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Apple didn’t need to do anything to meet the stringent requirements of the new EU law, called General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which came into force on May 25 – it already practised such good privacy hygiene that its existing precautions already passed the new obligations. However, it took the opportunity to comprehensively rethink its privacy standards, as the new privacy page reveals on the Apple website.
I mean, it’s no surprise that Apple should take privacy seriously. It’s forbiddingly secretive about its products and internal workings and it has long proclaimed that it believes that privacy is ‘a fundamental human right’.
To make this work, there’s plenty it doesn’t know about us. For each Apple Pay transaction, Apple doesn’t track who you’re paying and has no idea who you’re paying for. FaceTime conversations, iMessage threads and so on are end-to-end encrypted. Apple had asked itself why it would need to know who was saying what to whom and concluded it was none of its business.
Even journeys made on Apple Maps are encrypted so that nobody getting hold of information could work out where you go regularly or whatever. It does this by, among other things, dropping the first and last 500 or so yards from each journey once it’s completed to blur the details. And though some data is held for a time, it’s deleted after 30 days or so.
And before these new changes, Apple had recently introduced a recognisable page which warned you when data was being collected, so you were always in the loop. It’s a stark contrast to most other companies and is made easier by the fact that Apple, as it might say, owns all the pieces of the jigsaw from hardware to software.
Anyway, Apple’s response to GDPR is interesting, and sets a standard which others must strive to meet. What’s more, though it only needs to make sure its GDPR response applies to European users, Apple has said it’s going to roll it out worldwide.
First up, Apple has made it easy to find out exactly what data of yours is on its servers, from purchase history to photos on iCloud to emails and so on. With a few clicks you can download everything (apart from TV shows you’ve bought on Apple TV, for instance). If some sections turn out to be many gigabytes in size, it’ll split them into more manageable bites.
But the more interesting bits come next. First of all, if any of your data is inaccurate, you can request a correction.
You can also delete your account, if you wish. That’s not new. But there’s a new, less drastic course of action you can take where you deactivate your Apple ID account temporarily.
Why would you do this? Well, if you’re going away for a few months, perhaps or, (and please whisper this in the earshot of Apple fans), if you’ve bought an Android phone and so all that Apple data is no longer needed, once you’ve transferred it to your new phone. But, hey, maybe you’ll go back to Apple when the next, irresistible iPhone is released.
If that’s a possibility, then the temporary suspension, called deactivation, may appeal.
But bear in mind that you won’t be able to download iBooks you’ve bought from Apple while the account is deactivated. Nor can you use services which require your Apple ID like Messages and FaceTime. If you have a repair scheduled at an Apple Store, say, that will stay active but upcoming appointments in an Apple Store will be canceled.
If you pay for iCloud storage, that will continue until the next billing period after which you must review whether to keep paying or not.
Your data is not deleted but nobody, and here’s an important thing, not even Apple, can access it.
With this in mind, you’re sent a reactivation code. Lose it and, well, you’re in trouble because even Apple can’t get it back. So you can’t save it in an iMessage or Apple email. You need somewhere else safe to keep this code. All deactivations are verified, which can take up to seven days.
The Privacy section is live now and provides tools which range from useful to downright fascinating. It’s done with the obsessive detail you might expect from Apple. If you’re in the EU, you can access the new tools now and they’ll be rolled out to all users around the world in the coming months.
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AMSTERDAM (Reuters) – Activists in Amsterdam on Wednesday launched the ‘Datavakbond’ or “data labor union”, which hopes to elect leaders to negotiate directly with Facebook and Google over what they do with users’ data.
Possible demands could include payment for the data users supply to the companies, more information about how the data is used, and a direct channel for communicating grievances.
“Right now, we work for Google and Facebook producing data, and we’re getting feathers and beads in exchange,” said Paul Tang, a member of European Parliament from the Dutch Labour party, at the union’s establishment in Amsterdam.
“What we want…is to get across the table from Google and Facebook to talk about reasonable compensation, or at least better working conditions.”
Tang said that although governments have a role in regulating the internet giants, users should also organize themselves and seek to influence the companies directly.
The Union’s founding chairman Bas van der Gaag, a high school maths teacher, said that although it is based in the Netherlands, it hopes to win members internationally.
