator John Thune, the Commerce Committee’s Republican chairman, later in the day, among others.

Top of the agenda in the forthcoming hearings will be Facebook’s admission that the personal information of up to 87 million users, mostly in the United States, may have been improperly shared with political consultancy Cambridge Analytica.

But lawmakers are also expected to press him on a range of issues, including the 2016 election.

“It’s clear now that we didn’t do enough to prevent these tools from being used for harm…” his testimony continued. “That goes for fake news, foreign interference in elections, and hate speech, as well as developers and data privacy.”

Facebook, which has 2.1 billion monthly active users worldwide, said on Sunday it plans to begin on Monday telling users whose data may have been shared with Cambridge Analytica. The company’s data practices are under investigation by the U.S. Federal Trade Commission.

London-based Cambridge Analytica, which counts U.S. President Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign among its past clients, has disputed Facebook’s estimate of the number of affected users.

Zuckerberg also said that Facebook’s major investments in security “will significantly impact our profitability going forward.” Facebook shares were up 2 percent in midday trading.

Read the full testimony tmsnrt.rs/2IDTHwF

ONLINE INFORMATION WARFARE

Facebook has about 15,000 people working on security and content review, rising to more than 20,000 by the end of 2018, Zuckerberg’s testimony said. “Protecting our community is more important than maximizing our profits,” he said.

As with other Silicon Valley companies, Facebook has been resistant to new laws governing its business, but on Friday it backed proposed legislation requiring social media sites to disclose the identities of buyers of online political campaign ads and introduced a new verification process for people buying “issue” ads, which do not endorse any candidate but have been used to exploit divisive subjects such as gun laws or police shootings.

The steps are designed to deter online information warfare and election meddling that U.S. authorities have accused Russia of pursuing, Zuckerberg said on Friday. Moscow has denied the allegations.

Zuckerberg’s testimony said the company was “too slow to spot and respond to Russian interference, and we’re working hard to get better.”

He vowed to make improvements, adding it would take time, but said he was “committed to getting it right.”

A Facebook official confirmed that the company had hired a team from the law firm WilmerHale and outside consultants to help prepare Zuckerberg for his testimony and how lawmakers may question him.

FILE PHOTO: Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg speaks on stage during the Facebook F8 conference in San Francisco, California, U.S., April 12, 2016. REUTERS/Stephen Lam/File Photo

Reporting by David Shepardson and Dustin Volz; Editing by Bill Rigby

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Republican senator says Facebook scandals may be 'too big' for company to fix alone
April 8, 2018 6:05 pm|Comments (0)

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – A Republican U.S. senator warned on Sunday that Facebook Inc may need to be regulated to address concerns about the company’s privacy and foreign propaganda scandals, saying they may be “too big” for the social media company to solve alone.

FILE PHOTO – Senator John Kennedy (R-LA) speaks to reporters after a vote to end a government shutdown on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., February 9, 2018. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts

“My biggest worry with all this is that the privacy issue and what I call the propagandist issue are both too big for Facebook to fix, and that’s the frightening part,” Senator John Kennedy said on CBS’s Face the Nation.

Asked if lawmakers need to seek regulations on Facebook, Kennedy replied: “It may be the case.”

Facebook Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg will appear before the U.S. Senate Commerce and Judiciary Committees Tuesday to address questions about how his company handles its users’ data.

While some Democrats have suggested laws may be required to police Facebook’s data privacy practices or limit foreign interference on its platform, Kennedy’s openness is significant because Republicans generally support free-market principles and are loath to regulate U.S. companies.

Kennedy, a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said he wanted to ask Zuckerberg on Tuesday if Facebook had the ability to know the identities of the hundreds of thousands of entities that purchase ads on its site.

“I don’t want to hurt Facebook. I don’t want to regulate them half to death,” Kennedy said. “But we have a problem. Our promised digital utopia has minefields in it.”

Facebook on Friday endorsed legislation known as the Honest Ads Act, which is aimed at countering concerns about foreign nationals using social media to influence American politics.

The legislation would expand existing election law covering television and radio outlets to apply to paid internet and digital advertisements.

The legislation, introduced last October but not yet passed, is aimed at countering concerns about foreign nationals using social media to influence American politics, which is part of the investigation into possible Russian meddling during the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign. Russia denies involvement.

Under the act, digital platforms with at least 50 million monthly views would need to maintain a public file of all electioneering communications purchased by anyone spending more than $ 500.

Reporting by Dustin Volz; Editing by James Dalgleish

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Sheryl Sandberg Says Facebook Users Would Have to Pay for Total Privacy
April 7, 2018 6:01 pm|Comments (0)

In an interview with NBC’s Today show, Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg said that users who wished to entirely stop the social media platform from making money from their personal data would have to pay for the privilege, if the option were to be made available.

“Could you come up with a tool that said, ‘I do not want Facebook to use my personal profile data to target me for advertising.’?” Sandberg was asked by Today’s Savannah Guthrie. “Could you have an opt-out button – ‘Please don’t use my profile data for advertising’?”

“We have different forms of opt-out,” Sandberg replied. “We don’t have an opt-out at the highest level. That would be a paid product.”

There’s no indication that Facebook actually plans to introduce such an option, but Sandberg’s admission makes explicit that Facebook’s revenue depends almost entirely on monitoring its users’ taste and behavior. Taking that option away would require replacing ad sales with subscription revenue.