Membership is free, and those that join will be encouraged to help craft the organization. Later they may vote on specific demands, for instance for the company to provide a paid, but advertising-free, version of Facebook. Within the first hour of its launch, 250 people joined.
Van der Gaag said volunteers are working on tools to make it possible for the union to organize a ‘strike’, which would involve temporarily depriving the companies of some of the most valuable information they sell to advertisers, such as location data.
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg testified in European Parliament on Tuesday to answer questions about how political consultancy Cambridge Analytica improperly got hold of the personal data of 87 million Facebook users, including up to 2.7 million in the EU.
Facebook did not immediately respond on Wednesday to a request for comment on the establishment of the union.
Reporting by Toby Sterling; Editing by Alexandra Hudson
(Reuters) – Facebook Inc (FB.O) Chief Executive Officer Mark Zuckerberg said on Tuesday the social network is building a new privacy control called “clear history” to allow users to delete browsing history.
Zuckerberg, in a post on his Facebook account, said he will discuss the feature at Facebook’s annual F8 conference which begins today.
“This feature will enable you to see the websites and apps that send us information when you use them, delete this information from your account, and turn off our ability to store it associated with your account going forward,” the company said in a separate blog post.( here )
Zuckerberg compared the new tool to the option of clearing cookies in a browser, which he said can make parts of the user experience worse as users may have to reconfigure things.
Facebook said it will take a few months to build the update, adding the company will work with privacy advocates, academics, policymakers and regulators to get their input on the new approach.
Tech companies are under intense scrutiny about how they protect customer data after Facebook was embroiled in a huge scandal where millions of users’ data were improperly accessed by a political consultancy.
“One thing I learned from my experience testifying in Congress is that I didn’t have clear enough answers to some of the questions about data,” Zuckerberg wrote.
Reporting by Munsif Vengattil in Bengaluru; Editing by Bernard Orr
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.
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.
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
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.
(Reuters) – Spotify Technology SA (SPOT.N) said on Friday it uncovered 2 million users of its free service who had blocked advertising without paying, highlighting a potential revenue risk for the soon-to-be public company.
In an amended version of the share prospectus filed last month, the Swedish company said it continues to be impacted by third-party attempts to gain unauthorized access to its premium service.
The music-streaming company previously included the 2 million users in calculations for some of its key performance indicators, including MAUs, ad-supported users, content hours, and content hours per MAU. More here
Spotify said it currently does not have the data to adjust previously provided key performance indicators, and as a result certain metrics may be ‘overstated’ in its prospectus.
The company had 157 million active users as of Dec. 31, of which about 71 million were paid subscribers who access ad-free versions of the service, according to its website.
Spotify had filed this week for a direct listing of its shares, instead of a traditional IPO.
The direct listing will let investors and employees sell shares without the company raising new capital or hiring a Wall Street bank or broker to underwrite the offering.
Reporting by Arjun Panchadar in Bengaluru; Editing by Saumyadeb Chakrabarty and Shounak Dasgupta
Mark Zuckerberg promised to spend 2018 fixing Facebook. Last week, he addressed Facebook making you feel bad. Now he’s onto fake news.
Late Friday, Facebook buried another major announcement at the end of the week: How to make sure that users see high-quality news on Facebook. Facebook’s solution? Let its users decide what to trust. On the difficult problem of fixing fake news, Zuckerberg took the path with the least responsibility for Facebook, but described it as the most objective.
“We could try to make that decision ourselves, but that’s not something we’re comfortable with,” Zuckerberg wrote on his Facebook page. “We considered asking outside experts, which would take the decision out of our hands but would likely not solve the objectivity problem. We decided that having the community determine which sources are broadly trusted would be most objective.”
The vetting process will happen through Facebook’s ongoing quality surveys — the same surveys it uses to ask whether Facebook is a force for good in the world and whether the company seems to care about its users. Now, Facebook will ask users if they are familiar with a news source and, if so, whether they trust the source.
According to Zuckerberg, these surveys will help the truth about trustworthiness rise to the top: “The idea is that some news organizations are only trusted by their readers or watchers, and others are broadly trusted across society even by those who don’t follow them directly.”
It’s tempting to read a lot into Zuckerberg’s words, especially when the missive was so short on details. The perils are evident: Bad actors can game the survey! This only increases filter bubbles! After the year Facebook just had, how can you possibly think the masses can be objective?
Relying on users “lets them sidestep allegations of bias and take steps to fix it without directly becoming the dreaded ‘arbiter of truth,'” says researcher Renee DiResta, a technologist who has been studying the manipulation of social-media platforms.
Facebook did not immediately return a request for comment. There’s a good chance the new policy could cause as many problems as it solves. For the best known media brands, the survey could be a leg up. But what about niche publications that have narrow, but credible readerships? Does this mean that National Review or Slate are deemed untrustworthy because they have definitive points of view? Do they get put in the same bucket as Fox and MSNBC? What about BuzzFeed, where fun distractions and deep investigations all show up under the same URL?
Jason Kint, CEO of Digital Content Next, a trade association representing content companies, likes the idea of using brands as a proxy for trust. “But the details are really important,” he says. “What matters most is how this is being messaged. Facebook is clearly scrambling as the industry, Washington and the global community are losing trust in them. There is nothing worse to a company long-term.”
Zuckerberg also seemed to be in scramble mode last week when Facebook said it is reorienting the newsfeed to show users “meaningful interactions.” Only Friday, eight days later, did Zuckerberg explain the scope of that change for news publishers: the percentage of news on Facebook’s newsfeed will drop to 4 percent, from 5 percent.
This isn’t Facebook’s first attempt to address fake news. It’s previous effort flopped a few weeks ago. Facebook thought putting “disputed” flags on fake news stories would help out, but people only clicked more. Despite Zuckerberg’s reluctance to work with outsiders, experts probably could have warned him about human nature.
The survey strategy may fall prey to the same misunderstanding of people. Chris Tolles, the CEO of the media site Topix, is familiar with the problem. “As a news aggregator, we wrestled with this,” he says. “People who actually share news, news is a weapon, it’s not to inform, it’s to injure. It’s a social-justice identitarian, a person with an ax to grind, or it’s a journalist. They are not sharing news to inform, they are trying to convince you of something. It comes with a point of view.”
The root of the problem, according to Tolles: Trust is not objective. The interpretation of objectivity varies wildly between Democrats and Republicans and internet users themselves may not be a trustworthy bunch. Zuckerberg’s post also mentioned refocusing on “local” news, which Tolles says is just as fraught. “It’s vicious all the way down to the local crime report. I think that they’ve got an impossible task.”
Last week the company said it was stepping away from news. “This week, they said we’re going to try to do the hardest thing in the world, which is to try to decide which narrative is true,” says Tolles.
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Twitter may notify users whether they were exposed to content generated by a suspected Russian propaganda service, a company executive told U.S. lawmakers on Wednesday.
The social media company is “working to identify and inform individually” its users who saw tweets during the 2016 U.S. presidential election produced by accounts tied to the Kremlin-linked Internet Research Army, Carlos Monje, Twitter’s director of public policy, told the U.S. Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee.
A Twitter spokeswoman did not immediately respond to a request for comment about plans to notify its users.
Facebook Inc in December created a portal where its users could learn whether they interacted with accounts created by the Internet Research Agency.
Both companies and Alphabet’s YouTube appeared before the Senate committee on Wednesday to answer lawmaker questions about how their efforts to combat the use of their platforms by violent extremists, such as the Islamic State.
But the hearing often turned its focus to questions of Russian propaganda, a vexing issue for internet firms who spent most of the past year responding to a backlash that they did too little to deter Russians from using their services to anonymously spread divisive messages among Americans in the run-up to the 2016 U.S. elections.
U.S. intelligence agencies concluded Russia sought to interfere in the election through a variety of cyber-enabled means to sow political discord and help President Donald Trump win. Russia has repeatedly denied the allegations.
Reporting by Dustin Volz; Editing by Nick Zieminski
Transgender Twitter users aren’t here for the platform’s gendered assumptions. And they sure aren’t hesitating to make that known.
Here’s the deal: Twitter a new set of tools on May 17 which allow users to see and control the data advertisers use to target ads on the social media platform. While the move was a clear effort to increase transparency and trust between users and the social media machine, the actual data Twitter has collected is giving many users pause.
Notably, many trans and gender-nonconforming users are troubled that Twitter has been guessing the gender of users based on the gender most strongly associated with a user’s “profile and activity.” Read more…