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In the same interview, Sandberg pushed back against the often-repeated but suddenly fast-spreading notion that user data is Facebook’s primary product – though on largely semantic grounds.

“That’s not true . . . we don’t sell data, ever. We do not give personal data to advertisers. People come on to Facebook, they want to do targeted ads, and that’s really important for small business . . . We take those ads, we show them, and we don’t pass any individual information back to the advertiser.”

That kind of protection, of course, benefits Facebook’s bottom line by maintaining its control over ad targeting. Facebook has taken action to change various features and policies that enabled outside actors, including partners of the election firm Cambridge Analytica, to collect large amounts of personal profile data. For now, researchers and developers can still use a variety of methods to automatically harvest large amounts of public data from Facebook.

In the same interview, Sandberg acknowledged that Facebook should have notified as many as 87 million users impacted by the improper access of data by Cambridge Analytica and its partners, and that the company may discover other, similar breaches.

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Facebook backs U.S. regulation of internet political ads
April 6, 2018 6:17 pm|Comments (0)

SAN FRANCISCO/WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Facebook Inc Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg on Friday endorsed U.S. legislation to regulate political ads across the internet, a concession to lawmakers days before he is scheduled to testify in two U.S. congressional hearings.

FILE PHOTO: Facebook Founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg speaks on stage during the annual Facebook F8 developers conference in San Jose, California, U.S., April 18, 2017. REUTERS/Stephen Lam/File Photo

Zuckerberg also said Facebook would begin requiring people who want to run ads on the social network addressing political issues to verify their identity and location. That expands an earlier plan to require such verification for ads directly about elections.

“Election interference is a problem that’s bigger than any one platform, and that’s why we support the Honest Ads Act,” Zuckerberg wrote in a Facebook post on Friday.

That legislation was introduced last October to counter concerns about foreign nationals using social media to influence American politics, an issue being looked at as part of an investigation into possible Russian meddling during the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign.

Facebook disclosed in September that Russians under fake names had used the social network to try to influence U.S. voters in the months before and after the 2016 election, writing about inflammatory subjects, setting up events and buying ads.

In February, U.S. Special Counsel Robert Mueller charged 13 Russians and three Russian companies with interfering in the election by sowing discord on social media.

The legislation would expand existing election law covering television and radio outlets to apply to paid internet and digital advertisements on platforms like Facebook, Twitter Inc and Alphabet Inc’s Google.

Facebook had previously stopped short of backing the legislation, saying it wanted to work with lawmakers further and announcing attempts at self-regulation.

Zuckerberg is scheduled to appear on Tuesday before a joint hearing of two U.S. Senate committees, and on Wednesday before a U.S. House committee.

Under the Honest Ads Act, digital platforms with at least 50 million monthly views would need to maintain a public file of all electioneering communications purchased by anyone spending more than $ 500.

Zuckerberg said on Friday that he also wanted to shed more light on “issue ads,” or ads that discuss a political subject but do not directly relate to an election or a candidacy.

Issue ads are frequently run by interest groups, lobbying organizations and wealthy individuals who want to influence legislation or have an indirect impact on an election.

Every advertiser who wants to run an issue ad will need to confirm their identity and location, Zuckerberg wrote.

Reporting by David Ingram in San Francisco and Dustin Volz in Washington; Editing by Bill Rigby

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4 Ways Facebook Is Trying to Combat Election Meddling
March 30, 2018 6:18 pm|Comments (0)

Facebook outlined how it plans to increase security and thwart election meddling as pressure mounts on the social network to curb the rise of fake news and foreign interference.

Facebook continues to face criticism for its failure to prevent users from sharing misleading news on its service, particularly in the runup to the 2016 presidential election.

Company executives said Thursday, in a blog post that included a transcript of their comments, that they have four priorities:

  • combat foreign interference
  • removing fake accounts
  • increase ads transparency
  • reduce the spread of false news

The company has partnered with Associated Press to use their reporters in all 50 states to identify and debunk false and misleading stories related to the federal, state, and local U.S. midterm elections. It has expanded fact-checking efforts internationally as well. Most recently, Facebook launched a fact-checking initiative in Italy and Mexico with media partners to identify and rate stories, ensuring they take action quickly in the runup to their elections.

Facebook has also started fact-checking photos and videos, in addition to links. The company said Thursday it has started in France with the AFP and plans to scale to more countries and partners soon.

One of the company’s biggest efforts is finding better ways to discover and disable fake accounts. Facebook is now blocking millions of fake accounts every day, just as they’re created and before they can do harm, said Samidh Chakrabarti, product manager at Facebook who leads all work related to elections security and civic engagement.

“We’ve been able to do this thanks to advances in machine learning, which have allowed us to find suspicious behaviors — without assessing the content itself,” Chakrabarti said.

Facebook has also added a new investigative tool that can be deployed in the lead-up to elections. The tool, which was piloted last year around the time of the Alabama special Senate race, proactively looks for potentially harmful types of election-related activity, such as pages of foreign origin that are distributing inauthentic civic content. These suspicious accounts are then manually reviewed by Facebook’s security team to see if they violate its community standards or its terms of service.

The tool will be used in upcoming elections, including the U.S. midterms.

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